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    March 13, 2012

    A fret over my girl

    I need to worry over Molly here, for a little bit. 

    So, as you know, I don't have a lot of principles regarding television. As in, I watch a lot of it (less now, because I'm SO TIRED all the time) and I've never been super restrictive about my kids watching TV. I like the IDEA of not watching TV, but that's never played out in our family. I can't remember exactly what it was like, but I'm pretty sure Jack watched a lot of TV when I was pregnant with Molly and when she was first born. As I mull this over I realize that there's been major TV escalation whenever something big was going on - a new baby, a move, a particularly rough week with grad school or business travel. In the rental house when I was pregnant with Emma and horribly (yet unknowingly!) anemic and required a two-hour nap every afternoon, my non-napper was watching PBSKids on the laptop. I'm not PROUD of it, but I don't feel that bad about it either. We get through the way we get through. 

    We've had an iPad for about a year now and lo, all Cheungs with verbal ability worship at the altar of the iPad. It's stocked with nine zillion toddler-friendly games and, of course, Netflix. So the iPad became another way to watch TV. It actually became a way for me to nap without having to get up to start another show, because Jack quickly learned how to find shows and start new ones all by himself. Questionable parenting? Perhaps. But nothing was more important to me than that afternoon nap, people. NOTHING. 

    So... I mostly feel okay about the TV watching. For whatever reason, my kids do not like watching movies. Perhaps this is because they've inherited their mother's gnat-like attention span. (And for the record, it's JACK who prefers 20 minute TV shows to long movies - who knows what Molly really thinks. She's basically a Jack Mini-Me.) So I don't have kids obsessed with Cars or Toy Story or any of that stuff, which is kind of nice. On the other hand, I have seen every episode of Busytown Mysteries at least twelve million times. But I feel like these little cartoons are sweet and half-educational and short and easy to stop and all that. They watch nice little preschooler shows and lately I've been MUCH better about limiting the TV to a certain time of day or for shorter amounts of time and all that. Probably because I am MUCH better at everything now that Emma is taking Actual Naps and only waking up once or twice at night. (THANK YOU, GOD.)

    HOWEVER. Because I let them watch on the iPad, because I let them do it on their own, they've lately discovered two shows I don't like. One is the Power Rangers and the other is the Fresh Beat Band. 

    Okay, so I feel guilty that I haven't been on top of WHAT they're watching. I mean, they have access to Netflix, they could be watching Louis CK for all I know. But seriously, they always ALLLLWAYS pick Busytown, Fishtronaut, or Dora. ALWAYS. So I haven't thought twice about it. 

    But! Power Rangers! Jack is INTO the Power Rangers! And I'm just going to admit here that I know absolutely nothing about the Power Rangers. Perhaps it's totally fine for an almost five-year-old to watch the Power Rangers. I think I AM fine with it. But it's not a cartoon and it seems a little fighty and actiony and I wasn't sure if I was okay with MOLLY watching it (although, topic for another post: I usually make no distinction between their ages, SIGH.) I don't know. The jump from cutesy Busytown to heavily marketed Power Rangers seemed big to me. So after a week or so of being totally wishy washy about it, I finally said: No. We're not watching the Power Rangers. Because I am The Mom and I said so. 

    Honestly, though, the Fresh Beat Band freaks me out WAY more than the Power Rangers. 

    I mean, you guys have met Molly, right? This girl is super into clothes and shoes and the colors pink and purple and has decreed that only BOYS like blue and only GIRLS like pink and somehow she learned all the names of the Disney princesses and is obsessed with tutus and her princess dresses and this is overwhelming to me. On one hand, I almost encourage it. It's CRAZY FUN to buy dresses for your dress-enthused 3-year-old. On the other hand, I wonder where it all came from, I wonder what it means, I wonder if it's a phase, I wonder if she'll always be so clothes conscious, I wonder if Emma will be like that too, I wonder if I need to curtail it, I WONDER EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS GIRLY GIRL. Because I LOVE her and I love her girliness and I love that I get to be girly with her and I think she is ADORABLE. But it also WORRIES ME. 

    And the Fresh Beat Band is not helping. The Fresh Beat Band is this REALLLLLY dumb show where 4 twenty-somethings are bopping around and making kiddie music and having hijinks and getting into scrapes and all that. It's not offensive or worrisome or violent or whatever. But it DOES feature these two super cute girls in super cute outfits and Molly knows their names and talks about which one is her favorite (the pink one, obvs) and how she likes that girl best and THIS FREAKS ME OUT. It freaks me out because I don't remember having a crush on a TV personality until Clarissa Explains It All. (Which I only got to watch in the summers when we came back to the states and I got to watch TV at my grandma's house where there was cable.) 

