Did Motherhood Turn Me Into A Prude? By Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston
At forty-one years of age, I’m not that old. Middle age hasn’t quite made its arrival. (At least not in my eyes – I had a hard enough time accepting the term “Advanced Maternal Age” applying to my two pregnancies!) And yet I can many remember things while growing up that my children will never understand because of how far technology has brought us - rotary phones, households without personal computers, fun with Atari games, cell phones the size of small household appliances. I remember records and cassette tapes…and even larger “cassettes” that had movies on them! Calendars were only found on paper, and color television was still in its adolescent years. There were no laptops, no handheld video games, no e-readers. Online dating, e-insurance, and texting were all unheard of. In the four decades since my birth, advances in technology have reached George Jetson status!
So if society has acquired all these wonderful assets…if we’ve learned how to improve our productivity and enjoy more of life through these advances…if we have so much more information at our fingertips, why can’t we learn how to apply it to our lives more appropriately… how is it that there has to be SO much “mature” (and possibly inappropriate) content that reaches our children’s eyes and ears? As an educator, and even earlier in life during my work as a teen and in college, I’ve had to be more aware of my use of language in front of children than others may choose to be. With little eyes always on my behavior and little ears hearing everything I said, I believe I developed a stronger awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate by the time I became a parent than I possibly would have coming from a different background. That said, I think I’m still amazed by the things seen and heard on TV and out there in society that weren’t deemed “appropriate” during my childhood. And I feel like motherhood has added even more exclamation points to what I see and hear than I experienced before!!!
Has motherhood turned me into a prude? Why am I catching myself sounding like my grandmother more often, commenting like her or my mom on the things I just feel like I myself don’t need to hear or see? Am I really an old fuddy duddy, or am I just a responsible mom and a woman who believes we don’t all have to be exposed to EVERYONE’S personal business?
Rather than feeling like the more I age, the bigger the priss I’m becoming, I think I’ll put this spin on it – I’ve been blessed with five years to observe my two little girls and even longer to see my niece and nephews in action. If there’s one big lesson I’ve learned, it’s not that I’m turning into my mother or my grandmother when I condemn society for all its sins against humanity. Rather it’s that these little ones are definitely underestimated when it comes to how much they take in…and even more so, when it comes to how much they are able to understand! Here lies my problem. It’s not that I’ve become a prude. It’s that now I’ve become the one who has to figure out how best to answer all the questions that are thrown at me whenever something is seen or heard that may not necessarily be something they’re ready to learn. I don’t have a problem with TV and radio ads about products for women’s periods and Trojan products, commercials for TV shows about sexual issues between husbands and wives or murderers who kill the women they cheat with, magazine racks at Barnes and Noble filled with periodicals men will enjoy, or clips on the radio spewing mottos like “Hail to the V!”. The problem I DO have is how little consideration is given for young minds who may not be ready for this kind of exposure. My oldest watches HDTV with me and after only one or two shows, before I know it, I’m hearing all kinds of questions asking when we’re moving and what our budget is. My youngest sees an episode of her favorite Disney show and hours later I’m overhearing her acting out, scripting word for word the dialogue she just heard earlier that day as she reinacts the show. These are not girls who have much fly over their heads. These are children who listen to A LOT, and they remember what they hear! They’re girls who are eager to learn and even more eager to grow up. They love to tell Mommy what they think about these new, wonderful facts that are now a part of their working minds. And any questions they have, Mommy is the person they run to for answers.
Do I, after only five years of parenthood, feel ready – or eager – to explain what a prostitute is after they hear that word used during an ad on the Lifetime Network as we’re flipping channels trying to find their shows? Do I want to explain what the “V” stands for in “Hail to the V” as we drive to a playdate and here it on a radio commercial? It’s tough enough to keep my children from worrying about losing me to cancer whenever they see a commercial for a cancer wing at a local hospital or to keep them from developing a huge case of the gimmes after seeing the week’s Toys R Us commercial. In the past six months, we’ve tackled many tough issues – the need to eat healthier to protect Daddy from his diabetes, that PopPop died and went to heaven, how Gran feels missing PopPop, why my oldest has so many problems using the potty…the list of difficult topics lately seems never-ending! But I don’t need society’s assistance! I don’t need my preschoolers to start the science classes early…I don’t mind teaching them to “correct” terminology rather than calling their private parts nicknames, but at five and three, I don’t believe they’re too ready to learn what the purpose of those parts is! Just a few moments away from Disney Junior or Sprout – just one wrong button pushed or my youngest getting her hands on the remote – can lead to a very difficult afternoon for Mommy and an even more confusing afternoon for my children!
I’m not here standing on a soap box trying to put out a PSA for the world to hear. All I’m doing is sharing all I’ve seen…how my daughters’ strong perception of all that goes on in the world around them can create topics of discussion that if approached too early, can create more harm than good. Moments of watching Mommy or Daddy trying to skirt the issue leading to trust between parent and child diminishing as the child observes the parent’s reaction to their question being anything but positive. I’m not asking for a complete overhaul of all media (although I know from my days of teaching that there could be a lot of good that would come from that kind of movement). I’m just saying it doesn’t take a whole ton of common sense to know that an entire day of repeating the same commercial about that night’s episode of cheating husband killing his homewrecker mistress isn’t doing any child who comes across it any good. It doesn’t seem too difficult to me to leave that programming to the later hours in the evening when there’s less chance of little ones coming across it.
It’s certainly not my goal in writing this to launch any censorship movements in TVLand and our radio stations! But I do know it would make my work as a mom a LOT easier if I didn’t have to run interference against such a HUGE opponent so often! And I’m sure I’m not the only mom, seasoned or newbie, who feels this way.