Thursday, February 26, 2009

20 Years

Last month marked 20 years since my mom died. She died very suddenly at the age of 41 from a brain aneurysm. Since my parents had divorced when I was young and I was raised mostly by her alone, this devastated me. It took me a long time to recover from this. And as I did, I began to change.

As a young man, I was very much as I was when I was a teenager. I was stubborn, narcissistic and border-line misogynistic. If it didn't directly effect me, it didn't exist. No one's opinion mattered but my own. My relationships were clouded in jealousy and distrust. I often said things with little or no regard to other people's feelings. I was not a very good friend.

I had never really suffered anything remotely approaching tragedy. I suppose parents divorcing is fairly traumatic to a child, but I didn't recognize this then. I remember being told of a friend's parent dying, and I didn't understand what the big deal was. People die. We all will. Get over it.

And then my mom died. And finally I understood. I became aware of mortality; my own and that of others. I began to really look at the person that I was, and I didn't like him. I began to understand the hurt that I had caused people, the relationships that I ruined. I didn't want to be that person anymore.

It's been a long road from there to here. I'm saddened still to think of how I was then, but I try to make up for it now. I don't always succeed, but I try.

Friday, February 20, 2009

But Where Are Those Good, Old Fashioned Values?

Sex, drugs, violence, bad language. TV is full of it. So are the movies.

As parents, we try to find a balance between overexposure and unrealistic sheltering. As the kids get older, this becomes more difficult. They've seen beer commercials and know that sex sells. They've been to the mall and heard bad language. Hell, they don't have to go to the mall for that. They just have to go school.

But here's what I find interesting: given the two, sex and violence, what's worse? My girls have reached the age where they're really into horror and slasher flicks. Since I also like horror and slasher flicks, I'm digging this stage. And as a parent, I watch the films first beforehand so I'm not surprised by anything. I recently enjoyed "Diary of the Dead" (George Romero really is the master of the genre) and I can't wait to watch it with the girls. No nudity, little bad language, lots and lots of blood and guts.

The thing is, as human beings, they will have sex. They will see people naked. I, for one, hope that they have healthy, happy sex lives when the time is right. But they will make mistakes. We all have. And they will learn from most of them, just like we have. (Notice I didn't say all - there are some things we just never learn.)

As middle-school/junior high students, they've heard just about every "bad" word there is. I've read my daughter's blog. She uses them correctly.

Unfortunately, sometimes people experience violence. But we all hope that this never happens to us or our children. And for the majority of us, it won't. Certainly not to the extent that we see on TV. And yet, sex and language seem to be of most concern. But why is that? Do we really think George Carlin's 7 words will do our children irreparable harm? Will seeing a breast or a penis scar them for life? How about watching someone get shot in the head?

Maybe it's just our own discomfort that leads to this. I was watching "Robocop" with my youngest (11) a couple of weeks ago. She was unphased by the massive killing machine at the beginning (too fake) and the violence (the guy losing his hand was cool and the guy splattered by the car was gross). But the language bothered her. To be honest, I forgot how bad the language is in that movie. Even so, it wasn't anything she hasn't heard before. But she was uncomfortable with it. And so was I.

Some weeks before, all four of us watched "Interview With The Vampire". Again, the blood and violence was just no big deal, though it did make for a great movie. The nudity, on the other hand, made us all uneasy.

So maybe it's our own uneasiness with sex that causes us to guard against it more. Or maybe we don't feel the need to shield them as much from things they may never experience (and I'm not just talking about vampires and zombies - there's plenty of realistic violence on TV as well).

I don't have any answers here, other than to turn off the TV I suppose.