You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2008.

My son, who is nearly 5, currently is obsessed with LEGO. In fact, “obsessed” might be putting it mildly. He pores over the LEGO catalog as if staring intently will make the bricks jump off the pages. (Granted, with his impending birthday, all that staring will likely lead to more than one LEGO toy for the b-day boy. Guess he’s on to something…)

I like LEGO: I like the quality product, the creative outlet, the (relatively) responsible company. What draws a little bit of my ire is that the toys featured on the cover of the LEGO catalog are Indiana Jones-themed. As in the (very mediocre, I might add) PG-13 movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I do not plan to shelter my children from everything age-inappropriate: I let my 21-month-old play with some toys marketed “for 3 and older” and let my son watch Dirty Jobs and Ice Road Truckers. My problem lies with movie studios — and their licensing partners — who are courting a market for whom this movie is not intended.

What’s more, a recent article pertaining to this very subject reports the Motion Picture Association of America — advocate for the film industry and operator of our familiar film rating system — is not interested in going to bat for parents (parents, apparently, are whiny and should leave them alone). Or listening to the FTC, for that matter. Far be it for us to stifle anyone’s creativity by regulating the advertising of violent movies on kids’ cable channels.

In no way am I interested in limiting our access to film. In no way do I suggest we censor or bring the content of films to a lowest common denominator of sorts (G movies all the way!). I’m the parent, and I’m responsible for my children’s access to this stuff. But I’m just thinking…

Maybe instead of reacting so defensively, a human or two should rise out of this industry and think. Logically. In the best interest of families.

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to freak out small children with flesh-burning amulets or deadly spirits or person-devouring ants before they’ve learned to ride a two-wheeler.

Maybe it’s not about the money for five minutes.

If the MPAA and film studio powers-that-be aren’t willing to listen, what about LEGO? What’s important here? Is anybody with me on this?

O Internet, in all the glory of your collective consciousness, I’m in desperate need of an arbiter.

What do you do when you respectfully disagree with someone? Is it enough to admit a difference of opinion, or must you feign agreement on some level to avoid being judgmental?

Questions with broad strokes, I know.

I had such a disagreement a million years ago. More like two years, really. But it still weights heavily on my heart, in part because I was accused of being judgmental. And, quite honestly, that’s not one of the qualifications I had planned to add to my personal resume.

Pretend, if you will, my friend and I are shopping, when she spies a fur coat she can’t pass up. She knows I’m an animal rights activist, just shy of dumping red paint on unsuspecting passers by, but she wants my opinion. I rather unenthusiastically agree it’s lovely — that’s about all I can muster. And after she prods me, I admit I add that she shouldn’t depend on a coat to make her happy. Still, she wants my support. She’s hurt, and says I’m being judgmental. Why can’t I just act happy?

She’s my friend — and her purchase won’t change that — but am I obligated to push aside my opinions for her sake? Is my difference in opinion truly the same as passing judgment?

And am I right to be hurt that she’d want me to fake how I feel?

This was essentially the argument, just not about shopping and fur (for the record, I can claim to be a vegetarian, but not an animal activist). Now two years later, similar circumstances have unfolded, and I’m sitting here, disagreeing, and feeling defensive.

Would someone who makes the rules please stand up and advise me? Am I a miserable human being, or can people maintain their opinions and disagree without being offensive?

Sheesh: defensive, offensive. It’s like I’ve “gone pro” in law or philosophy (or, um, soap operas), and I’m so not athletic. Sigh.

Following up on an indirect online recommendation, I experienced an epiphany of sorts via the book Family Building by John Rosemond. Who honestly scares me a little. Makes me want to say, “Yes, ma’am,” and “No, sir,” to anyone beyond my 32 years. Which, for better or for worse, would really be odd in Chicago.

Before you worry that I’ve taken a giant step back to the 1950s with “traditional parenting,” note that — like my approach to education — I’m not comfortable drawing advice from only one source. Which is funny, because politically I’m the opposite.

But I digress.

The premise of Family Building (published in 2005, it may only be new to me) is our primary goal as parents. “Well,” I thought, “I want my kids to be happy! Healthy! Successful!” But happiness, health (to the extent we can control it) and success, Rosemond teaches us (or me, at least), aren’t goals. They are byproducts of raising decent.human.beings.

That, my friends, is where the heavens parted and radiant beams shone down to enlighten me in my quest to do everything right: encourage the right extracurriculars, choose the right schools, watch the right amount of television, sleep at the right time, build the right amount of self-esteem, wear the right shoes.

Not that I’m abandoning my children’s best interests. I just have a clear goal. And that is for my children to be good people. Good friends, good colleagues, good spouses, good parents, good neighbors. Because expecting or trying to be the best — the smartest, fastest, richest, coolest, whatever — doesn’t bring happiness.

And suddenly so many priorities fall into place, the first of which is teaching our children respect for others. The golden rule, if you will. When you learn to consider the needs of others and act on them, I’m willing to bet my dishwasher you’re more likely to find happiness.

The second is building their self confidence, rather than self esteem. My son and my daughter are special in their own right. But everyone is special, and no child needs to think he or she is more special than the next.

The third is placing more emphasis on our family. On spending the elusive “quality time” together, sharing responsibilities and learning from each other.

I know, I know… we’ll also be holding hands and singing Kumbaya together. Stay with me…

Rosemond also suggests parenting should not be hard. And, come on, that might as well be the first thing I think in the morning, the last thing I think at night: parenting, for me, is hard. It is challenging, draining and trying. If adopting a few of these strategies and priorities can help me build my children’s character and focus on how amazing and rewarding parenting can be, I’m in.

Does Rosemond have suggestions for dishes and laundry, too?