Tuesday, June 8, 2010

On being 6+ years old

We are a cable-free family. Which generally works for us b/c StraightMan and I hardly have time to watch much tube during the teaching year. When we do, we prefer to skip the ads, and to anticipate liking, more or less, what we will watch. Like an entire season of "30 Rock"! On top of which, our squeam threshold has dropped considerably after becoming parents. Why must threatened harm to a child be used as a plot point for suspense?

So, our kids hardly even know how to watch TV. Not in the sense that they do not sit bug-eyed in front of the set, but rather that they do not quite "get" that you cannot pause a show in progress, repeat an episode you liked, or choose a show other than the ones being aired currently. They find watching "regular TV" a bit frustrating.

21st century children.

For the last month, they were engrossed with "Rolie Polie Olie," a cartoon about a family of robots that mixes metaphor, imagery, and voice and sound effects from 1950s-style family situation comedy. To be fair, it was Bubbie who sat in such thrall, watching the same DVD over and over and over during morning screen time. (I take a little time rousing, so StraightMan lets them watch while they eat their Cheerios and he drinks his coffee and checks his e-mail. Morning screen time serves us all well, I think.) Eventually, Beanie heaved a sigh and trudged off to her drawing table, where she planned curriculum and created math worksheets for her dolls. (See? How morning screen time translates into choosing other forms of amusement.) StraightMan and I were right there with her.

Then Netflix delivered a new treat last week - a DVD of the animated series based on the "Olivia" books. Which has been a huge hit in our house. (Esp. as StraightMan just left for a three-week NEH seminar.) There is a big sister and a little brother ("little bother") and the big sister and little brother in our house seem both to relate to the stories.

In fact, I feel like a lot of "Olivia" is pitch-perfect in capturing what life is like with / for a 6-year-old girl who is just bursting with brightness and energy and confidence. Olivia is described on book jackets and such as "bossy," but I do not think that is quite accurate or fair. What I see in Olivia, and in Beanie, is wanting everyone around her to be and do and feel together what just seems so worth sharing. Which, admittedly, can come across as "bossy," esp. if / when you are the little brother.

So, I like "Olivia" as much I like Lily in the Kevin Henkes books and Frances in the Russell Hoban books. They are about spirited and unafraid girls - a bit bossy, but not really all that bratty - and I realize that I am projecting or even romanticizing what I find remarkable in my own girl, but I have to say: The enthusiasm! The exuberance! Also, the poise that comes with the knowledge that life is good b/c you have friends to play with and grown-ups who look after you.

Those are the ups of being 6+ years old. At least for me, the downs include the constant stream of riddles, jokes, plays on words, and loud commentary and questioning on whatever it is that I am doing. (In a McDonald's restroom: "Mommy, are you peeing? Why is peeing so much louder here than at home? It almost scares me. It's so loud.")

Ahem. It seems to me like 6+ years old is a good age to be.

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