We Are What We Read (to our kids)

Titles published from the Little Golden Book are a common staple to find among the shelves of most households sportin’ young children. Having started in the early 1940’s – and an instant hit on the market – people of all ages (in the U.S anyway) likely recall having read at least a few books in the Little Golden Book series, in their day. The one I’m holding in the pic above, was loaned to me by the 5-year-old I nanny for. He wanted me to borrow it for a few days, which I immediately saw as a great act of generosity, as not only is this book new to him but he LOVES Star Wars. So wanting me to borrow this book was on par with a kid – any kid – offering to share their candy. Wanting to support his kindness, I gratefully agreed to take it home.

I made sure to read it, of course. I mean, I have to be prepared should he ask me what my favorite part was. It’s also simply not kosher to borrow a book a 5-year-old insists on you taking and then not read the darn thing. That’s just not cool.

So…the thing is, this so-called “kids” book, is chockablock with violence and drama. There is a weapon, bad guy, and/or an explosion on every single page. Here are the trigger words peppered in:

Page 1/2: war, evil, captured, gangster
Page 3/4: capturing, captures, dungeon, attacks, crushes
Page 5/6: punish, sand monster, fight, henchmen, KA-BOOM!, explodes
Page 7/8: evil, battle, destroy, Dark Side, X-wing fighter
Page 9/10: destroy, Death Star, attack, strike team
Page 11/12: (has bad guys, weapons, and explosive action picture but no trigger words)
Page 13/14: strike team, captured, fight
Page 15/16: attack, Death Star, destroy, enemies, traps, destroy, Death Star
Page 17/18: Death Star, rage, dark side, fight, duel
Page 19/20: battle, destroyed, evil, Zzzaap!, Death Star, destroyed
Page 21/22: battle, TIE fighters, Death Star, BOOM!, collapse, Death Star, explodes
Page 23: evil, roars

And here are the sentences that especially stood out to me:

“To punish Luke and his friends, Jabba will feed them to the Sarlacc, a sand monster. It will digest them for a thousand years!”
“He shocks Luke with evil Force lightning from his fingers. Zzzaap!”
“With the last of his strength, he rises up and heaves the Emperor into a deep reactor shaft!”

What the heck Little Golden Book?! Did you guys actually write: heaves the Emperor into a deep reactor shaft?

Is it just me that finds the above trigger words and associating violence and drama on every page alarming? Did I mention Little Golden Books aim to target kids ages 5 and under?

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Masks

Last night, I attended our First Friday art walk downtown, where a plethora of coffee shops, stores, and offices host showings of local artists work, which takes place on the first Friday of every month. One installment especially stood out to me at the Dana Gallery, where a series of masks were on display that had been made by young people of all ages residing at the Watson’s Children’s Shelter here in town. Accompanying each mask was a one-line description and the age and gender of the person who’d crafted it. Here are the ones I jotted down on location:

“My masks show that people only see part of who I really am. If people saw all of me they wouldn’t want to be friends with me.”         13-year-old girl

“My mask is a unicorn, crying rainbows.” 9-year-old girl

“My mask is wearing a mask. It says you can’t trust people even if they say you can.” 14-year-old boy

“My mask is crying rainbows because I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m sad.” 4-year-old boy

“My mask only covers my eyes. I don’t think people should cover up who they are.” 12-year-old girl

“My mask is a superhero. I wish I had superhero powers so I could protect people.” 10-year-old boy

“I don’t want to talk about my mask.” 3-year-old girl

“My mask has blood on it. And the black is meth and drugs.” 9-year-old boy

I thought the premise of these masks paired well with a meme I came across yesterday on twitter (pictured above).

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A Teaching Moment

It was deceivingly chilly outside the other day, when we went for a walk. Still, I dressed them in a warm-enough outer layer and hats that covered their ears. Half-way down the block, though, the allure of a late-October stroll to the park amid a blue sky and sunny day was masked by whipping winds, which carried winter’s slow approach on its breath. Suddenly, the delight of traipsing through colorful and crispy leaf piles was replaced by great discomfort. Scrunched up faces of disapproval and whining quickly ensued.

“It’s cold, let’s go home!!” said the 4-year-old.

“Eeehaaaaaaoohhh,” said the 2-year-old – or something to that affect.

I did briefly consider their input. I even glanced in the direction of the warm house we could return to, before determining that what we had here before us was an opportunity. This was a teaching moment.

I made some minor adjustments before we proceeded, one of which was to redirect our destination. The others involved putting the 2-year-old in the empty stroller I had carted along and showing both boys how to tuck their frigid fingers up into the sleeves of their sweaters, like turtle heads retreating into their shell. Lastly, and most important, I shook off my own feelings of cold displeasure, buoyed my attitude, and re-calibrated my compass in the direction of adventure. For good measure, I reminded my fellow travel companions that we were heading to the place we intended on going after visiting the park, which would afford them the chance to pick out a treat in which to enjoy after lunch.

The two-year-old was appeased enough to stop his caterwauling, once he was nestled in the stroller. The four-year-old, however, was decidedly unconvinced that anything other than returning home was in his best interest. Since he really didn’t have any other viable options, though, he reluctantly trudged alongside of us. Through his continued pleas to turn back and complaints of how cold it was, I made out-loud observations about the Halloween decorations on display at the houses we passed by and the beauty of the day. It wasn’t that I was trying to dismiss him or tune him out, I just wasn’t adding fuel to his detrimental utterings by listening intently – which, I might add, also helps with not getting personally swept up in the falderal of children’s un-skilled (and fleeting) reactions. After all, young ones are constantly learning from the words and behaviors of the adults that surround them. So, if I were to become as eq!”ually dis-satisfied with the coldness as he was, it would be teaching him to stay in that mode, instead of learning how to transition out of it. It’s worth mentioning that regardless of what’s going on, the level of our happiness depends almost solely on our attitude. We are presented with an active choice in every moment in regards to how we respond to whatever it is that’s happening.

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Montana Spring Retreat, 2015

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Our Montana sanghas have had another wonderful retreat.  This past weekend was our annual spring retreat.  Our greater Montana sanghas put together two retreats every year, one in the spring and one in the fall.  This spring we had a family retreat and kids were welcome to attend.  And we had our biggest retreat yet!  71 people all together, including the children.  Our Montana sanghas include Open Way and Be Here Now in Missoula, Flowing Mountains in Helena, and Open Sky in Kalispell.  We’re all one big happy sangha family in the big sky state :)

With the presence of children there was a good deal less silence held during the course of our 2 1/2 day retreat.  But I found that the silence was replaced with joy, laughter, more smiling, and a rich sweetness that can only be offered by children.  I am so grateful for all of the families that came with their kids to experience a retreat together.  The energy of the children enriched our sangha and brought the much needed element of lightness into our retreat.  Sometimes as adults we can become too serious, rigid, and somber.  Children can be wonderful teachers in the art of lightening up and coming back to the present moment with joy and ease.

kidsretreat

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