25 November 2011

Cotton Wool

There's not enough cotton wool in the world to protect my children from the world.

I know this.

I also know that I should be preparing them for the world. I need to create a safe and loving environment that allows them the freedom to explore. One day, in the blinking of an eye, they will be grown ups. They will see or experience sex, bullying, love, death, hate, poverty, war, beauty, famine, rock music and alcohol. They will have their hearts broken and mine will break for them.

This is all way in the future, of course. Right now they are still my gentle little boys, aged 3 and 4. Their world is full of cuddles and toys. They play with crayons, cars, jigsaw puzzles, Orchard Toys games, hobby horses, Duplo, toy food and teddy bears in trolleys, train sets, Happyland figures and books. They watch an hour of CBeebies every day. They have never seen an advert (unless we're at Grandma and Grandad's and Sky Sports is on, then Grandma usually turns over and checks the cricket score), they have never seen the news. I won't even let them watch Cars2 as one of the characters is called 'McMissile'. They've never seen a gun.

They go to the nursery at a primary school every afternoon. I chat to the other mums about Christmas. They mention Ben 10 (not on CBeebies, no idea), Batman (er, Kapow! Thwak!) and Imaginext. I google Imaginext. There is a dinosaur, wearing armour, shooting missiles from its backpack. I don't like the look of it, but does it matter? I just don't know how to ease Presely and Cash into this world, with its hard edges and robot police.

When do I start to introduce the notion that some people aren't very nice? How do I burst their rosy, cosy bubble? Am I doing them a disservice by mollycoddling them?



  1. I think in some respect nursery does that. Since nursery my son has started saying things like -: I'm not your friend, I'm not playing with you. He plays pretend shooting guns which has come from other children at nursery def not from us. Outside forces seem to gradually introduce more negative aspects of life. It's gradual. Hate Ben 10 - all fighting and aggression. Really don't understand why parents entertain it. I won't. Wish I had more cotton wool.

  2. I echo exactly what Helloitsgemma said. It's a gradual exposure to the harsher world out there. They don't suddenly discover one day that there are evil people in the world - they'll fall out with a friend or someone will steal their crisps and they will start to learn that sometimes life isn't kind and sometimes people aren't kind. And when they come come from school and tell you that one boy hit another, it will spark conversations. They will gradually be introduced to the news, often in school, and they will bring their concerns and worries home to you. And that is when you take over and help them and guide them. All your concerns are completely natural and normal Sandy. I've had them all with my daughter. She's eight now and is very slowly learning about the world. And it's all okay.

  3. We are a telly watching household. I do let my three year old watch TV and I believe she actually learns a lot from it. There are some fabulously educational programmes out there which she's kind of learned stuff from without even trying. For example, she was talking about different types of clouds the other day. I asked her how she knew about that and she said Peppa Pig. She's also learned loads of dinosaur names from Go Diego Go. Of course I make sure I teach her loads of stuff too but I know nothing about clouds or dinosaurs so it's a good prompt for me to find out more myself so we can have a proper conversation.
    That said the only channels we watch are the little kid's ones such as cbeebies, NickJr or Cartoonito. And she never watches grown up telly. There are lots of things I want to shield her from still. Especially violence. I stopped her watching and episode of Tom and Jerry because it's just too violent and my husband was less than impressed when he saw a character hanging themselves on Tom and Jerry.

    And please don't think we just sit at home watching telly all day. We are really busy people and are always up to something or other. This to me means that if we are at home doing not much or I have to get on with something then a few hours of telly aren't going to poison anyone's mind!

    And it's not just telly. There are books I'm not happy with too. There are a few Mr Man books for example. In Little Miss Trouble some of the characters go around giving Mr Small a black eye for something he said. And I didn't let her buy Mr Thin and I don't want her reading about a place called Fatland. Fat is actually not a word I've taught her. I don't want her calling people fat or thin.

    Luckily I haven't had much issue with the gun thing as it's not really come up. I wouldn't let her have one but I don't think she'd actually ask for one. I know things like this will come up though now she's at pre-school though and I know I can't keep her away forever. It's all about knowing these things are out there and learning right from wrong.

  4. This comment was left by a friend on facebook. I thought I'd share it here:

    My daughter turned 4 only 9 days before she started Reception. She has always been very sensitive to other children's personalities and tends to back off the more rambunctious kids anyway, but in the playground, of course, they can't always be avoided - and neither can all the other stuff we'd rather they weren't exposed to. The only tv news Melody has ever seen is when we're visiting my parents. I hate that my dad has it on, and that he will often turn it up really loud all the better to hear about an earthquake death toll, or the death of a family in a house fire. :( M has never seen adult tv while in our house. Some people would probably argue that we are disabling her somehow, but I feel children have their whole lives to get to know about these awful things - why would anyone want to rush them into it?

