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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Punch and Judy

I loathe violence. I don't like hearing about it, watching it or being near it.

I am one of those mothers who vowed that my sons would never play with guns. (This has, actually, come to pass so far, but only in a convoluted way: neither Atticus nor Logan owns toy guns per se, but they do have an armory of toy swords and an assortment of plastic soldiers and cowboys and indians.) I can't stand wrestling, and I spend at least twenty minutes out of every day trying to convince my boys that they are not actually puppies, so they really don't need to roll around on one another. And words, I hold, can be violent, too. We don't use any of the following toward one another in this house: kill, stupid, dumb, shoot or hate.

Obviously I am aware that I am swimming upstream in this battle. Our culture is steeped in violence as a way of life--not in the horrifyingly authentic sense that those living in war zones have, but in the glorified, "this is cool" casualness of a people who live with the knowledge that most of us will never be bombed in our beds. It's almost inescapable. Some days, that fact is very, very disheartening to me.

It's not that I don't understand a certain amount of rough-and-tumble in life. I do, after all, have two boys. There is plenty of role-playing that goes along with that; most of it centers by default on testosterone-fueled pursuits like nabbing the bad guys. What I'm talking about here is over-the-top, response-provoking eye gauging and the like. I just don't like it.

So imagine my horror when, at this morning's library puppet show, a "Punch and Judy" routine is announced. You know Punch and Judy--the Medieval husband and wife duo who bash each other on the head and call each other horrible names for laughs. In other words, the epitome of everything I really, really dislike.

For a split second, I thought about dragging my three kids out of there. Really. How lame am I? Very. And honestly, I probably would have left were it not for two things. First, my friend J. was there with her three little boys, one of whom she had just commenced to nurse. What was I going to do? Leave her there with her shirt up and her boys following me out the door like so many ducklings? No way.

But the second thing, the one that really gave me pause was this: we have entered that phase in our family. The one I always knew we would get to down the line: innoculation.

See, my theory has always been that our home is a boot camp of sorts. We are here to fortify our children, to reinforce in them godly character traits. My husband and I work hard to impart discernment and Scriptural wisdom in our kids, so that down the road, they will be able to spot poor choices ten miles ahead and think them through clearly.

I have thus far kept my children away from many things that I consider to be beyond what they need to know about. This doesn't mean we walk around with blinders on; on the contrary, we see good and glorious things all the time. And we see bad stuff, too. My children know about divorce, they know about murder, they know that there are poeple out there who hurt children, and they know that drugs and alcohol can be abused very badly. They don't live in a bubble.

But my husband and I have been seeing signs lately that we are ready to move into that innoculation phase--the phase where the children are exposed to little bits of the bad stuff so that they can compare it to the good stuff. I am in constant prayer over this because believe me, I would love for God to give me an out on this. This is not the timing I saw for this. But clearly, it's God's time.

So back to Punch and Judy. Yes, there was punching and name-calling and lying and stealing. There was mockery of a police officer (an ├╝ber no-no in our house) and even a great character that represented "the boogeyman." What a delight!

The children watched. All three of them giggled and found it mostly funny, although they enjoyed other bits of the presentation much more than the Punch and Judy skit. I noticed that Logan didn't laugh nearly as much as Atticus, who turned beet red from his ears to his toes. Later he told me that he didn't think it was that funny because they were "being naughty" (which tells me that we may be working on Jo and Atticus and leaving Logan to dance for a few more years in innocence). But it was the words Atticus spoke that were music to my ears:

"I knew it was bad stuff, mom. But it was just pretend. And they're puppets. If people acted that way, it wouldn't be funny at all."

Bravo, son. Keep that spirit.

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