Maybe it’s because I was born with a tendency toward toward being judge-y. Or maybe it’s because I now see all things through the lens of motherhood. But when I happen upon a reality show, one of my first horrified thoughts is, “That is someone’s child.” This thought is typically followed very shortly by, “Please Lord, don’t ever let that be my child.”
I am not a fan of reality television. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. I do enjoy a few of the competition type shows like The Voice (and yes, it’s Blake who does it for me, I don’t get the whole Adam Levine thing) and The Next Food Network Star. I’ve even teared up watching Undercover Boss. But I avoid like the plague any of the Bachelors or Apprentices or, heaven help us all, anything on E! or MTV. I think this has a great deal to do with an aversion to drama that is strong and deep. As a general rule and a strategy for maintaining my own sanity, I steer clear of drama-prone individuals – unless they’re related to me and I can’t avoid them. So don’t ask me what’s going on with the Kardashians because I can promise you that I don’t know and sincerely don’t care.
Anyway, back to my actual point. All of the people who are making fools of themselves on these shows are in fact someone’s children. They have/had parents. And these parents may even be watching them act like fools, flaunt their parts and make out with anyone who walks by. After I spend a quick moment feeling sympathy for these parents, my mind takes a quick turn into figuring out how to make darn sure that I am NEVER one of them. That there is never a time that one of my beans puts him or herself out there on display.
But why do these people put themselves on display? WHY??
It’s not surprising that I have a theory. My husband would tell you that I have many theories J
I’ve surmised there are two closely related factors at work in determining who does and who does not feel the pull toward reality TV appearances. Both are related to attention. I fear that one type of person is seeking attention that was, or was perceived to have been, withheld. The person who didn’t feel seen in his/her family, school environment, community, etc. This person then sees reality TV as a way to be seen. The other type of person is one who became used to being seen too much. The center of the universe, center of attention, prince/princess complex. This person thrives on and expects to be the center of attention and, if that is not happening, seeks out situations where they can return to their rightful place as the object around which all other things revolve.
From a parenting perspective, I think the answer to this issue can be found in the middle. The middle is often a wonderful place in the world of parenting – neither too much nor too little. But achieving that happy medium can be tricky. How to make sure to provide enough attention – the right attention – without tipping over into the world of overindulgence.
For me, time is a lot of it. Spending time with my beans and spending time as a family. Even if I’m busy making dinner or cleaning the house or if I need to take a few minutes to send emails or write, I try to keep connected to what they’re doing. Professor Bean and I may work on stories side-by-side or Sunshine may practice reading a story to me while I make dinner. Pinky and I can keep up a running conversation about whatever strikes her fancy while I clean a bathroom or dust.
Time itself isn’t the only answer. The quality of the time is also important. A very wise, immensely valued friend recently talked about the difference between “watching your kids” and “playing with your kids.” I know I’ve been guilty of slumping on the patio swing and watching my three run around, deflecting their requests that I get in on the game. Sometimes I’m just tired. And that’s okay. Sometimes. But those times that I get out there and really play with them – laughing and running and throwing the ball (or hula hooping) -- we ALL have a much better time. Those are some of the best memories.
Tempering a child’s natural feeling that they should be the center of the universe is simple. It may not be easy, but it is simple. From a young age, foster an awareness of others. Things as simple as manners, sharing and being conscious of other’s needs are a great place to start. Yesterday, Pinky and I baked muffins for a neighbor who is undergoing surgery. I explained to her that he would be with doctors and his family would have to wait and might be worried and hungry. The muffins would help with the hunger and our thoughts and prayers would help with the worry. She got it and was excited to take our offerings – both the tangible and intangible – next door. Considering a friend’s feelings before their own, letting a brother or sister choose which movie to watch this time, there are a million little opportunities for kids to learn how to operate as part of something – a family, a community, a class, a group of friends.
I tell my beans that they can grow up to be anything they want to be. That’s easy to say when their answers are things like a mechanical engineer, a mommy or an astronaut. If one of them comes to me and says she wants to be the next Bachelorette, the conversation’s going to be a little different. Just sayin’ J