Today, due to wonderful weather, and the fact that my daughter, who had been battling Influenza B for five days straight was finally fever free, the kids and I found ourselves headed to the park for some fresh air.
It was a delightful hour, for the most part.
Except that period in the middle where I was the uncool mom on the playground.
Now, being uncool doesn't bother me. In fact, I have spent the majority of my 33 years being "uncool," and that suits me just fine.
My kids generally think I'm pretty cool though, especially on the playground. If I don't have an adult companion around, I find myself up and wandering the play area, pushing kids on swings, following them up and down steps, helping them on monkey bars, chasing them, climbing up the ladders, and so forth. The kids appreciate that about me.
Most of the time.
Then, there's days like today, where there are moments in the middle where my oldest asks "why are you over here watching us?"
"Because I like to be with you," is what I said. It is truth.
However, today I had another reason.
I was sitting on the picnic table seat for a moment before then, sipping on my cooling coffee, when I heard someone yell "I'm gonna slice your head off!"
I looked over, and there was a taller boy chasing my oldest, hands in the air in front of him, pretending to be a zombie.
We don't do zombies.
Aside from the fact that my youngest two had nightmares the night they went to the zombie walk, and periodically since then, my middle son has asked "mom, are zombies real" as we drive to daycare, following with me saying "No, buddy, they're not real," and then "Okay, they're scary," I don't see the purpose.
Now, I know people will wildly disagree with me on this topic. Popular culture dictates that zombies are fun, entertaining, imaginative, and so forth.
But I don't see the value in them. I have a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and an almost three-year-old. I know we can't escape this zombie culture, but they seem so young to have knowledge of it already. Call me old fashioned, call me a prude, call me whatever you want, but I prefer my children to have wholesome, positive imaginative play.
That, and to be quite candid, zombie apocalypse play and zombie-slashing fun go against the God-centered child-rearing I am attempting to live out.
I know that some people, again, may argue "well there are zombies in the Bible." Okay, so maybe I can see where you're coming from there. Except I disagree, and instead of forming my own argument against that, I'll link you up with one that fits my viewpoints and leave it at that.
So, I hear this child threatening, though pretending of course, to slash my kindergartner's head off, while his younger brother and sister are two feet behind him. My four-year-old yells "NOOOO! Don't KILL HIM! He's my BROTHER!" He knows, I assume, that it's pretend, but I also know that he's still working to decipher reality from make-believe on a regular basis. (See above about whether zombies are real, and add in "Do ghosts exist? Do werewolves exist? Do unicorns exist?" and so forth.)
My youngest is yelling "That's not kind!"
We have been working on our family identity recently, and our is "we are kind." We talk about it daily. We pray that God will help us be good friends, to bring people joy, to show people love, to not hurt people, to not cause people to cry.
I approached my oldest, and I said, "Buddy, we don't play zombies, do we?"
Knowing full well all these other children (roughly 8 of them) are running around pretending to kill and eat each other, and they have taken notice to the fact that I pulled my child aside, I said, "Because it's not kind. We are kind, aren't we?"
"Yes. I love to be kind!" he replied. "But it's pretend."
"But it's violent, and it goes against what Jesus asks us to do. It goes against what God wants for us to be. It goes against the Bible."
He looked at me, with his "Play Hard, Pray Hard" t-shirt on, a shirt he chose himself to wear to the park, and shook his head. "Okay, mom."
Then, came the sly kids shouting "Well, raise your hands if you're playing zombie apocalypse!"
He wanted so badly to raise his hand. I raised my eyebrows, and he kept his hand down.
"I love you, buddy."
"I love you, too, mom."
And then he ran off to play alongside the other kids. He slipped up once and pretended to shoot someone as they ran by.
"Why are you over here watching us?"
I wanted to say 'to hold you accountable and make sure you're making good choices,' but instead, I gave the answer above and let him decide what choices to make on his own.
I was proud. He didn't play zombies after.
I played alongside, hearing them laugh, seeing them smile, and looking when they'd call "Mom! Watch this!" as best as I could with all three trying to show me things at once.
The older boy ran by again, and pretended to spit on my children.
"What are you doing?" I asked him calmly.
"Spitting poisonous venom."
"We already talked about this. My children don't play zombies. You may stop now."
He ran off. I know he snickered and the others looked at me.
I didn't care if I was uncool.
I felt a little guilty that I may have made my kids seem like they were "uncool" to the other kids, but really, if being kind and playing wholesome, positive, laughter-filled play on a playground, without dark, violent themes is uncool, then they can be uncool.
They're only little once. Some day, I won't be on the playground with them. I am not always on the playground with them now, and I don't intend to be breathing down their necks at this age either. Sometimes, I'm right there though, and I believe it is my job as their God-focused mother to intervene in situations like this, to teach them Bible-centered morals and practices as best as I can.
I will pray that when it comes time to decide if they're going to join in with the make-believe bloody murder and flesh-eating attacks with their peers, they will choose our God-focused morals and remember why, right now, we are kind and we do no do zombies. I will hope and pray.
I can't control what other parents do, and their rules on zombie play or murder themed make-believe. My children even asked why the other kids play that way, and I said "their families don't have the same rules as I do." It's as simple as that.
But I do hope that if you're one who allows that sort of play, you perhaps talk to your children about playing it on playgrounds, especially those with young children and toddlers, who don't need to be and/or whose parents do not want them to be subject to such dark and gruesome themes. If that's something you allow (although I wish it wasn't), I hope that you could request your children save it for private locations, like their homes or friends homes.
Personally, I have no taste for any sort of zombie entertainment. I know tons of my friends do. That's their choice. But I choose to not have that in my own home.
I'm not a "helicopter" parent and I don't intend to be. But, I do believe that young children, mine specifically, should be allowed to enjoy positive themed play as long as possible before popular culture and dark themes of the world become more prevalent with age and their peers.
For tonight, I will pray that the themes and impressions from the pretend slashing, decapitation, and cannibalism at the playground will not leave lasting impressions on their hearts or infiltrate their dreams. We will pray again, as we do every night, that Jesus fills them with peace, joy, and good things.