Friday, November 21, 2008

The Pony, the Robin, and the Jiggle-O

Question: do you stop your child from innocent songs and thereby introduce them to the adult understanding of that song? Or do you just let them sing and who cares what the words are?

I've learned enough at this point (through notes home from preschool teachers) to stop swearing in front of my kids. Although I myself can't understand why certain words are forbidden, I realize that some people get quite a shock when they hear a little blond girl use them. So I've told my kids not to use certain words because for reasons we don't actually have to understand in order to respect, they will get upset if they hear little kids saying these things. So we don't say them. It's just simpler that way.

I write that, but in the back of my mind I hear little warnings. Because, if I'm honest with myself, I realize that the appeal of these words is the very power that the taboo gives. For instance, the word "the" is not something with any power, therefore we don't yell it at idiotic drivers (I hope your imaginations are fired up and processing that!). Our culture gives these words power, and we love to wield that power, especially when we are feeling powerless.

There are also little warning sounds in my mind because there ARE words that even I find offensive, especially racial slurs. And I would freak if my kid, or any one else's, used those words. I have my own language rules too, apparently.

So, are there songs like swear words?

Here's the quandary: Blue and her friends at school are singing these little songs with motions and dances. Without the loaded meaning of these songs, these are actually cool games. The girls stand in a circle and during "Ride the Pony" one dances around the group. During "Jiggle-O" one dances in the middle of the group. It reminds me of African tribal teen dances I've seen on National Geographic.

The problem is that these songs are double entendres popular as High School cheers. And occasionally someone will recognize them and scowl at me, as if I'm doing something inappropriate by allowing this all. Am I?

I mean, if Blue were dancing to these songs in a way that indicated she knew the alternate meaning, I would probably step in. But to her, they are songs about riding ponies and jiggling.

Red Robin would still be a bird to me, hopping and a bopping in the tree tops all day long, if some adult hadn't stepped in a told me not to sing that dirty song. After years of contemplation and additional information, I finally understood why. But why introduce a child to the alternate understanding?

I visited a Belizian friend on her family's sugar cane plantation. Her little niece had a fondness for sucking on hot dogs. People chuckled under their breath, but no one yank that dog from her mouth or told her it was wrong to eat hot dogs that way. I thought that was very cool of them. Why introduce such ideas where none existed before?

And yet, it's those other people, looking at me strangely while my 7 year old sings randy cheer songs. So, I could tell her to stop with the same reasoning I tell her not to swear: some people get offended. But where does THAT stop? People get offended at a lot of things and, as I stated above, I don't understand why. So do I live under the tyranny of other people's hyperactive offend-buttons? Or sometimes, don't I just get to tell them to shove it?

I think "those OTHER people" bother me because there's a part of me that IS wondering: is this inappropriate? Am I setting her up for a future of multiple STD's? Is she creating a "reputation"? Will she be more vulnerable to predators?

But by telling her to stop, she will ponder the purpose of that edict until she discovers it. And THEN, is THAT going to introduce concepts to her at too young an age?

The poor first child, victim of over-wrought parenting. Coyote will get to this age, I'll make split second decisions and just move on without a second thought. I won't remember the whole train of thought that got me to the conclusion, but I will remember the conclusion and that's all I'll want to know. I'll be so busy over-thinking the next stage of Blue's life that I won't have time to really re-think the whole issue facing Coyote. He'll get the same conclusion as she, but without all the hemming and hawing and thinking it over and over that she had to endure.

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