Most fathers understand that they have to have behavioral boundaries with the children. We understand that the kids will mimic us and learn the cues for what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. It’s simpler when they’re young: No cussing or sexual humor; minimal or no violence on television; decent treatment of other people; good self-control, especially in terms of tobacco and alcohol, and absolutely no drugs. But as they age, the lines blur and I have to reconsider what’s appropriate versus still inappropriate.
This weekend was a case in point. I’ve watched Saturday Night Live since it’s inception, although I can go for long periods without if the cast is poor. The cast for the past several seasons has been decent so I watch regularly. Now that Eldest is in high school, she’s beginning to watch with me and it can provoke decent conversation. But I have to reconsider what’s appropriate when the skit pertains to an ESPN women’s sporting event sponsored by Vagisil. So, do I turn it off or let it play through to the next skit and Weekend Update? What is my criteria for appropriateness in the future?
- Is it a behavior or activity that in any way causes a sense of emotional or mental discomfort? I’ll still wrestle with the boys, but ceased doing so years ago with my daughter because it made me distinctly uncomfortable as her body was developing. That also means that I have to listen and look for such signs from the kids, who might be uncomfortable saying something.
- Does it promote an activity or lifestyle that I find unwholesome, unhealthy or immoral? Wholesome is a word that’s nowadays derided as hypocritical or, at best, incredibly naive. But the definition connotes something that helps to complete – or makes whole – a person. Old Cheech and Chong skits were funny when I was younger but I can’t bring myself to watch them now.
- Does it blur the parental line so that I’m not so much father as peer? My children need to remember that I’m still their father and my concern is that behaving too much as a peer undermines that authority. Kids are good at playing Moral Battleship and blowing holes in the ships by pointing out inconsistencies in your own words and behavior. Why make it easier for them?
- Does it condone illegal behavior? Things are illegal for a reason and I’ve been frank that I won’t permit them to own games such as Grand Theft Auto as it makes such a life appear acceptable and exciting. This is also why I made Middle turn off a youtube video of A Bag of Weed from Family Guy. My statement to his argument was that it promotes what is a gateway drug; he doesn’t know that I knew people who made more effort scoring a bag than a job.
- Will it demean people? This is precisely why I won’t watch many reality shows, which place people in situations that cause them to have to lower themselves to win.
Every circumstance isn’t always clear and will require conscious evaluation. But perhaps now I understand why my own father opted to go to bed instead of watching SNL with me when I was a teenager.