Monday, March 10, 2008

Our Little Observers: Talking to Kids about Contraception and the Media

We had a respite from the cold weather early last week, with breezy fifty-degree sunny afternoons. I was able to get on my bicycle a few times, with my toddler in her safety seat.

I would check every once in a while to see how she was reacting to her ride. She was just taking everything in, quite calmly and peacefully.

Something made me think of the Peanuts cartoons, in which Rerun, Linus’ little brother, would be pictured sitting on the back of his mother’s bicycle. You never actually saw the mother, but she was there by implication.

Thwack! A branch would hit him in the face. Thunk! They would go into a hold in the road. Bunk! They would go over a bump in the road. There was nothing Rerun could do but choose a reaction to whatever was coming his way.

For some reason, I thought of this again as I puzzled over how to handle a commercial my children had unwittingly witnessed.

On Saturday afternoon, I chose a movie on the Women’s Entertainment channel for my children to view. I had seen it and considered it a family film, with a dog for one of the main characters. I was going to and fro, getting this and that done, when I passed through the living room and froze.

I was absolutely shocked that, on a Saturday afternoon, on a network included on my “family package”, they were showing a commercial for Mirena, an intrauterine device. I had seen the commercial myself late at night, and knew it by heart. I was coming in at the end, and it was too late to turn it off.

A big, beautiful house, two parents with three children and a dog are shown. “Not planning to have another child in the next five years? Have we got the perfect solution for you.”[paraphrased] Scenes are shown of the beautiful family having lots of fun in front of their big beautiful house. “And if you should happen to change your mind, it is easily removed.”[paraphrased] The family is shown with a new baby.

I really didn’t know how to handle this. My children were too young for terms such as “abortifascient”. Yet they were being thrown images that convey the idea that babies are an inconvenience, that having material things was more important than the spiritual, and that it is okay to place unnatural devices into the uterus God gave us in order to prevent pregnancy.

I hoped the commercial had gone over their heads. And if not, the life we are leading goes contrary to those messages, and should show them that they are false, right?

But later that night, it was still bothering me. Somehow these messages get into the subconscious and build there, so that if we don’t fight them, the children grow up with the media’s portrayal of sexuality as part of their psyches.

So during lunch after Church on Sunday, I said to them, “Do you remember that commercial that was showing during the movie…” describing the commercial. Vaguely, they did. I explained in children’s terms that we as Catholics do not believe it is good to place unnatural devices in our bodies to stop babies from being conceived.

I went further, analyzing the tricky ways the commercial tries to convey images of materialism and values that go counter to our own. They caught onto my wavelength here, and had some ideas of their own to add. It was quite a fruitful conversation.

I will not be allowing WE movies to air in my home with the children’s viewing unsupervised again.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to read my post on “Explaining Abortion to Children”.

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