October 14, 2008

The Wizard of...What?

Mia: Daddy, what is bondage?
Me: What?
Mia: What is bondage?
Me: Bondage? Did you say bondage?
Mia: Yeah.
Me: Where did you hear that word?
Mia: What is it?

My internal monologue: Oh christ, where in the hell did she pick up bondage? What the hell does Beth do around here all day? Is this why the UPS guy seems so happy when he knocks on the door and so disappointed when I answer? And does this explain that metal-studded leather hood? I just thought Beth was really serious about hide and seek. Oh, no, wait...The Wizard of Oz.

Last week, and despite never having seen the movie, Mia started singing a song from The Wizard of Oz. I realized shortly after that we had the book. I asked her if she'd like me to start reading it to her. Now, I didn't hold out much hope since it's a long book and, being a toddler, her attention often wanes quickly. But after a week of reading a chapter or two at a time, we're halfway though the book. And Mia is fascinated.

Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz in 1900. The language is, therefore, stilted and dated with some parts reading like a modern-day description of a gay pride parade. Despite the presence of bondage, gay and queer getting a lot of play in the book, I haven't noticed any hardcore gay sex. And thank god for that.

When I recounted a certain conversation about difficult concepts I had with Mia a while back, I traded lots of email with many of you. The bondage discussion brought me right back to the same conclusions I came to then. When we talk to our kids, we pack those conversations with our own judgments and preconceived ideas, despite our best intentions. There's no reason queer shouldn't mean strange, gay shouldn't mean happy or bondage shouldn't mean slavery. It's my brain that transforms them into emotionally (or sexually) charged terms. Kids have no preconceived ideas. They just need the truth. The truth presented without our jaded adult preconceptions.

That said, separating my brain from the one my kids have is tough sometimes. And I'm guessing that, at some point, I'll have to explain something a bit tougher. Like actual bondage or hardcore gay sex.

(I'm sure going to get a lot of interesting traffic today.)

Posted by Chris at October 14, 2008 6:20 AM

You know it's very funny how our language has been corrupted over the years. Actually Hubby and I had a conversation about the term "Plastic" in reference to people. He just didn't understand the term (he is 20 years my senior) and I was trying to explain it to him. That was also tough.
And yes, my friend, your traffic will be bringing you many "new friends"! LOL
Have a great day!

Posted by: Maribeth at October 14, 2008 7:05 AM

i think it would be easier to explain sex or hate crimes than bondage! good luck to you on that. :0)

Posted by: Aurelia at October 14, 2008 7:06 AM

As scarry as it may have been to hear bondage come out of your child's mouth, how exciting that she is able to listen and learn from you reading a book that is probably 10 years beyond her age level.

Posted by: harrylips at October 14, 2008 7:23 AM

Um, yeah. I know there have been times when one of my kids has said something and I've had to stop and breathe a second and realize that what she's talking about is not necessarily what we think of when we hear the same word/phrase (and I always hate that - that my first impulse is to think something...adult).

No one mentions these kinds of things when you're going to be a parent, do they!?

Have a fantastic Tuesday.

Posted by: Sarah at October 14, 2008 7:53 AM

You should tell her to ask Beths Parents...now that would be worth video taping.

Posted by: William at October 14, 2008 8:35 AM

Well...once while in the bathtub at the age of 5 my kid turned to me and asked "What does 'SUCK IT!' " mean?"

Oy...I told her in a cryptic a way as possible, and then told her about the *real* intent of the meaning, and asked her where she heard it.

She had read it off the side of a bus.

Once, same kid asked me about masturbation, and after a carefully crafted response, she thought for a minute and then turned to me and asked:

"Mommy, do people ever use MEAT for that?"


Nonplussed was I.

Posted by: Julia at October 14, 2008 8:49 AM

We read Oz before she saw the movie or a musical and when we saw the movie Noodle was pissed that the shoes were red instead of silver. She is such a literalist. I switched out some words while reading because the language is a little dated but made myself feel better by thinking it was because she wouldn't know the meanings.

Posted by: Arwen at October 14, 2008 8:55 AM

You know, you don't have to explain EVERYTHING to your kids. I grew up in a family where we discussed sex freely over dinner. Not ONCE did bondage or hardcore (or softcore) gay sex make an appearance.

Some things kids just KNOW not to talk about with their parents! That's what cable is for...