    I WORSHIPED that long blond hair, you guys. I wanted to dress like her and BE her and while this wasn't particularly HARMFUL, I don't think, I was a MIDDLE SCHOOLER. I do not want my THREE-YEAR-OLD idolizing a Disney-fied (or is it Nick Jr-fied) twenty-something with impossible hair! OMG!

    So I've laid down the law on that one too. No more Fresh Beat Band. Even though it's FOR little kids! I just can't. I can't! Is this overreacting? I just feel like Molly, Molly HERSELF, does not need more images of Pretty Girls in her life. She does not need to be MORE aware of hair and clothes and pinkness. I mean, I'm not going to throw out her Pinkalicious book and make her wear jeans every day, but I can control the media. I can control it right now, at least. 

    I guess, at this moment, as I'm typing, I'm feeling bad. Because I was letting them watch these shows for a while before I realized I didn't like them. And then they were confused. I don't, like, feel bad for saying NO (I AM THE MOM!) but I feel bad for confusing them, for being illogical, for not knowing ahead of time. (STORY OF MY LIFE, HERE.) I feel like I should have been on top of this ball. And then - is it even a ball to be on top of? The Power Rangers? THE FRESH BEAT BAND? These are the grounds on which I've decided to stand firm? REALLY?

    I feel like... I WANT to protect Molly from that Wanting To Be A Certain Kind Of Girl for as long as possible. Jack and the Power Rangers... maybe that's just me being silly or overreacting or not wanting to realize he's nearly FIVE. But Molly and the girls in the Fresh Beat Band, that is something I KNOW. I recognize it. It eventually happens to most girls. Molly doesn't know what's going on, but I do, and I may get suckered into buying her frilly dress upon hot pink tutu, but I'll shield her from Hannah Montana-ization until the absolute last moment. 

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    We have done the same thing. Our kids (AJ mostly, 7y-o) were watching a couple of things on Cartoon Network -- one was, and I'm horrified to write this in public, Mad TV. When we first saw it we thought it was kind-of funny, ourselves, but then we had the DUH moment where we realized if it was ADULT humor that we actually thought was funny, it was probably.... not good. We put the kibosh on that one and on something else on CN - can't remember what, now. We were noticing some unpleasant effects (potty language, "whatever" attitude toward us, etc.) That was the indicator.

    Our kids didn't balk too much, and we'll continue to block shows if we think they're inappropriate after the fact. For the bigger kids, you can always say "that's not appropriate for [littler kid]."

    Now they're watching some of the Disney pre-teen comedies and while I kinda wish we were still in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse phase, I do think they give an interesting look at other families, and school. There's a lot about who "likes" who, which, UGH... but it's life. (And I was watching Gilligan's Island and Three's Company at that age, I always remind myself! At least these are geared toward kids!)

    P.S. I can't deal with Fresh Beat Band but I will say, both of ours love Power Rangers and I'm find with it. It's so completely cheeseball. And I like that there are two pretty girls in there, fighting bad guys with the big boys. ;) I giggle when my 4yo girl does her ninja moves. Hee hee.

    Sorry for the novel!

    I don't know what the answer is, but my immediate instinct is to say it's no big deal. I feel like trying to quash a tendency to like the girly stuff is just as bad as trying to encourage it? Of course, I have never seen the Fresh Beat Band, so I don't know what exactly we're talking about. Do the singers just look pretty? Or do they talk about their looks? If they *talk* about it, I would be more inclined to turn it off, but if they just look good...? I don't know?

    It is so hard. A few weeks ago at gymnastics, another mom was playing with Nora while we waited for Jack. Nora asked the other mom and me to sit in the little kid plastic chairs, and I said "Oh, no, we're too big!" and the other mom said, "Yeah, we've eaten too much!" and I wanted to... well, I actually like this woman, so I didn't REALLY want to smack her, but COME ON. Can we wait until she's fully past toddlerhood before we start inflicting poor body/food images on her? It's not that we ATE too much, lady, it's that these chairs are for TINY CHILDREN. Gah.

    But anyway, I think maybe finding counter-role models would help? So that for every Fresh Beat Band she sees, she sees a Buffy The Vampire Slayer to balance it? Clearly, I do not KNOW any age-appropriate counter-role models. Dora, maybe?

    Meh, I figure there's a point where you just CAN'T screen everything your kids see or get exposed to. I mean, just cruising through Target is probably Emotionally Damaging or some crap like that.

    To me, the point is to just be aware and screen/edit where you can, when you can and fill in the gaps with steady doses of Common Sense and This Is What We Do In Our Family.