    Sadly, but inevitably and naturally, I suppose, to a considerable extent, their encounters and the things they're exposed to at "big school" take the question of when to introduce a lot of this stuff right out of your hands. Ben 10, for example ... Once they're at school, they and you will be hearing about it all the time. Every little boy I know from Melody's year seems fanatical about it. M has come home recently going on about Lady Gaga. She doesn't really know who Lady Gaga is, and I can't show her, because none of the videos I've checked out on YouTube are appropriate for her age. And the older they get, the more these things become a supposed gauge of who's cool and who is not ... This is what I can see beginning to happen now she's in Y1 and I am rather dreading it.

    With the issue of "bad" people - malice, violence, war, etc. - I think it's easy to worry out of an unconscious feeling that you have to help them to deal with it all at once. All the fears can't help but be lumped together in your mind. In fact, it's similar to the question of death: they encounter something, the topic gets raised, you have a bit of a talk about it, they go into the next encounter a little more aware, and the not-so-happy realisations about the bad things people are capable of, or the unfortunate events that happen to them, dawn on them gradually, not all at once. As with everything in parenting, you start to realise that you can't, and don't have to, deal with it all in one go - you can only make sure you are there to answer their questions at each step of the learning process.
    Just seen the comments on your blog and I note that rosiescribble has already said basically what I've just said, only more succintly. :)

    This was my response:
    Thank you so much for leaving such a full and thoughtful comment. I agree that they have their whole lives to learn about the awful parts of life. Having read yours and the other comment and a brief chat on Twitter I can see that there will be a gradual reveal and that I can help them through it. My youngest will start school just after his 4th birthday, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. They're also learning some good stuff at nursery about making friends and being kind to others. It's not all doom and gloom, but I do lay awake wondering whether they'll be picked on for being sensitive, gentle boys. xx

  5. Yes, the outside world will encroach and teach them things you aren't ready for them to learn about it. It's the way it works, unfortunately.

  6. Aw I know exactly what you feel like.

    Mine are almost 7 and 9 now so a good bit older than your boys. I'm very open and honest with them about the bad things that can happen in the world and we do what we can to help people who aren't as lucky as us. We do watch the news together but my finger hovers over the remote ready to turn it off if I feel it's necessary. I'm not sure how much you can protect them from these days when you could walk into Tescos and see a dead man on the front of a newspaper!

    I possibly share too much with my two but on the other hand they know that they can come to me about anything and I will answer them honestly and they do share a lot with me so I think I'm doing OK ;-)

  7. My youngest are 4 and started at Reception in September and I have seen them change as they learn from other children as well as from us but I do think they have to learn and know there are other ways apart from the road we choose as a family. It is the parents jobs to guide them and help them decide which avenues are the good ones to take. Mich x

  8. Another comment from a friend on Facebook:
    Liz wrote: "Liked your bolg Sandy but as a mum of 3 boys, 8,6 and 4 (almost) I have found my standards of cotton wool protection slip with each child. Once one started school that was the start of the slippery slope. I too had limited TV to Cbeebies and this continued until the oldest was 5 but the likes of Ben 10 has crept into our lives with a sense of inevitability and now I have 3 Star Wars addicts. They have all grown up to differing degrees of 'toughness' to the extent that the youngest could hold his own with a 5 yr old. No fears of him getting picked on - however at the same time they are all kind, caring children who know what's right and wrong. I don't sheild them from the news, they remember their world travel and are aware of the fact that life isn't fair and that we should be thankful for all the wonderful opportunities we have. I think that awareness is probably the most valuable thing they can learn. They know they are loved by family and cherished by friends and I hope that they will grow up to love and cherish the world around them and teach that appreciation to others aswell. :)"

  9. Gemma, there's not enough cotton wool, but - like you say - it's gradual and inevitable.

    Rosie, yes, I can see that it is gradual and that we are there to help them through it. Thank you, I really appreciate your words of wisdom. I think I was getting my knickers in a twist! x

    Photopuddle, I agree about the educational value of television, they do learn a lot and sometimes we all need to sit and chill out. I 'm with you on the Mr Man books too. Mr Jelly is awful. We make up the stories if we don't like the original! x

  10. Gigi, you're right, I guess we just need to be there for them x

    Cass, it sounds like you're doing more than okay and all without waffling! I agree on the newspaper front pages, awful! Being open to talking things through seems really important x

    Michelle, I love this: 'there are other ways apart from the road we choose as a family'. I totally agree that it is our job to guide our children though this growing up business! x

    Liz, your boys are kind and caring children and they are also tough too. Both traits can co-exist quite happily and you end up with well-rounded children. Awareness of the world is important and we are gradually exposing our boys to how things are. Maybe one day there will be world travel, but not yet! x

  11. When we had to explain to my then 4yo about death I was very upfront and avoided euphemism. I worried terribly about it, but it has opened up a whole new stage in our relationship. The cotton wool is still there, in that we will always help her but she's climbing a new ladder of discovery about the world and I am proud of her.
    Your boy will always have cotton wool whenever they need it :)


Blog Widget by LinkWithin