(From Brant: This guy sure is cranky. But occasionally, he takes over my blog, and says some stuff, and I can't stop him. I just want you to know that I am thoroughly offended by his tone, and am already drafting a strongly worded letter to me about it. I'm more offended than you, even.)
"Should you shelter your kids?"
The Krusty Sage and the Mrs. Krusty Sage have homeschooled their kids. (Mostly Mrs. Krusty Sage, to be straight-up honest, yo.) Now, the K.S. does NOT care whether you homeschool or not. Don't want to? Can't? Whatev, man. Your kids, your situation, your call.
But please spare the Sage your concern that he "shelters" his kids. Why yes, we do, and have. Thanks. Glad you're concerned. By the way: If you don't "shelter" your kids, you're a traitor.
Remember the Sam Kinison sketch on SNL? He's a kindergarten teacher, and a shiny, happy mom and dad walk in for their first Parent-Teacher conference. He tells them their daughter is seriously whack. They can't believe it. How? Why?
He shows them a picture she drew, with a happy little house, and a smiley-faced sun in the sky. "See this?! This is insane!" They don't get it. So he walks them over to the class window.
"Look at the sun up there. Can you see it? Let me ask you a question: IS THERE A SMILEY FACE ON THE SUN?"
He then launches into a tirade about sheltered kindergarteners, unaware of the gritty real world. "That's why I've chosen THIS text," he says, slamming down a thick tome. "It's about the REAL WORLD! VIETNAM! Lying in a trench in the mud, watching your friend get his head blown off!"
Yeah, man, Vietnam. The real world, man. Get those kids exposed, now. As if there's not a season for everything, as if childhood isn't fit for children, as if "sheltering" weren't one of the things you are precisely charged with doing as a parent.
If you don't shelter your kids, you're a traitor. Maybe I mentioned that. "Shelter", "protect" -- what's the dif, dad?
Maybe it matters what you show them on TV. Maybe it matters that a six year-old may not be ready to watch the new Batman movie, or that your 13 year-old son is seriously wondering why you're not creeped out by watching a sex scene on TV along with him in the room. Maybe your daughter actually does absorb foolishness from Seventeen and MTV, and maybe that matters.
("But I watched some sex scenes when I was a kid and some inappropriate shows and I turned out okay, and --" Really? You're "okay", huh? You sure? The K.S. wouldn't even say he's "okay". But you are? Neat.)
Maybe allowing your 14 year-old a computer in his room isn't really helping him learn the "real world", but about fake women, and he's in there sabotaging his future marriage, and you're letting it happen because you're a) breathtakingly naive, or b) you're not man enough to "shelter".
It's your job to shelter, pops. And if you think the mindless entertainment/consumption lifestyle is somehow "the real world", the K.S. is going to get out of his big, awesome, wooden chair and hit you with it.
The K.S. has a friend who was seriously concerned about how the Sage family hadn't let his kids watch "Superbad". Sadly, the same friend later said his dad had shown him porno mags when he was seven. No sheltering there. I feel for him.
Another friend once worked at a pre-school with both Amish and non-Amish children. They occasionally showed Disney videos to the kids, but the friend got a warning: "Be careful and make sure you watch the Amish kids closely. They aren't used to movies, so they can take things too seriously and get emotional." Weird, huh?
-- except it's not the Amish kids who were weird. They lived in a real world. A different one, sure. A "sheltered" one, sure. But far, far more real than Ariel and Belle. They aren't the odd ones. They're children. Childhood has it's own seasons, its own rhythm, its own implicit modesties, and, if allowed, its own sweet, and more real, charms.
So here's an idea: DO show your kids the real world -- in time, in season, and informed by wisdom. Help them to understand, from the outset, that some things aren't appropriate for them yet, but will be in time. Take them out of the country to the third world. Give them lots of great (usually not modern) books. Gradually give them more and more latitude as they demonstrate their own wisdom, with the goal of producing a well-formed, free-thinking, independent adult by their very late teens. (By the way, we steered our oldest to the largely non-sheltering environment of his new context of UC-Berkeley.)
Here's the downside: In order to do this, properly, you'll actually have to know them -- really know them. May mean giving up your awesome car or house and getting a different job. Sorry. Also means you can't watch a bunch of garbage on TV yourself. Sorry.
That's one problem with helping people grow up: You have to be a grown-up.