    You're already LIGHT YEARS ahead of a lot of parents and if Molly comes home one day and tells you that so-and-so is not cool because she wears the wrong pants then I'm positive she will get a stern talking to.

    Maureen's story about the chairs? Oh, that is my biggest THING that I hate people saying in front of my kids. I hate that kind of thing waaaaay more than Princess Ideas.

    I have a girly girl and it is not a phase. She has been obsessed with dresses since she was little and would wear one every day if we would let her. I don't let my kids watch things I find annoying but other than that I do not censor and the TV is on every moment of every day when we are at home. I let them watch Family Guy so don't feel bad about letting your kids watch actual kid shows. PS - I hate Max and Ruby because it is too weird. There are no parents, so there is no Max and Ruby in my house. You can't help what you find creepy/weird.

    I’ve never really thought about this. We didn’t have cable when I was little, so all we watched were DVDs (wait, I mean VHS – I’m not THAT young) of Sesame Street. Obviously there was no Netflix. I usually give a major eyeroll to people who say it’s harder to raise kids today (people have ALWAYS said that – do you think it’s REALLY been getting progressively harder with each generation for hundreds of years?), but man. I suppose I might have to concede media is getting harder to moderate. I’m not sure what to do about it. Our TV is in the basement (we spend almost all of our time upstairs) and we cancelled the cable. My kids mostly watch DVDs, so I guess it’s easy for now and I’ll worry about it when they’re older.

    Ok, can we discuss Busytown Mysteries for a moment? The episode where the air conditioner FREEZES THE POOL INSTANTLY? WTF?!

    Moving on. I introduced Ren to Yo Gabba Gabba and then discovered how much I hated it. Luckily our On Demand stopped offering it for free, so we couldn't watch it even if we wanted to. I didn't worry about confusing him though. I don't think it's a big deal. Your kids will be fine!

    My husband introduced Ren to things like Iron Man, the live action movie starring Robert Downey Jr, and Transformers, with Shia LeBouef. OH MY GOD. REN IS THREE. And now my husband is telling me that he is taking Ren to see The Avengers in the theaters, which NO. REN IS THREE. So, what I am saying, is that at least your kids do not have my husband for a parent. It could be worse.

    The hubs and I have only one child, of the boy variety. He is four. I think maybe it's most important to keep some sort of balance (if you can swing it). Our little guy is newly obsessed with Star Wars (thanks to his daddy's new favorite computer game) but then this morning we watched Angelina Ballerina. So...maybe as long as it is limited ninja kids and limited beautiful perfect girls, sprinkled with some other kinds of kids/animated creatures?

    OMG i was obcessed with Clarissa explains it all too! and only the mention of the the Ferguson makes me think of red hair and freckles! lol

    I dont have a problem with Fresh Beat band, I think its innocent fun, its music, it gets my kids singing and dancing. In my mind its not any different then Barbie or the disney princesses ( but I only have little boys, my little girl will not be born until May). Actually i think its a little better, because it gets them moving and dancing! BUT- i do not like Barney at all! SOO everyone has their feelings about certain shows and their kids reactions to them. my oldest is 4 and he likes Power Rangers, but we tend to stick to Disney so he is more obcessed with "Jessie" and "mickey Mouse" then power rangers.

    NOW- My husband will watch "family Guy" with Andrew in the room ( which i have been very vocal about NOT being okay with) and Andrew (4) has started to ask to watch it and sing the begining song...THAT I have a problem with!! Be glad your 4 year old does not know the family guy theme song...that makes me really mad!!

    Oh R, you're not supposed to WATCH the shows WITH THEM.

    Now I am thinking I am being totally ridiculous, esp on Power Rangers front. Will reconsider. Still need to work on limiting TV in general, though. Blargh.

    I should add: Phillip is constantly watching The Simpsons or other shows with Questionable Adult Content in front of my kids and then one day Jack was all, "What's THAT, Daddy!" and then *I* have a 6pm NEWS habit and we know how horrible the NEWS is... so yes. SHAME ALL AROUND.

    my parents were CRAZY STRICT with the tv when i was growing up, which just meant my sister and i would "sneak" shows we weren't allowed to watch whenever possible. (shows we had to sneak, for the record, were along the lines of Saved By The Bell, the Love Boat, and Hey Dude. CRAZY STRICT.) i don't actually know what my point is here. kids will find a way to expose themselves to whatever it is you want them not to see, i guess? i am so full of help!

    OH I WANTED TO BE CLARISSA SOOOOOO BADLY MAGGIE, SO SO SO BADLY.

