Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SpongeBob ScaredPants

Having more than one child is exhausting and challenging and sometimes very aggravating and but it does offer one the opportunity to see nature versus nurture at work. Although they look exactly alike, my 2 year-old daughter and her 4 year-old brother could not be more dissimilar.

Seconda is as bubbly as a just-opened bottle of champagne, she fizzes, she whizzes, she crackles. The kid runs headlong into life, and traffic, too, if I’m not incredibly vigilant. Fearless is she, and trust me, it’s not through lack of my trying to scare the shit out of her. I mean, I don’t want the children to be crippled by terror but there are certain things a child SHOULD be scared of, more than a few in fact, and Seconda is not scared of any of them, despite my yelling, shouting, time-outting, and patient explaining. If we’re in the playground and I yell “Stop!” she runs faster. This is why I have become fleet of foot. And also why I keep her strapped in her stroller whenever possible.

Primo, on the other hand, is an anxious little guy. In fact, had I known how much of a worrywart he was, I would have stopped myself from fear-mongering with him. But he was my first, and first kids are the ones you make lots of mistakes on. That’s the penalty they pay for getting all that exclusive time with you, before the other baby came, and for not wearing hand-me-downs.

With Primo, all I’ve ever had to do is tell him once or twice that a car could hurt him if he ran into the street, and he was stuck by my side. He never, ever crosses against the light and if I do, he scolds me, “Mommy! It is the HAND not the MAN!” At the playground, I have to coax him to run free, play with his friends, and not worry about staying within three feet of me at all times. I could write a whole book on his separation anxiety (anyone want me to? I’m game!). He’s impressionable and sensitive and takes everything to heart, dear soul that he is. More so than I even think.

Yesterday as we were walking home from school and discussing his day, he stopped in his tracks and whispered, “Mommy, something bad happened today.”

I knelt down to his eye level, “What, honey?”

“Someone had a SpongeBob SquarePants toy,” he confessed, averting his gaze.

Ok, so I told Primo once, a long time ago, that he couldn’t watch SpongeBob because I didn’t think it was a good TV show for kids. We went to the library a few weeks later and he saw a SpongeBob book and asked to take it out, and though I almost never censor the kid, I really can’t stand SpongeBob. I mean, he’s abrasive, obnoxious, sarcastic, loud and generally devoid of all positive attributes. So I said that we couldn’t get the book out because Mommy really didn’t like SpongeBob, but if he wanted we could get another kind of TV-based book -- Curious George or The Backyardigans or something like that.

Those two occasions were the extent of the discussions we’ve had about SpongeBob SquarePants. Now if Primo sees commercials for the show, he’ll yell, “Turn it off Mommy!” and if someone else, like say, my grandmother, tries to put it on for him, he’ll tell her, “SpongeBob is not appropriate for me.” Which, of course, we all think is very funny.

But yesterday I discovered that maybe Primo had taken my dislike of SpongeBob a little too far.

“Why is it bad that someone brought a SpongeBob toy to school, sweetheart?” I asked.

“Because,” he whispered, “SpongeBob makes children bad.”

And the guilt rained down. The guilt, the guilt only a Catholic could feel.

Defrock me, please. Take away that Mother of the Year award. I have convinced my darling son that watching a popular TV show will make him evil. I am a Bad Mommy.

I hugged Primo and told him there had been a misunderstanding.

“SpongeBob can’t make you or any other kids bad,” I said, “Nothing can make you bad, honey, you’re a good boy and you always will be. I just don’t like that show, It’s my opinion, that’s all. Just like some other Mommies might not like Dora the Explorer or the Bob the Builder or might think the Wizard of Oz is too scary for kids.”

He seemed to understand. But they usually seem to understand, don’t they? It’s only later you find out the havoc you’ve wreaked without knowing and certainly without meaning to.

Of course, if I told Seconda she couldn’t watch SpongeBob, she’d probably convince my grandmother to buy her a miniature TV that only played SquarePants 24/7 and hide it in her crib. You just can’t win.