A lot of things have changed since I became a father. I drink less, I curse less, I sleep less…
Of course, many of those things likely would have been changing anyway, by virtue of age and
maturity age. So my son doesn’t get all the blame, not in those instances.
He does, however, get all the blame for the alarming shift in my pop culture habits.
Altering the media you consume because you are a parent might seem like a minor thing to some people, especially pretentious snobs who don’t own computers and don’t watch TV, and obnoxious jerks who pretend they don’t own a computer or watch TV. But for me, it’s a big deal.
I’m a pop culture junkie. And I have discerning tastes; I won’t watch or see or listen to just anything. But lately my options are decreasing. Partially due to the lack of free time needed to stay up-to-date on the latest stuff, and due to the lack of free time it takes to actually consume it once I find it, but also because my kid has started taking over.
As he gets older and smarter and more annoying, he’s begun consuming more pop culture himself. It started with Elmo. Then it was Elmo and “Yo Gabba Gabba!” Now there’s a whole menagerie of freaky animals and humanoids and dinosaur trains in his pop culture repertoire, some from TV shows, some from movies (we just showed him his first movie: Finding Nemo) and as he acquires new favorites, his stuff is starting to overtake mine.
Here’s a few examples:
Music: The last concert I went to was the “Yo Gabba Gabba!” stage show. The next one will be Winnie the Pooh. CASE CLOSED. I’m always trying my best to expose my son to my favorite music, and judging by how much he dances, he seems to enjoy a fair amount of it, but there’s just no way around hearing the occasional children’s song. So far I’ve kept most of that stuff off my iPod – although we’ve created a Pandora station for that kiddie crap – but I’m dreading the day he asks to hear “Wheels on the Bus” on the car ride home. I might have to start listening to death metal just to even things out.
Movies: I used to go to the movies constantly. But when you have a kid, and you need to hire a babysitter just to get a night out, you’re not using that night out to go to the movies (unless you are one of those assholes who brings their kids along). So you use Netflix. Except when you go to Netflix and check the “recommendations for you” list, it’s dominated by children’s stuff. It’s a sad day when the cerebral indies and the classic black & whites and the psychological thrillers and the buzzed-about foreign films I stored by the dozens are crowded out by entries in the “Family-friendly Talking-Animal Cartoons” category.
TV: See the Netflix rant above; same deal here. On top of that, my daily “SportsCenter” is now my daily Elmo. I used to load my DVR with adult-oriented HBO and AMC and FX shows. Those are still there, they are just hard to find under all the “Thomas the Train” and “Curious George” and “Super Why?” nonsense my son demands on the regular. (Not to mention the crap my wife stores by the dozens.)
Books: When I lived in NYC and rode the subway every day, I would devour a book a week. Now I spend all my time at home with my son and it’s just about impossible to accomplish anything with a toddler around, especially something that requires time and silence. Even if you put on the TV for him to buy yourself a half-hour – not the best parenting approach but occasionally necessary – the sounds coming from the aforementioned shows are so high-pitched and frantic and annoying, it’s impossible to concentrate. On the off-chance that I get to the library, I usually come back with a collection of repetitive and ridiculous children’s books which I am then forced to read aloud in a silly voice. So not only is my kid stealing my free time and taking over my pop culture, he’s making me dumber.
Video Games: I actually don’t play video games. But I suspect that once my son gets older, he might bring them back into my life. So this might be a positive change. Except for the “making me dumber” thing.
The war is not over yet. I’m just biding my time until my son is old enough to be indoctrinated into the good stuff. Eventually he’ll outgrow the kiddie junk and I’ll have him filling his pop culture headspace with the same stuff I do.
How young is too young for The Wire?