By Jason Menard
Children are truly a gift. They enrich our lives, make us put things into a new perspective, and help us see what’s truly important. Those of us who have had the good fortune to have children have been blessed with a gift that will grow and blossom as the years pass.
Oh, and let’s not forget the toys!
While the politically correct thing to do when talking about our children is to wax poetic about the profound impact they have on our lives. And while all of those things are true, we parents have to admit that the toys are a pretty cool benefit too.
Having children allows us to relive our childhood. Take a grown man playing with Barbies in his basement, and you’d be ready to write him off as a borderline-psycho loner who probably hasn’t had a date in the past few years. But throw a three-year old daughter into the equation, and this more-than-creepy image morphs into a heart-warming expression of love between a father and daughter. A man lining up alone to see a Star Wars film? Probably living at home in his parents’ basement. However, when you add a son to the mix, then you have a devoted dad sharing a bonding moment with his child!
The most enduring films and TV shows are the ones that capture the imagination of our children, while appealing on another level to the adults who watch along with them. Shows like The Muppets and movies like Aladdin and the Shrek series resonate with our children because of the characters and the slapstick-style humour, whereas the parents are privy to another level of appreciation through carefully crafted dialogue and pop culture references. As The Simpsons has shown, kids will be drawn to the Bart and Lisa characters, whereas parents gravitate to the parents and the social commentary underlying each episode.
Kids let us revert to our childhood and recapture the innocence and freedom we enjoyed in our youth. Many parents will sit and complain about the quality of cartoons or movies directed towards our youth. We grumble and grouse and state that the shows of our youth were so much better. But it’s not a matter of whether or not we think they’re better or not: we’re just not-so-subtly trying to coerce our kids into watching what we did, so that we can justify our adult enjoyment of such childish pastimes.
Recently I was walking through a store and a DVD caught my eye, an anniversary edition of Schoolhouse Rock. In my youth, these brief snippets of animation were the highlight of my day. Wedged between Mary Lou Retton imploring me to get off the couch and exercise and Menudo showcasing its Latin-lite, choreographed vignettes, these slyly produced cartoons that mixed education with entertainment were captivating to me and many of my peers. The memories stuck with me so much that on a trip to Washington a few years back, I made sure to sit on the steps of the Capitol, singing quietly “I’m Just a Bill.”
The fact that I have an 11-year-old son and a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter made the decision to buy it a no-brainer. Not only could I make the purchase guilt-free, I’d also have a built-in reason to watch them! Fortunately, both kids seem to enjoy them, so all works out well in the end.
Obviously, as parents, we want to encourage our children to forge their own identities and explore their world. Just as childhood remembrances of The Electric Company, Star Wars, and the like have become shared points of reference for my generation, so too do my kids need to experience the memories and the cultural phenomena that will act as a common bond with the people they meet in the future. But if I can expose them to the occasional reference from my youth — then all the better.
The funny thing about all of this is that as we age, we’re constantly worried about whether or not we’re ready for parenthood. We question whether we have the maturity and the wherewithal to be good parents. But maybe we focus too much on the responsibility component of parenthood and not enough on the joy.
Growing up is a part of life, but who knew that having children would let us be a kid again?
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