It starts as soon as we get in the car. I’ve only driven the boys (M-ito and his friend Austino) to school (or picked them up from school) a handful of times but it happens each time. They get in the car and start talking about poop, pee, and destruction. Here’s an example.
“Poop, poop, poop, poop,” Austino says as soon as they close the car door and buckle themselves in.
“Poop and pee, poop and pee, poop and pee,” M-ito adds in. They are both hysterical with laughter. I smile back at them through the rear view mirror.
“All right you two,” I say, “that’s enough with the poop and pee.” I know once they are in school none of this will be allowed. I figure it’s better to get it all out now so when they don’t stop right away I let it go on for a few minutes before I veer them towards another subject.
On Friday they both were singing the Barney song but it went a little like this: “I hate you, you hate me, we’re an unhappy family, I’m gonna take a saw and cut off your head, then Barney will soon be dead.” Writing it down it doesn’t sound too good. I know, I know. But in the car, riding home after a full day of school, being good, following the rules, not using any toilet language, being gentlemen, a little letting loose can’t be bad. Can it? Variations of Barney being taken out went on for a good ten minutes with the two boys laughing and giggling at each other’s humor. Eventually I told them that enough was enough and asked them to change the subject – but they only sang louder. I should have figured that wouldn’t stop them but I’m slow at these things. Regardless, I liked to hear them laugh and didn’t want to crush their creative work directly, just channel it somewhere else. So I started word games with them. How many words can you name that rhyme with red? Then I spy with my little eye. It worked for a while, but poor Barney the purple dinosaur eventually got knocked off a few more times before we got home.
This trend towards violence and not understanding what it means disturbs me. It’s not real to the kids. But, do I want it to be real for them? Do I want them to have seen people get killed for real? Dead bodies, for real? I’ve seen enough violence and the results of violence in my life and I’d rather not have them see any of it even when they’re older. On the other hand, they don’t take it seriously. It’s like a movie or a video game to them. And so it’s funny.
I remember a number of my friends in High School used to enjoy seeing the George Romero films like Dawn of the Dead. They laughed at the gore and violence because it was so over-the-top to them. I couldn’t watch the films. They terrified me and it all looked way too real. I couldn’t laugh at the horror of what I saw on the screen. I was not made to see horror films.
My son does not see violent films – he barely gets to see PG rated animated films and we hand-pick his films very carefully. He still hasn’t watched the third Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith because I think it’s just too violent. M-ito couldn’t sit through Beverly Hills Chihuahua last year because it was “too scary.” He get’s scared easily and we don’t want him to have nightmares. Yet when he plays Wi Lego Star Wars what is the purpose of most of the action? Well… it’s to kill all the other characters. You get points for taking their hearts. “Take out your light saber and kill them,” is commonly heard during play. It makes me cringe. What do parents do about this desensitization?
M-ito told me a story on Friday about his school. Three 8th graders had to do some public speaking at assembly last week – it’s an assignment each of them has to complete during the school year – and one of them tried to be funny in his speech. M-ito explained it to me like this.
“One boy told us he was describing his trip to Japan and said, ‘I was looking out the window of the airplane and saw three torpedoes fly out at a building and blow it up. Then I saw people jumping off the building, wait, no I was only kidding!’ That’s what he said, ‘I was only kidding!” M-ito laughed – I sensed feeling sophisticated because he got the humor. He thought it was funny – as funny as talking about poop, farts, or pee.
The first time I heard him tell this story, we were in the car on the way home from school and Austino was in the car too. They both thought it funny. I smiled but felt a little sick to my stomach – a little disturbed. I was on the 16th floor of Tower II the day the Trade Center’s came down and the story just rang differently for me. I didn’t say anything to him about it. I smiled and listened to them laugh. The second time he told the story it was to Mom-ita a few days later and I was listening while sitting next to him at dinner. I looked at Mom-ita after he’d finished and neither one of us talked for a moment. M-ito was giggling again.
We both finally looked at him and said, “You know it could be that people will think about the World Trade Center when someone tells that kind of story. They might not think it funny. People really got killed there – a lot of people.” But M-ito was working on only 8 hours of sleep and as soon as I got serious he tuned me out. Of course I said two or three sentences more and had to have Mom-ita tell me to stop, “He’s not listening to you anymore,” before I finally did find silence.
I liked it when M-ito thought Oswald was the best TV show. There was no violence. There was Big Banana day. There was a picnic in the park. There was lunch at the local diner meeting friends. Now my son is growing up and the volume is being turned up too.
When it comes down to it, if I have a choice between laughing at violence or poop and pee, I’ll take the poop and pee any day.