Pretend Reality

This past summer, before we moved, my 6yr old son and 4yr old daughter were playing with our 10yr old neighbor. We'll call the neighbor, "Tina". The three have lately been playing "house".
Aah...the memories.

They usually "set up house" in the corner of the yard, but when I walked outside, Abby & Tina had some of their stuff in the garage, while Aaron Job was sitting out at the other "house". I really didn't think anything about it until Tina voluntarily explained.

She said, "We're living here now, 'cause we got a divorce."

I called my son up into the garage and without thinking, began my speech with what I'm sure should've pierced the sin-shriveled conscience of any 6 & 10 year old. "Do you know what a divorce is?"

Tina: "Um, it's when two people aren't together anymore...and they sign some papers."

Me: "Aaron Job...do you know what a divorce is?"

Aaron Job: "Breaking the 10 Commandments?" (not quite what I expected from him)

Me (still a bit shocked at this) "No. A divorce is when two people say they love each other and then make a vow before God that they will love each other until the day they die then when things don't work out as they like, they decide to break that vow they made before God and go their seperate ways, leaving the little children in the middle of a big mess and the poor children don't know what to do or who to live with. It's a very bad thing."

So...how'd you think I did? Don't answer yet...there's more...

Tina: "Ok then. We'll just be seperated."

Me: "You know...um, no. No, you're not going to just be seperated. I don't mind if you guys play house and pretent to be a family, but if you're having problems, you need to work them out. You guys need to learn to talk about your problems and forgive each other. Ok?"

Kids: "Ok! We'll work it out."

End of teachable moment.

I know I probably didn't take advantage of this opportunity like I should, but I was a bit taken by suprise. Why? I don't know... I shouldn't have been. This is the culture in which we live. I happen to know that in real life, Tina's mom just recently remarried, so she's probably never really known what a functional family looks like. I can't really blame her for her choice of pretend-marital-problem-solving options. To her, that indeed is reality.

However, I don't believe that we should let "reality" inform us. Actually, that would be backwards wouldn't it? "Reality" is what we create, isn't it? Which is kind of what frustrates me with all the justification for "reality" television shows - or any tv/movie that portrays "reality".

We just don't see much of the Waltons, Ingalls, Cleavers & Bradys anymore. "That's just not reality", they say. Well, granted, solving all of life's problems in 30 minutes certainly isn't reality, but the idea that families actually get along for the most part and can act civil toward each other and can use clean language and CAN solve life's problems in a respectable way can be reality. It works in my house (for the most part), seriously. How 'bout yours?

The point of this isn't to launch a campaign for cleaner entertainment, though I'm all for that. My point is that we have allowed the culture's dysfunctional "reality" to become the norm for our own families. Our perception of what is attainable within our home is grossly skewed and dwarfed by what we're seeing on tv, which is supposed to be accurately portraying reality. We don't expect our children to speak kindly to each other because "that's just not reality", we don't expect our teens to stay chaste until marriage because "that's just not reality".

Not to mention the unrealistic expectations in the husband/wife relationship - you'd be labeled a fool at best if you actually thought a home should be lead by the husband and kept by the wife. Though I'm not sure if this is what it should look like.

Problems are inevitable because sin exists - but that's what the Gospel is for. The Gospel brings hope for reconciliation - first and foremost between sinful men and a holy God, but the Gospel also allows reconciliation between sinful people - husbands and wives, children and parents, etc.

The Gospel is reality.


jenny leigh said...

awe...it just shows that things are very different now...and how we as adults have to really watch what we say and do...this reminded me of the article I read about Seasme Street(which I grew up on and I didn't catch anything bad on the shows...)and how ever character had his/her problems...suicidle/overweight/depressed etc. I think it is all CRAZY! Anyway THANKS for sharing the story, I enjoyed reading it!

Kim said...

I think you handled it very well...I know there are children who have been through terrible family situations and they don't know any better...because they have not been taught. That makes me sad. I would be bothered by my children being exposed to this kind of play, but teaching their hearts God's ways as these things come up is what we need to be doing, so great job!

I really think we as christian parents should still be shocked and saddended over these kinds of things happening all around us...then our children see the terrible thing that it is. We recently explained what divorce was to Evie. It was very hard for her to understand it, except we know she got that it was very wrong and sad and we want all marriages to be what the Bible says. We,also, assured her it would not happen in our family, which greatly relieved her.

Great post!

Wendy said...

I think you handled it well, too. That would certainly take me by surprise, should I ever come across such a scene.

It's amazing just how much kids pick up, isn't it? And, yes the culture's dysfunctional reality has become the norm...part of why Christians have the same divorce rate as non-Christians.

If we aren't intentional about everything, the culture will prevail.