Tag Archives: children

Sense and sexuality

When I was a first-year teacher, I directed a group of high schoolers in a play and included a scene in which two of the characters got hot and heavy on the couch.  It was all strictly first-base, and it was mostly staged, so I was quite surprised that several people on the staff felt the scene was inappropriate.

Looking back, the scene itself was not inappropriate.  Had it been a scene that the two high schoolers had developed to perform, I think it would have fallen 100% under the heading of “Freedom of Artistic Expression.”  However, I was a teacher and I was the director.  I should have been a bit more sensitive to the discomfort those teens might have felt being asked to suck face in front of an audience.

At the time, I figured kids were doing a lot more, so it was not a big deal.  Now, I understand the distinction.  Teens are absolutely sexual creatures and they express that in their way.  But I was having them express not their sexuality but rather their characters’ sexuality.  It was done at my direction, and it was not an artistic rendition of their sexuality.

No one was scarred for life, and in the scheme of things, it was pretty damned benign.  Nonetheless, it was inappropriate, and if I had it to do over, I’d be more sensitive in how I staged the scene.

Assuming you are not in a coma, you’ve probably heard the controversy around then video of eight- and nine-year-old girls doing a dance routine to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”  If, however, you are in a coma or have been preoccupied with administering standardized tests to kindergarteners, allow me to enlighten you:

OK, people.  I do think children are sexual creatures.  I have changed quite a number of diapers in my day, and I can tell you that kids are universally delighted when they discover that delightful little treasure that is contained within their diapers.  However, that kind of exploration – along with playing doctor, masturbation, and any number of other activities – is a personal expression of sexuality.  It comes from the kids, and it is childhood sexuality.

The problem with little girls bumping and grinding is that they are expressing adult sexuality, and they are doing at the direction of their parents or choreographer.

There is a world of difference.  It’s a distinction I did not understand as a director fifteen years ago, but I do understand it now.

Kids should be kids.  They should dress like kids and play like kids and – hell, yes – dance like kids.  Don’t tell me they love what they’re doing.  That’s fantastic.  Let ‘em love dance, just don’t teach them to dance like they are strippers.  Don’t act all outraged that people are not focusing on how much fun they are having – you made the damned dance inappropriate, so you took the focus off of the kids.

Don’t tell me the costumes are about movement and lines.  Um, ever heard of a leotard?  And, please, honey, don’t talk to me about rhinestones and ruffles.  Don’t insult my intelligence.  Because the issue with those costumes has nothing to do with rhinestones and ruffles.

Finally, don’t sit there and tell me that’s just what kids do in dance.  Because, if your kid is in an activity that requires her to dress like a two-bit hooker and shake her money-maker at an audience, maybe you oughta find her a new activity.

I’m just sayin’.

Diet incentive

When we want burritos, I soak the beans the night before, grate the cheese, and roll my own tortillas.  I bake honey-sweetened, vegetable-packed muffins at least twice a week.  We weaned our kids off frozen waffles by buying a waffle maker; my husband mixes waffle batter every few days.  From scratch.  I bake bread twice a week.  We work hard to minimize the processed foods our children intake.

So, perhaps you will be surprised to learn that nothing would make my middle child happier than to eat twelve hotdogs a day.  He adores pepperoni pizza, but he eats only the pepperoni, leaving the denuded and pockmarked remains of his feast in his wake.  When we go out to breakfast, he wants sausage and pancakes.  He eats the sausage, ignores the pancakes, and starts looking around the restaurant for bits of sausage left on other people’s plates.

He really likes encased meats.

Benjamin eats other things, too.  He likes broccoli and apples and tofu and Peking duck and pretty much any other food with the not-hard-and-fast exception of spaghetti and Brussels sprouts.  Other than his hotdog fetish, he’s a pretty healthy little eater.

His food vocabulary is remarkable, and if you list three ingredients, he’ll tell you what to make with them.  Food is his thing.  He loves food, and it loves him back.  He is such a good eater that sometimes, when we lift his solid little body, we groan and joke, “You’re getting so heavy.  I think we’re going to have to stop giving you so much food.”  The child eats carrots in front of the television and every now and then requests cashews for lunch.

But his first, great love will always be encased meats.

Today, as I lifted my three-and-a-half year old to carry him over the deep slush to the car, he put his arms around my neck and murmured into my ear.  “I want to stop eating ‘cased meats.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he answered.  “Because I want you to keep lifting me up.”

BST

My husband has taken to churning our own ice cream.  He does this both as homage to the fifth food group and in order to provide a treat that all the children can eat.  We make it without eggs for the oldest and youngest and with honey instead of sugar for the middle child.  It is time consuming and expensive, but it is a labor of love.

The children adore it.  Well, the boys adore it.  Lilah doesn’t quite see the point.  Zachary, on the other hand, takes tiny little bites, making his bowl last at least fifteen minutes.  Benjamin, although he takes enormous bites, can make his bowl last that long, too.  This is because he gets up in the middle to pee.  By the time he returns to the room, he has forgotten why he was coming back to the table.  He sees magna tiles on the floor.  He gets agitated because his building of two hours before has been destroyed.  He decides to build a new one, this time a rocket with some sort of side pod on it.  It requires Tinker Toys for scaffolding.

“Benjamin, are you going to finish this ice cream?” I ask him.  He completely ignores me.  “Benjamin, please answer me.  Can I have the rest of your ice cream?”

“No!”

“Then please come finish it.”

“No!  I’m building something.”

“Then I am going to take it away.”

“No!”

“Look, child,” I say.  “Either you are eating ice cream or you are building something.  The ice cream is turning to soup.”  To him, of course, there is no earthly reason why the ice cream should not exist in a state of suspended animation while he pursues his goal of the moment.  He will return to the ice cream when he is ready, and it will be just as he left it.

Such is the thought process of a three-year-old.

To him, there is nothing of importance other than whatever is currently of importance.  Sometimes, it is endearing, such as when he constructs an imaginary world of boats and dangerous creatures out of the cushions on the couch.  Other times, it is life-threatening, as when he turns to comment upon the door of the house we are passing, forgetting the Golden Rule: when riding a bike, always face forward. In fact, we try to encourage facing forward as sort of a goal for him.  When walking through a room, face forward to watch for walls instead of looking behind to see where your sister is.  When descending the stairs, face forward to gauge the distance to the next step, rather than turning to tell us all about the possible existence of dragons in the attic.  When standing at the toilet, well, kiddo, please, please, just face forward.

I clear the melted ice cream, causing him to shriek and run to the table.  I give back the ice cream.  He sits down.  Then, he starts to wail.

“I need more ice cream!”  Sometimes, the ice cream is on Eastern Standard Time.