Saturday, May 3, 2008

Another Effect of Not Watching TV

Long-time readers of this blog know that we don't have a TV. We do have a stack of videos, most of which are kid-friendly; but long ago we decided for various reasons that we didn't actually need to watch TV. Part of that was because we're not sure how much of the TV programming content we actually want going into our kids' (and our own!) heads, but part of it had to do with all the other wonderful things we could be doing if we didn't spend X hours a day in front of the tube.

(Except, they don't contain tubes anymore, do they? I can imagine future generations asking, "Why do they call it a tube? It doesn't look anything at all like a tube. It has no tubular qualities about it at all. It's flat." And then Daddy will be able to give answers much like Calvin's Dad would, perhaps along the lines of how early viewing technologies were a lot like one-eyed Viewmasters, and the name just stuck. Or something like that.)

Well, one consequence of viewing less (or no) TV is that our kids haven't seen "8 million murders by the age of 3", or whatever the statistic is these days. Yeah, we watch The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from time to time, but that's the most violent thing our kids have ever seen, and even with that big battle at the end, it's a whole lot tamer than a lot of what's out there these days.

I think this is having an effect on our girls' sense of what constitutes a tragedy.

Case in point: I recently introduced the Pillowfight Fairy to the old chestnut On Top of Spaghetti--that old camp song, set to the tune of On Top of Old Smoky. Now the latter song is tragic in its own way, being a song of lost love and all. But before now, I never caught the tragic undertones--the sheer pathos--in the former.

Mommy and I were discussing these songs in front of the kids. Now, the Pillowfight Fairy loves songs, and loves poems, and fell in love with the words of the first verse.
On top of spaghetti
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball
When somebody sneezed.
Ya gotta admit, that's pretty funny--especially when you're five.

So I announced to the Fairy, There's more! And I proceeded to sing the following verses. The meatball duly fell off the table, rolled out the door, and then:
It rolled in the garden
And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball
Was nothing but mush.
At which point, my brain forgot the rest of the words, and the song stopped.

The Pillowfight Fairy looked up at me wide-eyed, horror-struck. Her lower lip began to give a little quiver.

What hath I wrought? I figured, I'd better come up with the rest of the words fast, before my little darling was scarred for life. I mean, we're going to have to introduce her to the Little Match Girl eventually; but I'd hate for her to have such a traumatic introduction to the genre of tragedy now, like this--by inducing her into mourning over a Lost Meatball, of all things.

So I made it up as I went. I knew it had something to do about the mush growing into a tree, and the tree sprouting new meatballs. So on the spot, I made up yet another variant of this song that will be sung around campgrounds for generations to come.

(You know, how one person says, "Let's sing that one!" and everyone says, "Yay!" and then everyone starts, and everyone realizes that they all learned it differently, and there are different words, and different numbers of verses, and everyone thinks that everyone else learned it wrong? Well, now you know how this kind of thing gets started. It comes from forgetful Daddies trying to prevent emotional devastation on the part of their precious little daughters.)

Well, the Fairy loved the new ending--it was a lot happier and more satisfying than leaving the poor meatball as nothing but mush, under some God-forsaken bush in some dark and forsaken corner of the garden. Much happier now, she started singing the version that I had taught her, over and over again. So I figured I'd better get her the real lyrics. When I got some time, I went over to the Great Authority and googled them up. The Fairy read them off the screen, singing them, over and over and over.... It's now her favorite song.

Again I ask: What hath I wrought?

Hm... eventually, the Fairy is going to start reading some sad stories. Sometimes I'm glad I'm not the one doing most of the teaching work. :-/

1 comment:

Daniel Macintyre said...

My Four year old daughter and I were discussing grandparents a few days ago. She was trying to understand how my parents had our last name, but Amy's parents didn't. I explained that when Amy married me, her name changed to mine. I further explained that girls who get married change their names and when she got married she would no longer have the last name Macintyre, but whatever the last name of her husband was.

Several minutes later after some of the most soul wrenching sobs of despair ever witnessed and several FIRM declarations that she would "never get married ever, ever, EVER," she was finally transported to her mother, who was then left with the daunting task of cleaning up the mess I made of the whole situation and hopefully minimize some of the psychological scarring.

We minimize TV time to the bare bones in our house - now I'm wondering if we should let up some.