Posted by: Robyn at October 14, 2008 8:58 AM

You'll have to share some of the search engine requests you get for this one. They'll be wildly entertaining, no doubt.

Posted by: ewe_are_here at October 14, 2008 9:11 AM

That is a very interesting point you bring up. I know I have been guilty of that as well...inwardly cringing when my nieces ask me to explain something "difficult"...but it is true that their innocent minds were not even going where mine was.
Good point for me to remember.

Please share with us some of the search engine terms for today!

Posted by: diane at October 14, 2008 9:26 AM

Some of the references aren't even that old. Listen to some '60s music or watch some old movies and you'll hear the term "making love" tossed around rather freely. In those days, it simply meant "wooing", not at all what it means today.

There was a young lady in my high school in the '70s whose mother was an advisor there. I complimented the girl to her mother by describing her as a "fox" (which meant very good-looking, to me). I thought her mother was going to hit me. In her day, a "fox" was a girl with, um, loose morals.

Posted by: Gilahi at October 14, 2008 9:30 AM

One of my friends in Arkansas told us, at a baby shower for the Methodist pastor's wife, she decided it was time to explain the "facts of life" to her then 9 or 10 year old daughter. This was 35 years ago when kids didn't already know everything by the time they were 7 or so. Anyhow, she was nervous but she persevered, right down to some physical description.

Her daughter looked at her in disbelief. "Mom, I know Pastor and his wife never did anything like that." My friend said it didn't seem to bother her daughter that she and her husband must have done the same thing at least 3 times.

On hearing the story, pastor's wife turned forty shades of red while rolling on the floor laughing. (A little hard to do at 7 months pregnant - I know because I was pregnant with my youngest and doing the same thing).

Good luck.

Posted by: Ann Adams at October 14, 2008 9:35 AM

I agree... The traffic you will attract today will be quite interesting! I think it's great that you are reading chapter books with Mia already. I started chapter books with my kids around this age too, mostly because I was bored reading the same old Dr. Seuss books repeatedly, and the kids really took to the bigger books. There may not be colorful pictures on every page, but I think it seemed to spark their imagination even more. Now my oldest daughter is 7, and she always has her nose in a book. She finishes one small chapter book a week on her own, plus the ones I read at bedtime.

Posted by: margo at October 14, 2008 9:36 AM

My mom only ever read The Secret Garden to me. She doesn't remember that she once bribed me against running away by reading me an extra chapter.

But bondage? Here's where my head went. Straight to church! I remember that statement that we used to say all the time. "that we are in bondage to sin and cannot save ourselves." Hahahaha. I must not be watching the right kind of porn.

Posted by: k8 at October 14, 2008 10:20 AM

I think it's awesome she's enjoying that book. Reminds me of when my young man was reading 1984 in the 4th grade and the teacher told him no, that book was too advanced for him. Yeah, I know. Can you believe it?

My favorite thing about Wizard of Oz is the political implications. I love all the possibilities of what Baum was really writing about. I find it fascinating, but then I'm a history buff.

Posted by: Candy at October 14, 2008 10:41 AM

The innocence of children is a great thing to bring us back from our perverted reality.


Posted by: Knot at October 14, 2008 11:52 AM

Hehehe, you are gonna have some disappointed googlers that's for sure. It is weird how language becomes dated so quickly and transforms so dramatically. I don't know about the US but kids in this country can now frequently be heard pronouncing things as "gay" meaning, approximately, "shit". For example, "OMG that book is so gay." "Why won't you let me go to the mall? That's so gay!"

And when I hear kids say it in my classroom, I don't know whether to ask them (sarcastically, of course) if they mean their book is happy, or attracted to other books.


Posted by: starrynite at October 14, 2008 2:24 PM

wow, so i was searching the web for a new metal studded leather hood (they just dont make them like they used to) and somehow i found myself at your blog...

Posted by: steph at October 14, 2008 3:35 PM

Also, L. Frank Baum was a serious racist, which has a lot of implications for the book. Hopefully she's not picking any of that up!

Posted by: purple at October 14, 2008 3:36 PM

Gosh, all those fun parenting talks...and she's still in single digits!

