Recovering from parental and partner mistakes

So, Ted and I have had an evolving but pretty consistent media plan since Hazel was born. We had originally decided no TV or movies for her until she turned 7, but we moved that back to 1st grade, which started when she was 6.5. When she was home sick over the past few years she was allowed to watch, “Microcosmos”, an almost entirely speech-free French documentary about bugs, which is actually pretty fascinating and beautiful. Even that was a lot of input for her: when she first started watching it she wanted us to be with her. When she was 3.5 and we were visiting friends she was introduced to “Pingu”, a cute Claymation series about a penguin kid and his family. We started letting her watch those this year, and then quickly decided they were fine for her twin sisters too. And she’s been allowed to play 10 -15 minutes of games on a phone/tablet/other device since she was 4 or so (drawing games, connect-the-dots, “Fruit Ninja”, and “Plants VS Zombies”).

Ted and talked about what to do once we had the twins, and we made a plan; that was, that this year we’d start Hazel watching movies, and the twins would be allowed to watch Pingu, but that we’d stick with the 6.5-year-old start for them for movies. We were comfortable with that plan.

This morning I made a partner/parent mistake, and brought up the possibility of watching, “Frozen”, about which all of our kids are nuts despite never having seen it, IN FRONT OF THE KIDS. Had Ted done that, I would have likely been pretty pissed off at him. Of course the kids exploded with glee, and even though we both were reluctant (I was already regretting my mistake), we felt locked into watching. So. We agreed on a 30 minute limit, and we sat down to watch it, pausing it once in a while to talk about what was going on. At 30 minutes we were in the middle of a tense scene, and decided to continue until a more peaceful moment. We did.

The twins clearly could not track, could not follow, could not understand. And Emily got scared to tears when Anna had snow fall on her head and then when she fell into a pond.

I felt like shit. *sigh*

So, we stopped at about the 40 minute mark, promising that we’d watch again in a week. The kids protested, quite vigorously. We followed through on our plan to get outside, which prompted more vigorous protestations.

On our walk around the block a few minutes later I apologized to Ted.

After more thought and a good couple of conversations, tonight Ted and I came up with another plan. Instead of just cutting them off at the pass entirely, or on the other side of the spectrum letting them watch the whole thing while regretting it intensely and risking really freaking them out (which happened to me when I was a kid, and I had nightmares from one Art Museum art horror series of shorts until after I’d graduated from college), we are going to let the twins watch a few selected songs, and continue watching the whole movie with Hazel only, when we have Mommy/Daddy/Hazel time (once a week). We’ll tell the twins the truth, that we made a mistake and realized that the whole movie is for kids older than they are, but that they can see the songs they love, and they’ll be able to watch the whole movie when they’re 6.5, like Hazel is now. And then we’ll work our way through the tears and shouts and recriminations which are likely to occur.

And I will use this as an object lesson to remind me of the critical importance of talking to my parenting partner about significant parenting choices. It is the right thing to do, the most respectful thing to do, and also the way that the kids get the best and most thorough parenting.

I told Hazel in a recent conversation that I am learning as I parent, just as much as she’s learning as she grows. She didn’t believe me. I told her that yes, I have learned a lot from her and will continue to do so. She immediately challenged me to give her an example. I reminded her of the sock example, that she had taught me that it’s ok to wear not just colorful socks, but UNMATCHING colorful socks, which I now do with glee. This, though a seemingly small thing, was a major victory for me, and I credit her example and inspiration. She was very pleased by that idea.

So that’s my plan, to continue to learn, and to be open to learning, as long as I am alive.

And I thank Ted for his understanding.


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