Monday, June 28, 2010

On Bubble Wrap, Armored Cars, and Agency

Angie commented on my last post with something that I want to address more directly in a post:

I think in soul gripping fear that we parents want to encase our children in bubble wrap so to speak. If there is bad on the Internet, don't have it, if there is bad on cable, don't pay for it (I remember a certain roommate whose parents vowed to never have cable because MTV was there), if if if. The thing is, none of that bubble wrap actually works. We have to immerse our souls in gospel light to protect ourselves and our children when we go out into the world. Only then are we able to recognize toxic situations and know if there is a way to mitigate damage or if we must just opt out. Only with sufficient internal light will we be able to navigate the minefields that are rampant in the world. That internal light will attract those of like mind, who are searching, to us so that we can find all that is good and all who are good in the world.

This reminds me of something a former bishop used to say: "We sometimes want to put our children in an armored car. But we have to help them learn how to put on the armor of God."

So, how do we do this?

Actually, in our home, we don't have a TV connection. It is one of the lines we have drawn both for spiritual but also for practical reasons (we're cheap!) We also find TV for us to be a potential distraction, nevermind the potential "bad" that is there. We feel great about this choice.

But I know we are actually in the minority, and I don't think those who have a TV/Cable/Satellite connection are "bad" people.

To me, this issue of how and where to draw lines brings up an important point. There is no One Right Way to prepare our children to both be able to face the "bad" and to embrace the good. Each family has the responsibility and opportunity to figure out what is Right for them.

Bathing our children in light is, in my mind, a combination of deliberate focus on good and also the avoidance of evil. As Angie points out, bubble wrap -- avoidance alone -- will not work on its own. But I think avoidance can have its place, if it's coupled with filling lives with light and truth and teaching. It's one thing to draw lines out of fear, it's another thing, imo, to do so deliberately and to teach about why those lines are being drawn.

But again, for each family, how both are done can vary, and vary quite a bit!

- There are people who choose to homeschool to keep outside influences down and family/gospel time up. But there is nothing that says homeschooling is more righteous (so anyone who wants to try to suggest that to me is out of line).

- There are people who choose to limit internet access. I imagine there are some who choose not to have it at all. I don't see a Right answer on this score, either, except to have any internet access monitored and public (with computer in a spot where everyone can see, not in a bedroom, etc.)

- There are those who draw a line at a certain kind of movie, e.g., "No PG-13 movies in our family." Prophets in the past drew lines at rated-R movies, but we all know there's a whole lot that isn't rated R that is probably best left unseen. Others may draw lines with movies on a more case-by-case basis. Some live in countries without ratings, and it's wise to note that ratings are no guarantee.

- I've been fascinated to see how parents in my area feel about specific movies, and I love how we have been deliberate about respecting each others' lines. I'm talking differences regarding Disney and even LDS cinema. I love it, actually, because it shows that we are each willing to draw lines even when our close friends are doing something different. I saw similar differences with how people dealt wiht Harry Potter books and movies with their kids.

- Some families choose not to have video games at all. Others have multiple options. I see differences with choices about iPods and cell phones, too. Is there a Right answer here? I don't think so.

- I think we could also discuss things like curfews, dating rules, etc.

One of the central doctrines of Mormonism is agency. We are given guidance about truth -- in this case, the need to keep ourselves pure and unspotted from the world, to feed our spirits, to try to be more like the Savior, etc. We are given counsel about practical things like being wise with our entertainment use and being courageous enough to draw lines in our lives.

But we are rarely told exactly where and how to draw those lines.

So, I'm curious to hear others' thoughts on how to help develop the internal light of your children and also how and where you choose to draw lines.


  1. You know we ditched our cable recently too. We did it mostly (aside from the money factor) to be more mindful in our choices. Mindfulness in our access to media is key for me. When we passively accept whatever wanders past our eyes and ears, we can easily find ourselves perforating previously drawn lines and failing to draw necessary lines. And one thing I have found repeatedly for myself, when I fail to purposefully occupy my time, my spirit is not nourished--the same for my children. When they actively choose (with parental help) how to use their time, everything goes better, but when the media or the activity is more passive or more listless, it leads to trouble. We all know the scripture in Joshua about choosing to serve the Lord. I firmly believe that the choice isn't a once only deal. After the first choice (and the covenant making choices), we must make active choices each day (this day=every day) to continue to serve the Lord, to seek the light, to recommit to covenants made and paths chosen or we get dim--in our light, in our intellect in our ability to make choices.

    And that's probably enough heard out of me for a while :)

  2. I love this post, Michelle. I think you are exactly right. The answer to each of these is an individual choice - we don't all get the same revelation. We're all hoping to be better in our choices, I think.

  3. Angie, I could never have too much of your thoughts. I LOVE what you are saying about choosing daily. I think it ties into the notion of "improving our time." It's so easy to be passive. I struggle against that kind of passiveness a lot, especially when I don't feel good so often. (I'm sure you understand that.)

    Amanda, you bring up a good point about giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

    I think the more we focus honestly on our own journeys, the less we need to focus on others'. (I think we tend to compare and criticize more when we are feeling insecure about our own choices or situations.)

  4. Good post. We could use a little more of this type of tolerance and understanding throughout our Mormon culture.

    A big impact on the choices we make as parents is how we were raised. My husband and I seem to have sling-shotted - meaning he's gone more liberal in these things than his parents. While my parents were liberal and I've gone conservative. So in the end my husband and I compromise. I could go without cable/satellite but he won't hear of it.

    Then there are the things that we feel we should do but it's just too much. My example is eating healthy - I think it would be best for my body if I gave up sugar and sugar substitutes forever. Right now in my life that would take a huge amount of my concentration and willpower. I don't have that concentration and willpower to spare so that's a fight for another day. The concept applies to parenting choices as well.

  5. I like the armored car analogy. We cannot protect our children in the long-term; we can only teach them to protect themselves by putting on the whole armor of God and warning them of danger.

    We also have no TV connection at our house.