Posted by: Dianna at October 14, 2008 4:06 PM

Bondage is the type of slavery every parent should place their child under. I suggest:

1. Bring daddy my drink from the kitchen
2. Go get another diaper for your brother
3. Clean up your toys and your brother's toys
4. Pick up all these rocks from the sidewalk, it's a new game called "daddy doesn't want to"

Posted by: Kristy at October 14, 2008 4:26 PM

Having never read this blog before (wink) and happening upon it only by Googling "gay bondage hardcore sex", I must say that I'm sorely disappointed. Not even some pictures? Geez...


Posted by: Arwen at October 14, 2008 4:45 PM

Um. I will never, ever explain bondage or hardcore gay sex (unless one of them declares that he IS gay - and then I guess I'll have to go there) to my boys. Never. Or a ton of other things. Certain things they just don't need to know until they are adults and they don't need to learn from a parent.

I did - however - have to answer the "what is sodomy?" question the other night.

Posted by: Mindy at October 14, 2008 7:13 PM

I hate when my kids ask me a question and all the internal conversations start happening and swirling around in my brain. "Did I say that? When did I say that? Wonder who said that? Where's Honey? Why isn't he here to answer these questions!" Yeah total panic and anxiety stricken conversations. If I'd only breathe....

Posted by: kimmyk at October 14, 2008 8:30 PM

Oh the things I have had to explain. And we are up soon for the "big talk". Shudder. Swing by my place for another description to a toddler and a post that is sure to get some google sicko's even though it wasn't meant that way at all. Kids provide the best writing....

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at October 14, 2008 9:35 PM

Oh the things I have had to explain. And we are up soon for the "big talk". Shudder. Swing by my place for another description to a toddler and a post that is sure to get some google sicko's even though it wasn't meant that way at all. Kids provide the best writing....

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at October 14, 2008 9:35 PM

God I suck for posting twice...sorry....

Posted by: The Stiletto Mom at October 14, 2008 9:36 PM

I don't think you will have to explain those things. By the time she hears them, she will be old enough to know not to ask. Sheesh! She's just a cute kid on the internet and I don't like to think of her learning those words!

For once, I'm glad that America pays no attention to Canada. I wouldn't want our election to influence yours!

Posted by: Heather at October 14, 2008 11:04 PM

Aw. How cute! On the flip side, I had to explain a few current meaning to an older colleague e.g. skanky, tweaker, and hoohah. Well, here's the convo.


Posted by: oakley at October 15, 2008 12:36 AM

Haha, I would be kind of shocked though, when Monkey asked me the meaning of bondage! But you are so right. We have corrupted our language and abused our vocabulary too often.

The same goes for 'difficult' words. People tend to learn children the simple version of a word, in stead of the (what is difficult perceived by adults) 'the difficult' version. In the mind of children, there is no such thing. Like we thought Monkey what a "hangar" is. While grandma kept revering to it as "house".

Posted by: Nadine at October 15, 2008 6:04 AM

I can't wait to see what the keyword traffic looks like, lol. That will be fun.

It's so hard to respond to these situations. We've had this a couple of times at our house and I know that my reaction determines what her perception will be and it's hard not to jump straight to the gutter and start stuttering as I reply. Everyone always blames the media and tv for taking away the innocence of kids but I wonder if we really do it ourselves by over reacting and freaking out about what we think they've figured out just by the virtues of our language.

Posted by: Jen at October 15, 2008 10:27 AM

All I can say is that I'm happy you're sharing Oz with the kids. They are among my favorite books.

Posted by: hannita at October 15, 2008 5:44 PM

My 2 year old decided to call everything he likes "sexy" this week. GAH! Where the hell did that come from?

Posted by: sleepynita at October 16, 2008 1:03 AM

This reminds me of a couple of years ago when my then 8 yr old asked if she could say the c word. My mind immediately went to the bad place and after several pointed questions I realized she was referring to the word Crap. Since then I have tried to listen more carefully before having a heart attack.

Posted by: flybunny at October 16, 2008 11:22 PM

hahaha, love it. My husband always teases me about the UPS guy too, but wow, that was a big scare with the bondage situation.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at October 17, 2008 5:59 PM

Well thankfully she's not in kindergarten yet, where some parents have allowed their 5 year olds to watch R rated movies and the kids are talking about it. (LOLOL)

My experience with that was when we saw "Peter Pan". Jake picked up the phrase "Red Man say How"...and said it to the Native cashier at the grocery store.

Posted by: Scattered Mom at October 18, 2008 1:44 PM