[I have hesitated to hit publish on the post. I'm still not sure if it is the right thing to do.] I don't remember exactly when I started going to her to cut my hair. But I've threatened her if she ever considers moving away, because she cuts my hair better than anyone ever, ever, ever has. Apparently I have difficult-to-cut-well hair; she told me so. I just seriously love what she does. She makes me feel beautiful in a land where I've felt like I had the worst hair on the planet for thirty years. She assures me she won't ever move, but man, I'll be up a creek if she does.
It was time to visit her again and we had the usual discussions. If you know me, you know I'm not real big on surface chitchat. I'd rather not talk at all if all we're going to discuss is stupid non-consequential stuff (please oh please do not dictate to me the storyline and dialogue of a tv show or movie, scene by scene. please). So the hairdresser chat talk has always been a struggle for me. But I try to take it to deeper places and she usually bends to me. Another reason I like her. I don't think I am someone she would ever choose to befriend on the outside world, but I always walk away feeling like we had a good time and a good talk.
She is younger and doesn't have children of her own yet, but she does have nieces and nephews. We can relate some on that front. So on this visit, the talk had meandered onto movies and tv shows and the language in them. The lovely show Spongebob was introduced and I vehemently exclaimed how I feel that show is just awful and I do not, and will not, let my kids watch it.
[It's always great when we walk into a crowded doctor office waiting room and Little Buddy gasps, then shouts "Mommy! That BAD show is on!!!" while every other kid is happily watching away and their parents give me the evil eye. Seriously, it seems that it always playing wherever we seek medical attention all over the region of east Tennessee.]
Earlier in the conversation I mentioned how Little Buddy loves to watch
[If you are not familiar with Billy, it is a reality/documentary type show produced by A&E. Billy's Bio on A&E.com puts it plainly:
is "the spikey-haired, leather-bound, chain-mail donning founder of the Louisiana-based family-owned pest control business, Vexcon LLC,." Many would say Billy's appearance is extreme and his language is uncensored. The show chronicles the adventures of aiding clients in the elimination of their pest problems. Click the
to find out more. Image from A&E website.
So, we watch Billy. I think she was a little surprised that I'd let Little Buddy watch it. I'm sure she isn't the only one who is surprised that I do. Her response to my Spongebob outburst however took
a little by surprise.
"So wait... you let your kids watch Billy the Exterminator, but you won't let them watch Spongebob."
I answer, fully confidant in my reply because it makes perfect sense to me. Yes, yes I do.
She sarcastically replies, "Riiiiiiight, Carey. That makes a whole lotta sense."
My hairdresser has just insulted me. And I could see how, on the surface, it does seem a little confusing. Though it
make perfect sense to me. (But I guess hypocrisy makes perfect sense to all hypocrites, no? perhaps I'm just a deluded hypocrite.) I replied with an attempt to quickly explain it. How Billy chooses to use filthy language and we discuss how that isn't a life choice we want to make, but in Spongebob, those characters are just plain nasty to each other. How they interact. It's a respect issue and we won't view that."
I think she rolled her eyes. Said "uh huh" in a sarcastic way. And then everything was
awkward from that point out. I'm not sure if she realized that she'd offended me. I'm not sure if she realized that was probably not the wisest customer service move on her part. Perhaps she did and that's why she was strangely silent from there on out.
I paid, scheduled the next appointment, and got in my van.
By this point I was fuming, to put it mildly.
She had boldly, and in front of other wildly listening ears, told me she thought I was full of it. I admit, my pride was stung. And I didn't defend myself adequately at all.
Then I got mad at myself for getting mad. I began the introspection of introspections that my brain always defers to. Okay, Carey. You're mad. WHY are you mad? If you are mad and defensive, it's probably because she hit a tender spot. Because you know she is right and you're being a self righteous, obstinate, hypocritical, pharisaical, judgmental person who refuses to admit error. Shame on you. Serves you right to get humiliated in public over it.
As I continued to drive home, however, the clarity of this seemingly conflicting decision to banish Spongebob yet embrace Billy hit me. You know, I just don't think well on my feet. Never have. I take time to process. My brain seems to connect so much better when I'm typing my words than when I speak them. Not to mention when I'm flustered at being misunderstood and insulted. That inserts itself between my brain synapses and coherent thought ceases. Well, that and how there's just entirely too much swirling around in my brain at any given moment, so access to decisions and thought processes made long ago is no longer instantaneous.
I have never 'watched' Spongebob (though we were mad fiend fans of Pinky and the Brain in college). I viewed pieces of an episode here or there several years ago when we were first entering the kid cartoon world. I was utterly appalled at the language the characters used. I was utterly appalled at the way the characters interacted. I was utterly flabbergasted that any parent would choose to put their child in front of this show. Particularly a toddler/preschool age child. So I made the decision that this would not be something we were part of. Yes, all shows, and I do mean all, include things I wish they hadn't, both in language and behavior. But Spongebob seemed to be all ABOUT what I didn't want them to hear/see/observe/model.
