Saturday, March 15, 2014

Don't Drink and Drive

I was about 7 years old, driving down the freeway with my whole family. There was a billboard advertisement: "Don't Drink and Drive!" My father was drinking a bottle of water while he was driving. I was horrified that my father was not obeying the law! "Dad!" I said. "You aren't supposed to drink and drive!" He and my mother chuckled a little, but didn't say anything. I spent the whole drive fuming and trying to figure out why they laughed. It wasn't funny to disobey the law.

As an adult, I now understand that the comment I made was funny to my parents because I did not understand the billboard the way they did. Children do not understand things in an adult way. We see a picture of a half naked man in a bathtub and think, "This could be pornographic," or "That's inappropriate to look at people in the bathtub. It's private!" A young child having a parent read this book may be thinking, "Wow, that guy in the bathtub gets to have TONS of fun. I want a snack in the bathtub, too! I want mermaids and fish!" It's normal to be naked in a bathtub for a child. As long as no private parts are shown or seductive poses, partial nudity does not affect children the way it affects adults.

Now, there does need to be a line drawn where a parent feels a book or other "child" activity (art, literature, or otherwise) has a picture or context where things are crossing a line. Ask yourself:
1. How is my child possibly viewing this?
2. Does my child understand what is happening?
3. Could my child understand what is happening and are old enough to know about it? If not, then it is probably inappropriate.
4. Seductive poses and private parts are generally not appropriate (anatomy or medical textbooks to explain certain things would be fine showing private parts).

I'll give a sexual example of children not understanding things in an adult way. My friend was in the shower with her mother. She was about four years old. She was facing the same direction as her mother. She turned around and was then facing her mother's crotch (which is directly in a four-year-olds line of sight). She didn't say or do anything, but her mother quickly turned her around and said, "Don't look at that, you pervert" (obviously in a shocked and andry tone). From a child's point-of-view, she was just taking a shower. Her mother, thinking as an adult, was reacting as if an adult was staring at her in an inappropriate way. My friend remembers feeling confused and hurt. She couldn't figure out what she had done wrong.

So, when you have a situation concerning sexuality, try to think like a child because they don't understand things the way you do. A naked body next to another naked body does not equal sex to a child, but it might for an adult. You can even ask them what they are thinking, so you can get an idea of how to see through your child's eyes.

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