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They weren't the Real Jonas Brothers, Daddy

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Sugar Bowl Mix: They weren't the Real Jonas Brothers, Daddy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

They weren't the Real Jonas Brothers, Daddy

This week I picked up the girls at school one day and Katherine handed me a Jonas Brothers poster calendar. The girls were very excited for their first horseback riding lesson of the new school year and chatted about which horse they were going to ride as we drove to the lesson.

Then, in passing, Caroline mentioned that they had their first assembly at the new school that day and that her teacher didn't need to spend any of her own money on buying paper and "stuff like that" because "some store" was giving it to her. "Yeah, they even gave her a chair!"
"That's nice," I said.
"Uh huh," Caroline answered and then we turned into the riding school and all attention was back on the horses.

The girls called Tim from the car after their lessons. I was driving, not really listening to the conversation, when I heard Katherine saying, "they weren't the real Jonas Brothers, Daddy. They were just dressed up to look like the Jonas Brothers."
"Mommy, they were the real Jonas Brothers," Caroline said to me.
"At school. They came to our assembly this morning."
Ah ha! I finally began to clue in. The poster calendar, the free classroom supplies. It was all coming together.

Over speaker phone Tim said the principal had just sent out an email saying the Jonas Brothers had visited the school as part of a promotion for Office Max, their biggest sponsor, who is donating a lot of free supplies to teachers all over the country. This was a big hush- hush secret event that no one knew about. Apparently, the school didn't want hordes of Jonas Brothers-crazed parents descending upon the assembly.

"Do you know who the Jonas Brothers are?" I asked Caroline.
"Yeah, some of my friends like them," she said.
"Do you now who they are, Lovey?" (I often call Katherine Lovey)
"Of course! And I'm telling you, these were not the REAL Jonas Brothers, Mommy!"
Okay, I realized at this point Katherine had no idea who they were.
"If they weren't the REAL Jonas Brothers, who were they?" Caroline asked, getting annoyed.
"They were the real Jonas Brothers. They're singers that a lot of kids like," I finally said.

A lot of kids. Yup. Except not my kids. We made a conscious decision when the girls were small to guard their childhood, to let them be little girls for as long as they were little girls. We maintain a video-game-free and Wii-free house. They didn't watch television until they were three years old. Now, at six and eight they're only allowed to watch television on the weekends. They watch PBS shows like Curious George, Caillou and Dragon Tales. No Hannah Montana or iCarly.

In pre-school the girls carried Land's End lunch boxes and wore Land's End backpacks. I love Land's End. No Dora or My Little Pony. In elementary school they still carry Land's End lunch boxes. They've only eaten at McDonalds once - when a friend took them. They go to age-appropriate movies. They watch age-appropriate movies at home and on the DVD- a lifesaver on trips! They enjoy going to plays. And they spend a lot of time writing their own books, reading, playing and making up imaginative games.

We're not total ogres. The girls each have one American Girl doll and various accessories to go with them. I like the American Girl doll phenomena. I think the dolls and their accompanying books and accessories convey an empowering message for young girls.

I recently discovered a book by Marybeth Hicks about parenting this way: Bringing up GEEKS  Genuine Enthusiastic Empowered Kids - how to protect your kid's childhood in a grow-up-too-fast world.  After I read it a few weeks ago I realized that we have protected our girls from what Hicks describes as "the culture of cool - a media saturated, consumer-driven state of pseudo adulthood." It's not that the Jonas Brothers are bad or distasteful. It's that they fall directly into that "culture of cool", that world that, as the book's forward says, exploits my girls' innocence. Living in Los Angeles we're hyper aware of this culture of cool. We're living right in the middle of it.

In her book Hicks discusses the benefits of exposing children to an assortment of music from broadway musical soundtracks to "the rock and roll bands you loved when you were younger." Last year the girls were in Annie at school and we got our fair share of Tomorrow performances sung at top volume. But generally the girls listen to what we play. In pre-school Katherine's favorite song was Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. Caroline knows all the words to U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. On  a recent flight Caroline and I listened to Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game and Big Yellow Taxi on the airplane music channel. Caroline's radio is set to an oldies station.

Okay, you get the picture. The girls don't listen to Disney music. They don't listen to Miley Cyrus. Although I recently discovered that Katherine knows two prophetic words of a Justin Bieber song: "Baby, baby." She had been singing this song, or rather, those two words, for over a month and I kept asking her what it was and where she had learned it, to which I always got: "I dunno."
A few weeks ago, up in Canada at my father's retirement home, Katherine belted out "BAYBE, BAYBE,"while we were visiting.
"You like our local talent!" A young social worker exclaimed. Katherine giggled.
"You know that song?" I asked.
"Yeah, it's Justin Bieber!" The social worker said. Duh.
"Yeah!" Katherine said, like she had known all along. "L_ taught it to me." Duh again.

So back to the car. We continued our drive homeward bound through Los Angeles and Katherine asked her sister if she wanted to play "school assembly" with their dolls after dinner. After dinner they got their dolls set up but decided not to play "School Assembly."
"Yeah, that's boring," Katherine said.
They played "Mother and Child." Caroline was the child, Katherine the mother and I was pulled in to play the neighbor.

Mother, Child and Neighbor trump The Jonas Brothers in our household. And I'm okay with that.

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