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Language Log

Sunday, Jun. 19, 2011 - 1:19 p.m.

The process of packing involves occasionally unpacking a box moved here from elsewhere and left untouched for many years. It's like a series of time capsules. In one I found all the National Geographic maps I had plastered my first apartment with. Very exciting. I love those maps. I may have to do Q's room in maps at some point. I'm not sure what the right point would be-- now, before she can object? Or later, when she may be able to learn something about geography from them by osmosis (probably defunct country names. She'll be calling Zimbabwe "Rhodesia" forever if she studies them too closely). Or maybe I should just hang them in my studio. Yeah, probably that. Since I'm the one who likes them, and all.

Going ok with the in-laws. MIL was watching videos with Q on her laptop and I had a well-hidden internal fit about it. Told J and he managed to convey to his mom that we think she's too young for that. Compliance resulted, although initially she didn't understand our objection, since Q seemed to be enjoying it. *sigh*

On the other hand, they've succeeded in teaching her to say "Elmo" by really pushing the character in books and toys. We threw out the talking one, but there's another toy she got her that we can't get rid of until her back is turned for a little longer, and there are a few Sesame Street books around that they've bought her. I do read them to her upon request, but I don't go making a big deal about identifying the characters. It's like MIL is a marketer's dream: "I know, we get the grandparents to buy our stuff and teach them the characters, and then we'll have them forever! Bwah-hah-hah!!!" Doing the work of the Childhood (how do I make a little sarcastic 'trademark' sign here?) But I am letting this one go because you have to choose your battles. Of course, they also told me how they bought her a Hello Kitty bubble blower thing. And I have to ask, where's the line? I fucking hate Hello Kitty, what's up with the gratuitous characters? AAAAGGHHH. Keep my mouth shut about Elmo here, about Hello Kitty there, and next thing you know....

But I don't know how to explain that I don't want her to know these characters any more than absolutely necessary. I sound like a complete lefty nutter. ("Get the Hello Kitty out of my house! It's evil!") Maybe I am, in this domain. Ok, I am. I admit it. I see it this way: when you work hard to familiarize your child with characters who will then be used to sell them as much STUFF as possible for as long as possible, that's not positive. There may be memories created along the way, there may be fun, meaningful stories that get told along the way. But stories, stories we learn in childhood, help us make sense of our world. What happens when the stories are created by a team of marketers who just want a world where we buy their corporation's stuff? Who knows? And then you have to ask, can I create the same type of meaningful, positive memories without indoctrinating them into consumerist culture? Um, yeah, I think so.

I have a lot of affection for the Sesame Street of my youth. It was fun, educational, and sometimes true art. Maybe this in and of itself is a counterexample to my concerns. But I'm trying to see past the subject matter to the real content-- what the practice does. And of course, the levels at which I ingested it were very different from the levels at which it's pushed at today's children.

Anyway, MIL also helped us clean the basement. She's buying my silence with her tidying.

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