You may have noticed I have not been around as much recently. Honestly I have been so busy it’s been impossible to write a blog some of the time and when I’ve not been busy, I have wanted to spend more time with my rapidly growing gorgeous son Phoenix. I started to feel like I was missing too much of his life. A childhood is a fleeting thing and I think it’s important, that no matter what else is going on in our lives we make time for our kids and some times that means losing money by not working.
Recently I have been either rushing from here to there or sat in front of a computer screen while my baby played… his life rushing away from me all the while and so I have pressed pause on my life, so I can take stock. I must work or we can’t enjoy all the wonderful things that we do enjoy - but while other things eat away at my time, work will, and can wait.
Of course, while taking a break and spending actual quality time with my family, I stumbled upon for my reason for this blog while I was watching my first ever episode of Peppa Pig. Ironically inspiring me to work!
I’ve avoided Peppa Pig and other shows like, In The Night Garden like the plague so far through Phoenix’s pre-school years. However, recently Ayden was away working, so Phoenix and I had 4 days and 3 nights of just the two of us building castles in the skies. Which meant he had all my attention and I could try to do things a little differently to check where my son is at right now.
One night after his bath we were scrolling through Amazon Prime for things to watch. Usually it’s Paw Patrol, Despicable Me or Hotel Transylvania but with my new approach of really taking in and absorbing all that my son is, as well as seeing who he is separately from me and my ideals, I decided that we should try watching some of those shows that I avoid but that are so popular with his peers. Shows like Peppa Pig and In The Night Garden. Alas, I cannot see me ever extending this to Mr Tumble!
Phoenix has indeed had an Iggle Piggle since he was about 4 months old and he has always loved it. I know for a fact that Anne Wood, who created, In The Night Garden, works on a kind of 'kids neuro-science' with her TV shows, which include the Tellytubby’s as well as In The Night Garden. The science looks at which shapes, colours and sounds appeal to children of a certain age and these are then incorporated in to her shows and many shows on Cbeebies and no doubt other pre-school channels too. There are certain colours and I know for sure that egg shapes and baby noises are part of what pre-schoolers love, as far as I can recall. You will notice for example even Peppa Pig’s head is an egg shape.
I’m not entirely sure I agree with this method of what I see as, subliminal advertising in our children, so I have stayed away from it where Phoenix is concerned. I do wonder if it has some responsibility for the rise in anxiety and depression in children as young as 4 years old – but that is an entirely different blog in its own right and in this blog I want to address ‘secrets’.
With Phoenix, all fluffy and clean after his bath we trolled through the hundreds of tv shows and films aimed at our children to find something to watch as we settled down to play and enjoy ‘relaxing time’ together.
The truth is. I had all these prejudices against Peppa Pig and In The Night Garden but I realised as I sat there with my son that (a) I had never actually watched either of the shows and (b) if Phoenix likes them, who the fuck am I to stop him watching them? So, I gave them a whirl.
In The Night Garden, to my mind is just weird! It is a beautiful idea and it could have been such a magically creative wonderful show -but instead it was like a really bad Twin Peaks for toddlers! Now I love Twin Peaks but this is a bad, BBC version and that sort of weirdness should never be aimed at children.
Of course, as I suspected Phoenix was hooked because of the neuro-science that Anne Wood likes to incorporate in to her shows but it’s very strange and kind of a bit un PC too!
However, nothing was so offensive that I would stop him from watching it again and I imagine he will soon grow out of it. It’s just a shame that some wonderful ideas seem to have been wasted. It could have been such a creative labyrinth for our children’s minds but instead it’s a lazy science experiment.
Peppa Pig was a different matter altogether. It started off fine and quite sweet I thought but then in the episode I was watching, Peppa’s mum made her a ‘Secret Box’ and encouraged her to keep secret whatever she put in there and this my fellow parents is what sparked me to write this blog.
It actually made me feel quite angry. Especially as having worked for Cbeebies and on kids shows for over 10 years I know how much every little detail of a story is discussed before it goes in to the shows. So how did something so important slip through and on to our TV screens?
WE SHOULD NEVER ENCOURAGE CHILDREN OF ANY AGE TO KEEP SECRETS!
I know it seems innocent and I’m sure the programme makers thought it was fun but please, I beg all parents out there to tell their children, to never ever keep a secret for anything or anyone! Otherwise you are actually helping anyone who wants to groom your child out there to do it.
Think about it, it’s one of the main weapons a paedophile has to control your child. I will be teaching Phoenix that secrets are never OK and that if any adult (or child) asks him to keep a secret for them, he is to come straight to me and tell me what it is, as they are probably up to no good.
I’m sure things will happen in our family where I will want to say to Phoenix – “Don’t tell anyone about that” for example if I say something bad about someone in front of him – but who am I protecting? Me! And that’s not right.
We should never ask our children to ‘not to say things’ to protect us or anyone else, because it probably means that they are not protecting themselves. Generally, if the truth cannot not be said, it is because someone has done something the shouldn’t be doing. I will teach Phoenix that even if I or his father tries to silence him about something, saying it’s a secret, he must not listen and he never ever has to keep a secret for us or anyone else.
Of course, I may tell him something is a surprise, like a birthday present for someone. But a surprise is generally a nice thing and the person you are keeping it from usually finds out about it in the end.
Secrets in stories are often depicted as magical things, mysterious and able to unlock pathways to great riches and wonderful creative lands. No one loves magic and mystery more than I do. But I think, in real life it is important to teach our kids that secrets are for stories, in real life they can cause great harm and there is no need for them. A secret should be like a dragon – magical in stories, mostly catastrophic in real life!
I think if we taught children that keeping secrets is wrong in schools and on TV shows, we may find out sooner and before any great damage is done, about all kinds of child abuse and so help to stop it. For example, if a child sees his father smash up the house and beat his mother, he might tell someone about that and save his mother and himself from a lifetime of abuse and harm.
If a child witness’s bad behaviour in their parents or a teacher, they may talk about it more readily if they believe secrets are bad.
If we, the parents are doing something we don’t want other people to know about, then we must ask ourselves, is it something we should be doing at all and perhaps it’s an area in our lives whereby we might need help.
Please don’t ask your children to cover for you or keep your secrets. Let them never be ashamed of telling the truth.
I know, from experience, that in the workplace telling the truth is frowned upon but maybe if we teach our children that the truth is the only way, the most magical way in fact, they might just be the generation we have been waiting for. The ones who change the world for the better.