Sunday, June 29, 2008

Filling kids' "wells" with gore and violence

I took the Teen to an “R” rated movie today. It was an accident. The Little Princess was with Grandma having some one-on-one time. DH left on a work-related trip this morning. It was just me and the Teen and I asked her if she wanted to see a movie with me.

I walked to the local Maverick for a Sunday paper, hoping that “Mamma Mia” had been released this weekend (it was not, sadly - I did find out it will be released later in July). The Teen was more interested in seeing something scary, in any case. She mentioned wanting to see “Happenings”, the new film by M. Night Shyamalan. The only other film I had seen by the man was “The Sixth Sense” - scary, but not too horrible for a teenager. Just as we were about to hand our tickets to the taker, I noticed the “R” in the corner. Ooops . . .! We went in anyway. The plot line to the film was interesting, but it was far more gruesome than I had expected. The Teen really enjoyed herself and I felt guilty at not doing the proper parental role and learning more about the film before I took her to it.

I have mixed feelings on the topic of kids and violent movies. My dad took me to several inappropriate films when I was a child, including “Omen II”, much to my mom's dismay. And yet as an adult, I really don’t like violent films – they usually stress me out and give me headaches. I also oppose violence as in war and social control. In my case, watching these films at an impressionable age did not make me a violent person, nor did give me cravings to see more and more violent films.

Even so, it’s hard for me to believe that seeing such sights don’t have an effect on the growing brains of children. I wonder about storing those brains with too many negative images. In the book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, we are asked to nurture our creativity by “filling the well”, experiencing many different sights and sounds and experiences. I found that to be a pretty effective way to generate creativity, and so I worry when I think that my children may be filling their wells with horror and violence, even though fictional.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Utah Arts Festival

I'm big on festivals, and I love the festivals in Salt Lake City. As a parent, I find it a great opportunity to expose my child to new sights and sounds, and sometimes even food.

This year I've taken the Little Princess to the Japan Festival, the Live Green Festival and the Living Traditions Festival. Tomorrow the Utah Arts Festival opens.

I'm taking some time off of work to Trax the Little Princess down during a weekday when (hopefully) the kids' art yard will be a little less chaotic and we won't have to fight for a spot at the art tables to do a project. The Little Princess loves making art and spends a lot more time than other kids do on their projects. Each time she starts to color at one of the kids' art yards at the various festival, I make a resolution to not rush her through and I do well for the first 25 to 30 minutes. But then I start getting antsy and try to rush her along -- and even with my urging it still may take her an additional 20 minutes to finish. I hope I can be more patient this time.

I also love to take the Little Princess to see performing art, and this is a great value (kids under 12 are free and adults can get in for $5 if they come during the lunch time special on Thurs. and Fri. from noon to 3 p.m.). I hope to see some modern dance again this year as well as musical and street art performances of all kinds.

The festival is easily accessible by Trax (Library Square) to save money and the hassle of parking. More info on the Utah Arts Festival at

Little Princess and Dad at the Living Traditions Festival

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Toll of Capitalism on Kids

I've been reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and recently read the chapter on advertising and kids -- creating a brand image and how corporations are now developing "craddle to grave" marketing strategies. In short, they want to get the kids -- and the younger the better. In Fast Food Nation, Schlosser states statistics that most American kids can recognize certain brand logos before they can even recognize their own name.

Quite coincidently, my husband had a run-in with brand identity just last night when he took the Little Princess grocery shopping with him. Despite the fact that we've never purchased Kool Aid brand drink mixes, and that my daughter has never seen a commercial for them, she was immediately drawn to them at the store and clamoring for them. We don't have a problem with the occasional treat, so my husband bought 4 of the packets. He was surprised that she knew what they were, and after having talked with her, we figured it out. Two children at her daycare would occasionally have "juice" (Little Princess' word) that looked like the Kool Aid packets. I believe that Kool Aid has a pouch drink, and it does have the same Kool Aid Pitcher mascot on it as the drink packets.

We don't have cable or satellite at our home, and the rabbit ears we have on the T.V. don't work so well -- so we almost never watch television. we instead get DVDs from the library to watch. But lately I've been getting more and more uncomfortable with the DVDs that my daughter picks out. They seem more like glorified commercials than truly original entertainment for kids, like animated films about the Bratz dolls, My Little Pony, Barbie . . .Even when the film is the point, there's now no end of toys and products that tie-in.

One of the most dangerous aspects of unrestrained capitalism is the idea that no matter how much is made, it's not enough. So corporations are finding more and more insidious ways to enter our lives. Some corporations are paying cash-strapped schools for advertising and product placement rights. While I can sympathize with the need for funds, this is a dangerous step in the direction of privatization. I really don't want my children to go to school at Coca Cola High. And the more that schools take these funds, the less that state governments will give to education, turning our system into one where kids are trained to consume the products of the highest bidder all day long.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Introduction

I have two daughters: child #1 is 13 years old and hereafter will be referred to as "The Teen." Child #2 is 4 years old and will hereafter be known as "Little Princess".

Parenting is challenging, and seems to be getting more and more challenging all the time. And to add to that, I want to parent in ways that I haven't seen a model for -- I want to do things differently.

Where you live can really have an effect on how you parent and what opportunities are available for kids. While many families in Utah move out to the suburbs, I like living close to downtown Salt Lake City. I believe living in the city gives parents and kids many experiences they wouldn't have in the 'burbs, including having a walkable community, access to numerous cultural events and festivals, and (in the case of SLC) sustainable ways of doing so many things.

I'd like to write about my experiences, both the successes and the things that don't work so well. I'm not an expert. I'm not even sure if I'm a very good mom. But maybe I can contribute something that might be of value to other parents looking for a different way to do things.