Goldilocks, Barbie and Porn Stars

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Goldilocks, Barbie and Porn Stars

Ageing offers us many opportunities to reflect on our own lives as well as the world we live in. The world has changed, and so has ‘playtime’. At risk of being labelled ‘grumpy old women’ and ‘grumpy old men’, we elders and grandparents bear witness to much change. Is it all for the best?

For example, have we allowed the innocence of children to be corrupted in the drive for innovation and new technology? Evidence is emerging of depression, brain damage and even death and suicide resulting from gaming addiction or social media bullying.

These children and teenagers have not only lost connection to their families and friends, but they have lost connection to their own self-worth and to their essence – their natural birthright of love and harmony within.

As parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, what can we do to support our kids to navigate their way through all the ‘cool stuff’ and grow into confident and discerning adults? We have much lived experience to share and we can claim our authority without having to be perfect.

Reflecting on the books and stories that I knew as a young child, there were the illustrations in children’s books, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or the Hare and the Tortoise, or Pinocchio. These stories and their pictures held lessons. Goldilocks learned that it was disrespectful to invade another’s house; to eat their food and make herself at home. The story of Pinocchio was about the value of truth and the consequences of lies.

Until I was ten years of age there was no television, and iPhones and the Internet were still distant future inventions.

Chatting to my husband and friends who are over 60, most of us had very few toys. As children the girls of my generation played with our dolls, the boys with their trucks and cars, and we spent hours outdoors inventing our own games, where we were mostly being ourselves, playing ‘life’ as we knew it –– playing shops, school, mothering our cherished dolls, building cubby houses or staging a puppet show. Our games required co-operation and engagement with each other. I feel that this ability to co-operate and play together harmoniously laid the foundations for respectful working relationships that many of us have enjoyed as adults. The roles and responsibilities of our parents were reflected back to us and gave us the values to engage with the world as adults.

Who were our heroes and heroines?

Pollyanna comes to mind, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, and for the boys Superman and Batman. Often these characters were helping others; they espoused values that the writers conveyed in the themes of their storybooks or comics, such as courage and caring. Superman had a job – he represents responsibility and innocence; we have lost value for these qualities.

Visiting a toy store today, there are a myriad of choices to satisfy demand. The dolls and teddies have been adapted to reflect a modern lifestyle and our modern relationship with ourselves – Barbie with breasts and long skinny legs has replaced the dolls of the past that looked like babies. Barbie is sexy and provocative, and she comes in many versions – Coca-Cola Barbie, Wonder Woman Barbie, Oscar de la Renta Barbie, Tattooed Barbie and many different Princess Barbies. Bratz dolls with their glossy pouted lips, lurid eye shadow and winged eyeliner are said to be planning a comeback. Young celebrities have been inspired to copy their looks. Monster High dolls include ghouls, encouraging young girls to aspire to freaky body forms and clothes.

Boy’s toys reflect the latest blockbuster movies or video games. There are Death Star play-sets and PlayStations, Zombie busters, Marvel Hulk busters, Zombie blasters and action figures, drones and robots, teenage mutant ninja turtles, X box – the choice is endless. But is there truly a choice? The modern versions of cops and robbers have become externalised on a screen and the nature and behaviour of the combatants is more extreme.

Gaming is often played in isolation when only one player is needed to act as the controller or adversary.

The books we read and the toys we play with, the games and the screens, create and reflect our desires and shape our perception of ourselves, and the world around us, as much if not more so than formal education.[1] The simplicity of playtime in the past has gradually been replaced by a more complicated world being reflected back to children. The toys and amusements of today reflect an interest in cyber space, fantasy, body image and beauty, conflict and competition.[2] They seem to offer a greater array of choice and freedom, however playing Cowboys and Indians in earlier times, the kids were in charge of the script.

Now the scripts are dictated by outside forces.

  • What difference does this make?
  • What does this mean?

Playing with video games where the aim is to kill or attack opponents opens up a world of virtual reality. How do children reconcile this level of violence with actual reality? This world of cyber space can be a dangerous place, as evidenced by children and teenagers suffering from video game addiction. Detox centres for video gaming addiction have been established in China and South Korea in an attempt to deal with the depression and social isolation that is emerging as a result of gaming addiction.[3]

Our kids today have their own iPhones or iPads to entertain them. They insist on having access to their parents’ phones in every spare moment when they are too young for their own. Children and teenagers can access porn without restriction on their screens and devices. Many sites do not comply with regulations such that ‘parental restriction settings’ do not work – it is difficult for parents to exercise control of their children’s Internet access. What messages are our kids receiving from these sites about how to relate to the opposite sex?

Do some young girls think that they have to be porn stars to get attention from a boy? And are we encouraging boys to model themselves on sexually brutal men, and deny their natural tenderness?

Our connection and communication with the children in our care is a key ingredient in showing them that we love them for who they are. Spending time at the dinner table, or in the car on the way to their basketball game, every moment can be precious. Even when we don’t get much response, our love can be felt if it is solid and real. Watching and playing with young children we get to share their innocence and joy.[4]

Reflecting on my childhood, my grandmother was such a loving and supportive presence in my life. It was in the way that she did everything, her quality that could be felt. She fostered my love of drawing, and my sisters’ musical ability. I loved watching her preparing food at her kitchen table, mixing batter for cakes or helping her to shell peas from her garden. When driving in the country she would express her appreciation for nature, and she would express her appreciation for me and for my siblings too, giving us the space to be ourselves. When I was with her I felt a deep trust and knowing that I was more than my grades at school; her gentleness and appreciation allowed me to connect to my truth, that there was an inner life being the life of the soul that was at odds with the external world.

We can remain ‘young at heart’ and engage with children of all ages at their level, at the same time bringing our lived wisdom to bear.

If we live our true values, we can reflect a way to be and to live in the world, so that our young are able to discern whether the dolls, games or porn are harming or healing; so that they can know the truth of who they are and be their own true role models, and so that ‘playtime’ can be joyful and inclusive.

References:

  • [1]

    http://deeprootsathome.com/kids-bored-entitled

  • [2]

    http://www.verandahmagazine.com.au/reality-virtually-like-banging-head-brick-wall/

  • [3]

    https://techaddictionblog.wordpress.com

  • [4]

    http://www.joyofageing.com/relationships/-nannahood

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AgeingEldersParentingRaising children

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    By Bernadette Curtin, Masters in Fine Art Degree, BA, artist, tutor, writer, grandmother

    A woman of the world, learning about how life truly works and can be, joyful, harmonious and truly of service when I get myself out of the way. I love making new connections, the magical messages from nature, and walking the beach with a song in my heart.

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    Photography: Leonne Sharkey, Bachelor of Communications

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