On the ride home from our annual family check-ups, my husband and I were talking about what we usually talk about more than any other topic: our three girls. You parents know how it works. Just about anytime you and your spouse are able to talk about anything without much interruption, no matter how far away from the subject of children the conversation starts, you inevitably end up talking about the kids somehow. No getting around it, it's just the way it goes. But this time, the subject went a little deeper than normal. The topic shifted to innocence and how easily it can be lost in the most unexpected places.
As parents, we can try so hard to protect our children from outside influences, from harmful situations, from dangerous scenarios. But so many times, we tend to overlook what should be one of the most obvious sources of innocence lost: animated films. No, this is not a blog post harping on the horrors of TV; though in my opinion, it isn't worth rummaging through the trash in order to find a piece of cake so to speak. But how easy is it these days to plop our little ones down in front of a screen, pop in (or flip to) a "good cartoon", and then walk away to do other things?
My husband pointed out the fact that it seems like a lot of parents think that anything animated is perfectly acceptable for young eyes to watch. But let me ask you this: Have you ever sat down to watch one of these films or cartoons and found yourself laughing at a scene more than your kids? Why is that? Because a lot of the time, the content is more mature than we realize. Way too many DVDs and network episodes, all supposedly for kids, have more adult humor in them than we really realize.
Innocence is one of the most precious gifts we are ever given as children. But once it's gone, it's gone...forever. My dad once wrote a poem for me as a then 15 year old girl. He wrote about how my innocence was priceless. I can't quote the poem from memory, but one of its phrases will forever remain imprinted upon my mind.
Parents, we have one shot—just one shot—at doing our best to get it right with our kids while they are still young. Every birthday we celebrate marks another year gone that we will never get back with them. You know as well as I do how quickly the time zooms past us.
...that bridge is crossed, then burned.
Imagine with me, if you will, our children's innocence as bridges. These bridges connect to many other bridges that lead to many, many places. Now imagine those bridges sealed off by strong iron gates...gates with locks...intended to be opened at a later time but that need to remain closed for now.
Mom and Dad, we are the gatekeepers.
When we expose our children to new things, we unlock the gates. Then, they can cross over. Once crossed, the bridges are never again operational. They serve their purpose no matter how prematurely they were crossed. Then, they are burned. These bridges are one-way bridges.
I understand that children can be exposed to horrible things from which parents can not always protect them. We live in a sick, dark world full of sin and perversion. Innocence can be stolen. But what I'm talking about today are the things that we as parents CAN control.
The next time you have the chance to watch a cartoon or film with your kids, take a closer look. Pay attention to the seemingly innocent jokes and humor. Some things are truly funny that make all of us laugh, and that's great and can be a bunch of fun. But take notice if there are any times that you laugh, smile, roll your eyes, or "get a joke", that your children don't. There's a reason for that. It wasn't on their level, or it shouldn't have been.
Pay attention to the images, as well. These worlds may seem fantastic to you, but they are much more real to your little ones than you realize. Would you let them watch the very same thing if it were not animated? Would you let them watch the very same thing in real life?
You as an adult have already lost your innocence. They haven't. Hold the keys. Guard the gates. Shield the children. Stand in front of those gates until the day comes when the time is right to step aside. I challenge you today.