[One of my sin tendencies is to be judgmental. It just is. I have and am working so hard to break this down. So in sharing this, I very, very, very much do not want to sound judgmental. I don't want you to come away thinking I will judge you if you let your kids watch Spongebob. Over the years I have observed that I am in the minority here and that lots of people think its great. This is a personal decision here, for our family. There is no one size fits all, ever. That is all. ]
My kids, both of them, have always been fascinated by animals and creatures. They've never played with little kid versions of things - they are always drawn the realistic versions. Little Buddy has never been into cars. He's had small little forays into construction, which mostly included the simultaneous foray into dirt and mud. But on the whole, he has been all about animals. Specifically ocean creatures. But I believe that our family fascination with Billy the Exterminator began earlier last summer when we bought an animal trap ourselves. We needed to catch, and relocate, the pesky groundhog who was eating up our garden. Before we got him, we caught two raccoons, a rabbit, and a neighborhood cat. I believe it was then that Little Buddy began to be fascinated by this world of extermination. The kids just loved dealing with the trap.
So we began to watch the show.
's language is unpleasant to put it mildly. He says almost all of the words that I'd really rather my kids have never heard, let alone use. But dude!!! Little Buddy LOVES it. I mean, LOVES it. For a while, he wanted to be Billy for Halloween! He loves learning about the different animals and bugs. Learning about the different techniques required to catch them. And what to do with them once they've been removed from the undesired situations.
Little Buddy loves to learn. He just does. He is so very much MY kid. He soaks up knowledge, on a topic of interest, like a dry sponge in the desert. Billy the Exterminator combines entertainment with learning on a subject he is fascinated by. I love that.
Little Buddy recently turned five. While he is a boy, I do feel that he is emotionally mature for his age. He's very logical and he reasons. He thinks things through. And when I hesitated to let him continue watching the show, due to the language mostly, I realized that we could talk about this. That he was at a maturity level that allowed some understanding.
He's in preschool. He's around other kids from other families with different values and priorities than ours. I cannot keep him in a bubble. I shouldn't keep him in a bubble. It is my job as his mom to keep him innocent. It is my job to protect him. But it also my job to prepare him. The older he gets, the more he is exposed to, just walking around our world. He'll be reading soon, and I know I'll get the questions about what billboards say and store names. Places that I'd rather not have to explain. And goodness, just taking a trip to walmart opens a Pandora's box of possibilities of what he will see/hear/observe.
At some point, I must begin to
discern on his own
what is good, honorable, noble, pure, and righteous
. Being able to make the decisions on his own is something that I believe we must always teach. There's not a day when, bam, he's old enough to begin that lesson. We must always be teaching that lesson.
So we've talked about how Billy uses words that are ugly. And that we don't say those words in our family. Billy has made a poor decision to speak in that way. And there are consequences to his bad choice.
But do we turn our backs on him because he's made a bad choice?
Is that what Jesus asks us to do? Run away from someone who doesn't fit the perfect mold of Americanized Pre-Fabricated Christian? Run away from someone who makes a mistake? Makes a bad choice?
It was when I realized we were teaching another lesson, through allowing Billy the Exterminator, into our home that I felt great about my decision.
Billy is letting us demonstrate how we are going to love and accept anyone, even if they make a poor choice. Even if they do something we consider wrong. We love them anyway. We accept them anyway. We
them into our lives. We may not adopt their ways as our own, we may not condone their choices or actions, but we love them anyway. We do not turn our backs.
I want my kids to grow up with this mentality. Because that is what Jesus has called us to do. We aren't supposed to put ourselves in a capsule and only allow in those who look like us, act like us, believe like us. And I'm making the most of a parenting opportunity made available to me. I could lecture this topic til I'm blue in the face, and more than likely, Little Buddy wouldn't understand where I was going with my words. But using something he is interested in to demonstrate my point, makes this a very effective lesson for all of us. I can visibly demonstrate to my kids how we are going to obey something Jesus has asked of us.
Jesus didn't seek out those who looked outwardly appealing. He didn't turn away those who were everything he spoke against. He embraced them. He welcomed them. He loved them. He may not love their actions and decisions, but he loves
I made this mistake of turning my back when I was in college. My closest friend in the world, who knew who I was and what I'd come from, who could identify with me on things I cannot put into words even now, who I'd been with since 8th grade, chose to enter the world of alcohol during our freshmen year in college. She went to Carolina while many of the rest of us were at NC State. I still wish she'd come with us to State. But what happened, happened. When I discovered this was what she was pursuing, I couldn't handle it. I'd grown up in a home where alcohol and its painful ramifications were rampant. I experienced a whole lot of hurt from alcohol. Alcohol has wounded my heart and my soul. I couldn't handle my friends, let alone my best one, being part of that. I really don't remember the discussion. But somehow our friendship ended. And I mean ended. Cut ties. I wanted nothing to do with her if this was the road she pursued. I felt like my entire reality had spun on its axis. I felt so betrayed. I was so very hurt. And I couldn't handle being around someone who didn't share my feelings and perspectives, wholly.
