About a year ago, a friend of mine told me that her four year-old was obsessed with High School Musical. I remember that I scoffed to myself, thinking how totally inappropriate it was. Because even though I’d never seen the movie, I knew that it was called High School Musical, not Pre-School Musical, and I knew that I did not want my four year-old going near anything high school related with a fifty foot pole. But when all of the kids in Harper’s pre-school class were running around singing Bop to the Top, and when Harper’s friends began to chatter incessantly about Sharpay and Troy and Gabriella, I started to feel bad that she was excluded from the fun. I didn’t want her to be the loser kid who never knows what the other kids are talking about because her loser mom doesn’t let her watch tv. I knew those kids in high school, and I’m sure they turned out brilliant, but I’m sorry, in high school they were just weird. And so I caved, and I went out and bought the DVD, and now Harper knows every single word by heart, not to mention the dance routines. And to tell you the truth, it wasn’t even that inappropriate. Maybe a bit over her head in some parts, but nothing I’d be embarrassed for her to talk about.
But even though my cracked-under-the-peer-pressure story turned out to have a happy ending, I still find myself very often in the role of loser mom. Don’t get me wrong, we watch a lot of television in our house – A LOT – but I at least try to keep it age appropriate. Little Einsteins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Higglytown Heroes – all good. But Hannah Montana, That’s So Raven, Suite Life of Zack and Cody – they’re just not allowed. In my opinion, just because a show is on the Disney Channel doesn’t mean that it’s right for little kids. And yet, sometimes I feel as if I’m the only mom who thinks so. Sometimes I feel as if I am all alone in loserville, with nobody but the homeschoolers who have fifteen kids and chore charts up on their refrigerators.
Recently, for example, my husband and I went to see Hairspray. To my surprise, the audience was filled with little girls that looked to be about Harper’s age. I found myself feeling guilty. Should I have brought Harper? I wondered. Would she have enjoyed this? As the movie went on, I realized that yes, she would have enjoyed it. She would have enjoyed the singing and the dancing and the musical numbers very much. But the rest of the movie had very adult themes. Racial prejudice, weight prejudice, body image issues. Call me what you want, but I was glad I hadn’t brought her. I haven’t told her yet that black people and white people sometimes don’t get along. I haven’t told her yet that in our society, it’s better to be thin than it is to be fat. I haven’t told her yet that sometimes grownups can be mean to people for absolutely no reason. Of course, I know she’ll figure these things out for herself, but why rush it? She has the rest of her life to worry about her weight; do I really need her worrying about it when she’s five?
At the same time, though, I worry that maybe I’m doing her a disservice by sheltering her from the harsh realities of life. Maybe she should know that people are mean, so that when someone is mean to her it won’t be such a shock. Maybe she should know that people who are overweight have a harder time in the world, so that she’ll strive to exercise and eat healthy. Maybe with all of my monitoring and censorship and age appropriateness, I’m going to end up with a silly, naïve little girl who thinks that life is made up of unicorns and rainbows and fairy dust. But again, I have to ask myself, is that such a bad thing? The honest answer is that I don’t know. I really don’t.
I’ll tell you what I do know, though: this Friday night, Harper is going to be staying up late. It’s the world premiere of High School Musical 2, and we are definitely going to be watching.