LORI'S FAMILY HOUR
Becoming A GateKeeper Of Vigilance
“G-Ma, G-Ma, we saw those people this
morning when mommy was taking us to school. That’s Mommy’s favorite
TV show ‘Law and Order’.”
Matt, my five-year-old grandson was
enlightening me with the knowledge of the day. His crystal clear blue
eyes sizzled, crackling with news. They gleamed with the
excitement of sharing important information with another – with
me--his incredibly blessed grandmother.
“Wow, Matt and Sarah (Matt’s
three-year-old sister), this is exciting. A TV program, your
Mommy’s favorite and also one of G-Ma’s and G-Pa’s favorites is
being filmed right in front of your apartment. Let’s try to
find a place to stand out of the way so we can see what is happening.”
My two little ducklings and I scurried
across the street and carefully made our way past the cast of
film-makers, cameramen, cables, the technical support crew and the
crème de crème--the actors themselves. We exited the maze only five
or six feet from the children’s apartment. There were two men a few
feet back from where we stood. I assumed since they didn’t say
anything to us about moving farther down the street, that we were “out
of camera sight.” I also assumed they were the guards keeping the
public out of the way.
“G-Ma, what are we looking for,”
questioned my little love bug, Sarah. She was tired and anxious to
get home to play with her brother.
The filming of a TV show was thrilling to
me, especially a classy one like Law and Order. Matt
and Sarah were accustomed to the flurries of production people and
equipment blocking their way to their cozy apartment. They live in
the East Village where many of the TV shows are filmed. I was the
‘new kid on the block’ and so I made them wait while I gawked and
hoped to catch a glimpse of some my favorite stars.
“G-Ma, I see cars in the middle of the
street, right in the middle so other cars can’t move.”
getting into the "gawking" excitement. “I see the cameras, G-Ma. They
are bigger than G-Pa’s new one.” Matt referred to my husband’s Kodak
3400 digital camera he constantly shoved into the faces of the
grandkids to get that “perfect picture.”
Suddenly, I heard the director announce to
crew and onlookers the cameras would be rolling for the next scene. I
gripped Matt’s and Sarah’s hands. This was thrilling. Camera!
Lights! Action! I heard one of the men in front of me say, “there
might be some people running close by you. You’ll probably be in the
shot.” I wondered afterwards why he didn’t say “move those kids out
of the way, lady – we’re shooting a scene too scary for them to
witness. And I didn't question the use of the word 'shot'."
“Action,” yelled the director. The two
"guards" quickly moved in front of us – only two feet away. Before I
could react, one placed his hand behind his back, and in full view of
me a five-year old and a three-year-old pulled a real gun out
of his back waistband. He began to charge up the street chasing the
other "guard." His gun was drawn and pointing at the "bad guy."
Cars in the intersection shrieked and collided, turning fantasy into
I took a deep breath and stiffened. My
grip increased on my two little angels. Then I heard the plaintive
mewls as sweet Sarah’s sad cries pierced my heart.
"I don't want the man to shoot Adam, G-Ma, I wa-wa-want to go inside, now!” Tears flooded her chocolate brown eyes. I felt myself
drowning in them. How could this have happened while my precious
charges were in my care? I, a Grandmother of Vigilance, put my angels
in a frightening situation! I scooped up my sweetly sobbing love bug,
and with Matt in tow murmured “it’s okay, little ones, it will be all
right, don’t be afraid. Sweet Sarah, no one is
going to shoot Matt.".
Upon entering the apartment I hugged the
two of them. I tentatively looked at Matt for his response, unsure
what it would be. He was whispering something to Sarah.
I had been selfish,
thinking of how I would enjoy seeing such a fine show being
filmed. And, being right up front. I also assumed since their
mother had traipsed through all the paraphernalia and people that very
morning, this afternoon would be no different for her children – my
grandchildren. But, I was complacent. Fear flung open her vile
wings and shrouded my sweet innocents (at least one of them) with her
terror. No matter what the reason, I was responsible.
Matt remained silent for only for a few
minutes, then he charged over to his collection of dinosaurs.
“G-Ma, what dinosaur do you want to be. I’m
going to be the Allosaurus or maybe the T. Rex. He skipped over
to Sarah and handed her her favorite Brontosaurus.
“I want to be a UNICORN, Matt.
Not a dinosaur.” Her Voice was uncharacteristically belligerent
even though her tears had stopped. I wondered what to say to Matt. I
felt I owed it to my ‘little man’ to try to explain the disconcerting
situation in which I had placed all of us.
