I know that no body’s perfect and I am certainly not a perfect mother. But most of the time I pride myself on doing a pretty good job raising Sean and making what I feel to be appropriate decisions and choices about his rearing. That said, yesterday I learned a hard lesson about parenting… sometimes we, okay I, make mistakes.
I realize that is not a shocking statement. Of course we all make mistakes, but this one was especially difficult for me to admit. I probably sound like I am making excuses, but during the last few months of our journey with Molly I was at times in somewhat of a fog when it came to my parenting skills. I tried my best to be there for Sean, but there were many times when I was emotionally or physically drained that our television and computer served as his babysitter, so I could take a break. In the past he had always watched “kid-friendly” stations and television shows on channels such as PBS, Noggin, Nick Jr. and the Disney Channel. I knew that the programming on those channels were appropriate for Sean’s age and maturity level and that many of them were even educational, though I understand it is still better most of the time for kids to learn through other venues than television.
Likewise, over the past year or so Sean had really gotten into playing on the computer and checking out the related websites for those TV channels. As many of you know, they have interactive games and activities on them related to the characters from their popular shows. On some websites you can even watch episodes of the TV shows.
So what happened more recently, that led to my “mistake” was that Sean discovered a new TV channel, the Cartoon Network. It sounds innocent from the title and does have a few preschool/Pre-K age friendly programs (The Mr. Men Show, Tom & Jerry and Scooby Doo), but not a lot. Initially, in my “Molly Fog,” I did not realize that the majority of Cartoon Network’s shows were not age appropriate for our son. I know that parents are supposed to check out television shows that their children want to watch before they give permission, especially if there is any question that the content might be above their maturity level. I am ashamed to admit that I did not do this. I think when I did start to notice that some of the programs he was watching (especially one called “Ben 10: Alien Force” that recently had become his favorite) might not be age-appropriate I was in denial.
However, the more my Molly Fog started to lift, the more I was feeling uncomfortable with some of the shows Sean was watching on Cartoon Network. I don’t know why I didn’t look more closely at them sooner, to try to find out if they were appropriate, I guess I was just glad, now that he is out of school for the summer, that now and then I could still get a little break while he relaxed and watched TV and didn’t zero in on what exactly it was that he was watching. Sean learned to change the channels on the remote a few months ago and also had memorized the channel numbers of the stations he likes to watch. So he could easily move himself between the channels if he wanted to watch a different show on a different channel.
The week before we left for our family reunion/vacation on Hilton Head Island, SC (which I will still post about sometime soon), I had my post-partum appointment at our OB/GYN’s office and all of my post-partum restrictions were lifted. I got the green light to exercise again and slowly started getting back into my pre-pregnancy routines (including regular exercise and household duties that I had long been neglecting). The more I and our family has begun to get back into our “normal life” routines, the more quality time I have been spending with Sean and the more I have been realizing some areas where I have failed him over the past months. Television program and computer website monitoring are two of the most glaring areas.
It took my 14 year old cousin in Hilton Head last week and a 6 1/2 year old boy that Sean and I met at a local park yesterday to set me straight. While talking with my cousin last week, Sean told him how much he loves to watch “Ben 10.” My cousin seemed surprised that Sean had watched the show, but told him that he too had seen it. His reaction was a bit of a red flag to me, but apparently not enough to wake me up completely.
So yesterday at the park this outgoing nice boy who befriended Sean and also seemed to like to talk with me found out from Sean that he watched “Ben 10.” The boy came up to me and said, “Sean is four, right?!” And I said, “yes.” Then he confirmed that Sean is in pre-school and again I said, “yes.” The boy then went on to tell me that he thought that Sean was too young to watch “Ben 10!” He told me that someone in his life, might have been his mother, had told him that you had to at least be in first grade to be old enough to watch “Ben 10!” Nothing like being given parenting advice from a 6 1/2 year old…
The boy got me thinking and when we got home I researched more about “Ben 10” and many other Cartoon Network shows that Sean has been watching and found out that most of them are rated TV-7, meaning that it is suggested that a child be seven or older to watch the show. I was horrified, though I guess at that point not very surprised to read that, and felt like a pretty crappy mother. When I shared all of this with Bob we both agreed that we needed to admit our mistake in “letting” Sean view these programs in the past and put a stop to it immediately.
We explained to Sean that Mommy and Daddy made a mistake in allowing him to watch those shows on Cartoon Network. We told him that it was not his fault, it is ours, but that we found out that he is too young to watch “Ben 10” and the other Cartoon Network shows and from now on he will not be watching them. We explained that we put a “lock” on the TV channel and that he will also not be allowed to play on Cartoon Network on the computer.
Though Sean got a bit upset initially, which we expected. Amazingly, he is handling the new TV and computer restrictions pretty well. Sean’s babysitter, at the place I go to exercise classes at, this morning even told me that he shared with her what had happened. She relayed that he said something to the effect of, “Mommy and Daddy made a mistake and now I will have to wait a few years before I can watch Cartoon Network again. I have to be 7 to be old enough and I am 4.” I was impressed that Sean seems to really understand what happened and isn’t overreacting about it.
Since I have shared this story with my parents and some of my mommy friends, I am feeling better about myself. They all assured me that we as parents all make mistakes and use poor judgement at times. They told me that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I am trying to take their advice to heart. I do intended to pay a lot more attention to what Sean watches on TV or plays on the computer from now on and also will try to cut down on the time he spends doing both.
Thanking you for reading this post about my most recent lesson learned about parenting. It is a rather rare occurrence these days, but Sean is actually napping right now and his rest time has allowed me to work this through while posting here. As I have said so many times before, I find blogging, as I am sure many of you who also blog do, to be very therapeutic.
Thank you also for your kind words and validating comments on my last two posts about therapy, Steak `n Shake and the two month milestone of Molly’s birth and death. I did find out who left the beautiful butterfly at Molly’s grave. It was our sister-in-law and her husband/Bob’s brother! I was so impressed by their thoughtfulness, especially because they are expecting their second child in late July/early August and I know that our journey with Molly was especially difficult for them knowing that they were/are carrying a baby too that is due so close to the time our baby girl was due and we all had hoped and prayed they could have grown up together as good buddies, as well as cousins.
Take care and may God bless you and your loved ones.