My 6-going-on-7-year-old son was watching an episode of Bakugan on the computer yesterday (OK, I know I probably shouldn’t let him watch it, but he LOVES it, and I do try to limit it to one episode per day… mostly.) In case you don’t know what Bakugan are, they’re kind of like Pokemon on steroids. The show has no redeeming qualities and solely exists to get your kid hooked on it so you can spend lots of money on the toys that he just has to have because all the other kids have them and he would be a total dork if he didn’t have any. Note I did not provide a link; if you want to know about it that badly you can Google it.)
Anyway, I’m upstairs and I hear him start wailing, so I rush downstairs thinking he’s cut off his arm or poked his eye out or caught the cat on fire, but he’s just sitting at the computer sobbing his eyes out. He looks at me and says, “that episode was a crier.” OMG, he’s crying at some silly show with cheesy cartoon (i.e. not real) characters?? Are you kidding me? Of course, I hug him and rock him and kiss him and tell him it’s OK, and not to cry and it’s OK, etc., etc. Then he says, “I’ll just be in my room awhile.” I say OK, and am completely confounded by the whole exchange. A bit later I check on him, and he’s fine, and I ask what happened on the show that upset him so, and he says he doesn’t want to talk about it. I try a few more times throughout the day, but never did find out who died or got blown up or lost a battle or god knows what. But I am slightly disturbed, like I’ve done some completely awful piece of parenting and I’m not sure why. Did I react properly? What should I have said? Should I be concerned that he was crying over a cartoon? Do I not let him watch the show anymore? How do I justify that – that’s like saying you can’t watch anything that makes you cry. Maybe he’s just going to be an easy crier?
Interestingly, a few days prior to this incident, he was randomly going through the books on his book shelf looking for something we could read together. As I watched in horror, he pulled “Love You Forever” off the shelf. For those of you not familiar with this little gem, there is much controversy over the appropriateness of the book, with one camp claiming it is just a lovely story about a very strong mother/son relationship. The opposing view is that the mother has serious psychological issues around attachment and letting go, and well, it’s just plain creepy. Madeleine Brand did a really great podcast about this and other popular children’s books that sums it up nicely.
I bit back the urge to scream, “NO ANYTHING BUT THAT!” and silently observed as he flipped through the pages – all of them. He turned to me and says, “This one’s a crier mom, so I’m going to put it under my bed so no one reads it.” Again, the wave of “whoa what was that all about” comes crashing down, and I’m speechless. On one hand, I want to say, “Awesome! Let’s throw it in the garbage because I never want to read that stupid book again.” On the other, I think “How does he know that, because I know I’ve never read that book to him.” NB: My mom gave it to us when he was a baby, and I stuffed it on the shelf and promptly forgot about it. And then, “OMG, he needs therapy.” So I say nothing. And we read a Sesame Street book about Grover. And he laughs.