“Matt, so what did you think about the TV
show filming right outside of your apartment?” He didn’t even
raise his blonde head as he answered. He just slammed his T. Rex
into the rest of the dinosaurs. “Well, G-Ma, I know the name of the
show is ‘LAW and Order’ so if the LAW is part of the
show, then there will be guns, bad guys and police. Right?” He looked
my way and smiled. “That wasn’t a real gun, you know, G-Ma.”
“Oh, my little
man. You are old enough and smart enough to realize what was
happening out there. But Sarah was scared when the man pulled out his
gun, real or not, right in front of us. G-Ma is so sorry she
made Sarah afraid.”
“That’s okay, G-Ma. I told Sarah it was
all pretend when we got inside. She thought the man said he was
going to shoot me.” He gave me a quick hug to comfort
me. And, in his wise little man way, hugged Sarah as well. Again
I was furious at myself at my lack of vigilance.
“Let’s play, G-Ma. Come on Sarah, you can
be a unicorn.” Sarah slid off the couch and picked up the
Brontosaurus. “I’ll be a dinosaur like you Matt.” She flashed her
wide toothy apple-grin his way. “Rooooaarrrrrrr,” she yelled. Fear
had been replaced with action; my guilt mitigated by Matt’s comforting
I thought about television violence. When I
went home that evening, I surfed the web for information, using
Google, my favorite way to get instant feedback on questions and
concerns. The results startled me.
I found that children are exposed to
violence on a daily basis in New York City and most other big cities
in degrees I hadn't imagined. I had been lax and allowed my angels to
witness first hand a simulated violent scene. This was a
violation of their parents' anti-violence principles.
Matt and Sarah's parents are
vigilant in most every way about protecting the kids from human
aggressions in any form. Television news is never turned on with the
exception of Channel One for the weather forecast. Most of the PBS
cartoons are ‘allowed’ as well as a few from the Nicklelodian
including cartoons such as Little Bear, Blue’s Clues,
Dragon Tales. Also acceptable are pre-checked out programs from
Discovery Channel and National Geographic dealing with animals and/or
Hitting and fighting, guns and swords are
‘verboten’. Treating everyone--no matter what color or race or
station in life--with respect is a prime directive in this loving
household. Matt plays aggressively at the park, with his dinosaurs,
and with his sister. He knows when he oversteps his bounds. The few
times I’ve witnessed his aggressions toward others, they have been to
protect his little sister. When some other child tries to take
Sarah's toys, or won't let her play or participate, he goes
face-to-face with whomever, regardless of size.
Sarah is still learning to
manage her anger and occasionally whacks Matt or takes a kick at the
household cat, Xela, who has never had anything to do with the
children.. For her to see the ‘aggressive action’ today wasn’t an
experience necessary for her evolution as a "peaceful person". I
dropped the Shield of Vigilance. Complacency swiftly filled the
If this lapse of care happened to me
who lives and writes daily about vigilance and protecting children, I
can only imagine how easy it could be for parents, grandparents and
other adults caring for precious children to lower their shields, or,
in some cases, not be aware of the Terrorism of aggression. Some
just accept it as a way of life They buy their children
guns and tanks and endorse violence. Some do it openly, others
allow the defacto effects to seep into a child's mental and emotional
framework. Television is one of the more insidious
shows today (other than those mentioned above) have gone from bad to
worse. Traditionally, the 8 o’clock hour has been called TV’s “family
hour.” But in a Parents Television Council (PTC) report on the
2000-2001season, researchers reported the content of network
programs dealt with subject matter inappropriate for children in the
"family hour." Its data revealed the mass of objectionable material
has risen 24 percent since the group’s last family hour study
conducted after the1998-1999 season.
The PTC analysts viewed almost 200 hours of
programming. They examined the broadcasts for violent (and sexual)
material and foul language. Findings show that family hour
programming has become even less family-friendly. Sexual material has
fallen 17 percent to an average of 3.1 instances per hour, but they
said it " is raunchier than in the previous years." Sexual content in
the 2000-2001 season dealt with issues such as pornography and oral
sex which the PTC says used to be rare material.
Coarse language was up 78 percent to 2.6
instances per hour. Incidents of violence increased 70 percent to 2.8
an hour. Fifteen percent of violent incidents involved a gun and 51
percent some other weapon.
The PTC determined that only 12 percent of
last season’s family hour programs were appropriate for children.
That means 88% of the shows during family hour aren't family shows at
all, but rather "terrorism" shows that create confusion and questions
in children's minds.