That was in 1998. I dumped her. I abandoned her. I turned away and never looked back. Because she didn't meet my standards.
She found me on facebook in 2007. Nearly a decade later. We reconciled. And though she's a million miles away from me geographically, STILL she knows my heart like nearly none other. There's a part of me that is so full of joy to have her back with me, I could nearly burst. It frustrates me so much that she's so far away and we can't connect face to face, but I'm so grateful for technology and the opportunity to connect with her there.
But you know what? She doesn't hold a lot of my values. Still. And that old me would have continued to shun her, because we are not on the same page on some issues. But that's not what Jesus asks me to do. And my heart is so happy to have her back with me now. Jesus asks me to love her anyway, and we are both the better for it. And I missed out on 10 years of her life because of my mistake.
So back to Billy. Billy chooses to use filthy language that we don't use. But you know what else? Billy is also a really nice guy. He's always very, very respectful to those he encounters. He's knowledgeable about his craft and he's willing to share about that. He's concerned about the animals' well-being and demonstrates the decisions he makes around that. He's responsible, dedicated, and hard working. He's incredibly well spoken. He's doing a job that most people would consider disgusting and beneath them, with confidence, grace, and finesse. He's demonstrating a whole host of great character traits that I want my children to see in someone else besides mom and dad. We've learned so much just watching the show, and had a good time while doing it.
We've watched the family dynamics that admittedly aren't my favorite. But again, we've used this as a learning opportunity. My kids are so, so blessed and so, so sheltered. They don't know that every child doesn't live in a fairy tale home life like they get. So they have an opportunity to see, in a safe way, how downright ugly those family members in Billy's family can be to one another at times. And we can discuss how there are children who have to grow up in families where the members aren't nice to each other. We are opening their eyes to the plights of others and instilling some empathy within their hearts. We talk about how it must feel to be spoken to in those ways and how we want to always choose not to do that to each other. To make good decisions, even when we are frustrated or angry or stressed. We couldn't have that conversation if they'd never witnessed something of the sort.
Billy also gives us a learning opportunity on the tolerance front. I love the area of the country that we call home for many reasons. But one thing I don't like is the complete lack of cultural diversity. I grew up in a home that wasn't tolerant of others and I don't want that for my children. But I knew it would be more difficult to instill that value when they simply were hardly ever exposed to anyone who looked any different than they do.
But you know what? Neither Little Buddy, nor Little Lady, has never, not once, asked me why someone else looked the way they did.
I don't want to take credit for that. I don't know why they haven't. I'm not trying to say I'm some great parent, and I know now that by writing and publishing this very thing, I'll get a nice piece of humble pie real soon. But regardless, they have never asked. They've never seemed to notice that some people have different skin tones. They've never seemed to notice that some people dress in different ways or wear their hair in more flamboyant styles. The only thing that seems to be an issue is hair length. Little Buddy is just really confused by women with short hair. He seems to think that anyone, children included, with short hair is a boy. It doesn't bother him - he just insists they are boys. Though there are several people in our life who are adult females with short hair that he knows are women, anyone new with short hair is a boy. I think this is just a factor of his very logical, reasoning brain.
At any rate, I don't want him to grow up feeling that there are differences between people based on how they choose or don't choose to appear. I want him to be open and tolerant and accepting to anyone. Everyone. Whether it is an issue, like race, that isn't a choice, or an issue like appearance, that is.
So Billy's appearance is not like ours. And ironically for Little Buddy, both he and his brother Ricky wear their hair long.
He looks 'extreme' to many in America. But Little Buddy doesn't think a thing of it. And that makes my heart happy.
He's growing up with the mindset that one's appearance is not the basis on which to make judgements.
All of this to say, perhaps I am a hypocrite. Perhaps I look like a typical southern hypocrite Christian who will condemn one rally issue, fighting to the death, while fully embracing another issue and sweeping the conflict under the rug. Perhaps I've deluded myself to make my heart feel better about a bad decision. Perhaps the two shows are really no different in terms of what I would allow in my home for my children to see. I will pray for more clarity and wisdom on that case.
But today, I stand firm in my decision. I'm thankful for the life lessons that Billy the Exterminator has brought into our home, something a hateful cartoon never could. I'm thankful for the further cultivation of the love of learning. I'm thankful for the opportunity to teach that we love others, no matter what they look like, no matter what decisions they make.