    Did you also watch the show Fifteen? It was also on Nickelodeon and I LOVED IT.

    In my family, we weren't allowed to watch TV as young children. And then as we got older we were only allowed to watch shows my parents liked to watch. So, I was the only 8 year old I knew that was only allowed to watch Murder, She Wrote and 60 Minutes.

    I'm with you on the TV angst. My kids don't like the Power Rangers show, but I have the game on Wii to review and the kids watched me playing it endlessly, because it was actually pretty fun, and then I realized that my kids were watching something that they probably weren't old enough for. And I felt guilty.

    I also feel bad about the quantity of electronics use that goes on here. It was one thing when I was a kid and there was just the TV or our computer with educational games, but my kids have the LeapPad and TV and on-demand shows and the Wii and our iPods and they're ALWAYS wanting to play with one. I try to say no and limit it, but it gets away from me. Oh, and there's the fact that Daniel and I are always on the computer or our iPods, so I feel like a hypocrite when I tell them no.

    Vivian's not into any shows other than Diego, but I struggle with her and her wanting clothing that's got all those Disney princesses on it. And I'm not sure why it bothers me, except it's pushing that whole princess image stuff. I'm fine with her wearing fluffy pink dresses, but the princesses are kind of a different thing in my mind.

    All this to say, I also feel guilty and haven't really figured out what I'm going to do about it. The only thing I know is that this mom stuff is hard. Trying to appropriately shape someone's image of womanhood? How am I old enough to deal with this?

    I do not let the kids watch Spongebob Squarepants. And when the kids ask "but whyyyyy?" I have no good answer. I just don't like it, there is something skeevy about it. So no. I am the parent and can make irrational decisions like that for you- and you can do it to your own kids. It's the cycle of life... Now go back to your Team Umizoomi.

    And while the girls had never ever seen a Disney princess movie- they KNOW about the princesses. They don't even know the names! They're five and call them blue princess (Cinderella) pink princess (sleeping beauty) and yellow princess (Belle) Somehow the Disney Marketing Machine got to them.

    Oh yes. This is so hard! It was a tough day when my daughter figured out how to operate netflix, because I could no longer lie about shows being unavailable. I agree with everyone. There doesn't have to be a great reason...if you don't like a show, make it off limits, even if it seems illogical. Our show we nixed was "Kick Buttowski." Luckily my 3.5 yr old thinks it's "Kick Patowi," so that's how she says it. She watched 3 episodes I think before we pulled the plug, and she still runs around the house acting like Kick "Patowi." Thank god she at least didn't understand the real name! Ugh. TV. It's a necessary evil for parental sanity (I think, anyway,) but the limits-setting is tough work! You're doing great.

    Oh hi, this is eight years late, but I keep meaning to comment and say that I would fret too. I've never seen Fresh Beat Band (advantage: boys), but growing up not-white and seeing all these blonde peppy pink "role models" on TV did NOTHING for my self-esteem. I mean, it was a different time, but really all I did was compare how NOT LIKE THEM I was. So I think you did the right thing, and I think you're a good mom for figuring it out so quickly. (We have not gotten out of the choosing the same three shows over and over and...I just hate Fishtronaut SO MUCH.)

    Please tell me Netflix added a feature so that parents can block certain shows?!?
    When I called the customer service line a few months back to ask how I could block Sponge Bob and iCarly I was told it wasn't possible.
    Maybe Netflix caught enough flak from parents and realized their mistake?

    Hmm, I'm one of those annoying parents whose kids don't watch TV. Mainly because I don't watch TV because it was on all the time when I was growing up and it drives me nuts. (I also watched a lot Murder She Wrote and 60 Minutes -- and an hour and a half of news a night). My kids watch movies but kids' tv shows and commercials drive me bonkers so I haven't really let them know they exist yet. I dread the day when they figure it out.

    So, knowing that I'm probably not at all qualified to give advice, I say follow your instincts and stay strong. If you don't like something and how you think it affects your daughter say no. If later on you change your mind (because you have different feelings about the show or if you think Molly would react to it differently, etc, whatever) don't feel scared to let her watch it and tell her that times change, she changes, and so some rules change.

    My kids (5yo girl and 2yo boy) love the fresh beat band so my initial reaction was that you were making a big deal about nothing. But my girl is not girly-girl like Molly, so I don't feel that I need to monitor that for her. There are shows that I draw the line: Barney drives me nuts, I think Calliou is too whiny, and spongebob. So I guess we all need to draw our own lines. You could try fbb again. I think it teaches teamwork and problem solving and the songs are catchy. And like someone mentioned earlier, it gets them dancing.

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