Parents allowed their children to view these shows in
large numbers. Rating figures indicated that an average of more
than 10 million children were watching during "family hour." UPN
was the worst offender with more than 18 offensive incidents per hour
– almost twice as many as the 9.12 incidents of second-place offender,
NBC. CBS earned the best rating with an average of just 3.22
offensive incidents per hour.
Bozell III, founder and president of the Parents Television Council
says “These findings demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that
broadcast television’s family hour is more violent and vulgar than at
any time in history.”
I thought about the information I read.
I realized it won’t be long before Matt will be assigned TV watching
as part of a school assignment. He told me there is a TV in his
classroom – the one on which he saw the terrorists attack the Twin
Towers. Vigilance means protecting a child from certain information.
I'm not promoting censorship, but rather interpretation and
conversation. Sitting with a child and discussing the news
from their viewpoint is vital to avoid misinterpretation, confusion,
Under the age six, kids have a limited
ability to discern the fantasy of an entertainment show from the
reality of news. Kids in this age range are as likely to be afraid of
what they see on the news as they are of dragons, or shadows in the
night. I know in Matt’s case (and Sarah’s when she reaches five or
six) his parents (or grandparents) will watch the news with him and an
open dialogue will be a priority to talk about his worries or
misunderstandings. Vigilance is about helping a child sort and
sift through information, and culling out that which might harm the
Stories of crime and violence dominate news
coverage. A child viewing the news might assume the world is
full of terror when it is not. Stories of outbreaks of schoolyard
violence, war and crime scene footage can alienate children, leaving
them to question their personal and their families’ safety. Parental
discussion can quash many fears that might rattle in a child's mind,
or secretly be buried in a quagmire deep where the shadows of fear are
stuffed without anyone knowing it exists, creating a future time-bomb
that might appear as an obstacle to a healthy, happy outlook later on
News stories of
crime and violence stimulate excellent opportunities to initiate a
conversation on the real life consequence of guns and violence.
Unlike the movies or the TV show we witnessed being filmed, victims
from real life violence don’t get up after the cameras stop rolling.
Kids look to parents
(and grandparents and other child tenders) to help them figure out the
difference between right and wrong.
Even kindergartners have access to computer
learning. There are good news sources for kids to learn to balance the
terrorism of violence, sex and bad language creeping more prevalently
into the living rooms of America's 100 million households. Some links
are listed below for readers to review. They include: For TV
News: Nick News:
For online news for kids: The New York
Times Learning Network:
Scholastic News Zone:
MSNBC Pencil News for Kids:
There are also News Magazines for Kids:
Time Magazine for Kids:
On Any Of The Above Links To Access The Web Pages)
In summarizing my experience with Law &
Order, it made me realize that my grandchildren, and the children of
others, are going to get a lot of the news and facts from someone else.
Either at school, or from the playground, or just hearing people talk,
or, eavesdropping on the nightly news while pretending to play.
I restated my vows to be a Vigilant Gatekeeper, and help them interpret the
. Now, when I pick up Sarah and/or Matt, I casually ask if they
have heard anything interesting they want to talk about or ask
questions about. If there’s something big happening in the world,
Matt will usually ask a question.
Being vigilant today means I can expect not to shield the
children from news—that’s impossible—but I can be a Gatekeeper of
Vigilance. Vigilance isn’t about censorship; it’s about
guardianship. As the news picks and chooses what it wishes to
headline, the listener also has the right to edit what he or she is
being fed. There is no gospel. There is only perspective--how
one looks at things. If anti-violence is at least
one-percent more important as a solution to life's challenges, then my
job as a Gatekeeper of Vigilance has been performed. But
if violence becomes the solution, without consideration of other
alternatives, then I've failed. Children who learn that
rule end up being abusive to themselves and others, and tear at the
fabric of human evolution unnecessarily.
As long as I struggle to remember the importance of balance,
I’m on the right track. I’m vigilant. I’m also know if I do get off
track for any reason, even if it involves my little
ones, I can get back on track. I can correct myself. I can
teach my grandchildren opinions and viewpoints can shift and change.
That nothing is so rooted that it cannot be uprooted--that fear can
be replaced with courage, and intimidation by conviction, and complacency
training, I learned, starts early, as evidenced in Matt’s handling of
the TV show filming. When he told his sister it was a "pretend
gun," and that it was only "pretend" he signaled his assimilation of
reality. He proved he had learned from a non-violent household
to distinguish the difference between the reality of violence, and its
masks. His was a healthy attitude. He also taught me I can learn
from a vigilant five-year old and be a better Grandparent of
He reminded me the
"family hour" begins with the parents being with their children to
watch and become Gatekeepers of Vigilance.
To Sophia 13: "The Terrorless Valentine's Day"