When my children were little, everyone kept telling me how I was lucky to have had them close together. That way, they said, they will grow up together and you will be free to enjoy your own life. As my children grow older, I have started having serious doubts about this statement. They will probably drive me insane long before they’re old enough to take care of themselves!
I know how almost everything is blamed on the electronic devices and the screen time that kids get these days, and I have always been unable to manage screen time, but for my kids there might be another reason. Over the last few months, I cannot help but feel if it is the books causing all these problems? The books that my kids read currently are nothing like the books that we used to read.
I understand that things tend to change over time, and what was deemed taboo in our times is up for general discussion everywhere now. However, the overall language, stories and setup of most of the newer books leaves me feeling a bit disgruntled. Maybe it’s age catching up on me, but it has become commonplace to use slang and derogatory words in children’s books. The humour is crude and the characters as far from exemplary as possible.
There is also a clear difference between girls’ books and boys’ books. When I was in school, books were books. They were for everyone. Yes, there were some girlish books, like Anne of Green Gables or Nancy Drew, and some books that were more interesting for boys, like Hardy Boys, but overall they had the same feel. Books like Sweet Dreams or Sweet Valley High, while popular with girls, were not the kind of books we generally found in our school library. So it was mostly through second-hand shops and borrowing from other girls that you could get your hands on such books.
Today, children have a much wider variety of books to choose from, yet to me, they all look and sound the same. Girls’ books are all about chasing boys, dressing up, or hanging out with the “in” crowd. It has become very hard to filter books and even harder to stop girls from being influenced by them. Things are not much better for boys. All fictional boys are either full of toilet humour, engaging in very crass behaviour, or chasing aliens. Some even take out the time to moon over girls!
Of course, all this is a part of life and our children should read about these things, but these are not the only things that matter. Sometimes I find it hard to believe how accepting we have become of bad behaviour in our children. All the shows that my kids watch on TV (and they are only allowed to watch Disney) are about children who have the worst manners and who behave like delinquents in school! They treat their teachers like trash, and their parents don’t seem to fare any better. Similarly, in bookshops, I can find shelves upon shelves of children’s books with protagonists who are a parent’s worst nightmare.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how to change things. I can limit the screen time, but cannot ban it altogether, and I can screen the books, but not when I don’t have other options. Things like the home environment matter, as does the relationship between parent and child, but the reality is that your child is spending most of the day with other kids who are being influenced by all this. It has become quite a struggle to keep a balance and not become complete villains in our children’s lives. The uphill battle continues.