Skip to main content

Highly inappropriate for children

I was at an art exhibit last night that dealt quite a bit with an author who wrote children's stories no publisher would print. Because they were too dark. In the end, this particular author's work is beloved by children for exactly that reason. The exhibit made the point that adults are often uncomfortable about giving the kids what they want.

I don't yet have that problem with my kids because they run screaming from the room when there's rain and some clouds on an episode of Shaun The Sheep. So the macabre and grotesque isn't really their thing yet.

But I am having trouble with the string of "why" questions that has begun to pop up. Why is it raining? Why is the moon out now? Why did we need a new modem? How do space satellites work?

I've always been a big believer in being age appropriate. You always answer the question, but in a way they can wrap their mind around. After viewing the exhibit last night, I did stop and do a little thinking on the way home about the role of parent as gatekeeper. Or, rather, how we shouldn't necessarily try to be gatekeeper.

In fact, it's really no different than whether to ban certain books from the school library. I'm just doing it on a smaller, less visible, but no less aggressive way in my own home. Despite the fact that I'm horrified at censorship on a more abstract level. On one hand, it makes a lot of gut sense to us as parents to censor for our kids. Protect them.

The more I thought about it last night, I realized there's a fine line between catering to their unique age-based fears...being alone at night. Train horns. Riding the bus. Where it would be cruel to throw them to the wolves. But there's also, at the same time, no need to falsely keep them in the kid-centric box we like to pretend they're in until they reach their teen years.

So now I'm pondering. What does it mean when things are or are not appropriate for children? The Mama and I have been noting that it may be time to start turning the evening news off because questions and awareness about the broadcast are blooming. Is the civil war in Syria inappropriate for children? On one level, obviously yes. On another level, obviously no.

Perhaps that's why a few authors have been so successful with a dark, twisted storytelling to children is that we as adults are way less comfortable with the dark, twisted reality we live in. As adults, we like to tell ourselves that monsters can't come out of the closet.