Age-Rating Literature

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Last night I sat in a meeting that left my stomach in knots. I even woke up with the topic on my mind, deeply concerned about an issue that faces all of us even if we don’t have kids in the mix. The topic: sexually graphic nature/mature themes in school-approved/required literature.

“Sex… profanity… rape. Those are just three of the controversial subjects many parents in the Highland Park Independent School District don’t want their children reading about in school.

When most of us were young, none of this was an issue. Not only in literature, but also on television and in the movies. I remember giggling and gasping with my siblings at Jane Russel proudly displaying the Playtex Cross Your Heart Bra in the 1970s. Playtex was the first to advertise undergarments on national television in 1955 and the first to show a woman wearing only a bra from the waist-up in a commercial in 1977. Such a display was culturally considered inappropriate.

When cable television made its way to my home-town in the 1980s, the City Council called for the citizens to weigh in on whether the service should be allowed. In order to address concerns regarding the graphic nature of increased viewing options, the cable company happily provided a parental lock box with a key. Homes could choose to literally lock channels inappropriate for the viewers in their home. We have the ability to do that even today through age-appropriateness parental settings. And in our home we use it. (Even our adult selves.)

Cell phones have added easy-to-use ratings based on content and age-appropriateness. If I desire, I can access restriction settings to limit content. Right now on my phone, the Apps are limited to 12+, television to “TV-14”, movies “PG-13”. And “Explicit” material is banned on music and podcasts. I’m happy to know that my 7 year-old, and even my teens, won’t stumble on something they don’t need to be seeing.

It gives all of us comfort to know that certain mature-themed material requires an extra step of accountability to be acquired. Let’s call a spade a spade and go in with eyes open.

We provide ratings in almost every venue. Movies, games, music, tv-shows, etc. are rated – for a reason. And despite the kid-push-back and the inevitable battles it produces (“It’s PG-13 and I’m 13! I can see it!), and the lure for kids to break the rules (I saw some busted just this weekend as an AMC employee pulled them out of an R-rated film), I am forever grateful for the help. And I tell my kids, we do this because you’re worth it.

Last night’s School Board Meeting made me realize that this issue is far larger than the classrooms in our little neighborhood. Books, including youth fiction, need to be rated. Youth fiction is a different landscape than the days of Beverly Cleary. Several parents read aloud selections, those digested and discussed in classrooms, that could only be described as pornographic. They choked as they forced their mouths to say words they would never speak in the presence of a child – regardless of age. And the thing about literature… it takes seeing to a new level, traveling to deep thinking and introspective contemplation.

So, Publishers please take a lesson from the MPAA, iTunes, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board – shown below) and more. Age-rate books.

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In August, David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, did the same thing with music videos that we need to do with books:

From October, we’re going to help parents protect their children from some of the graphic content in online music videos by working with the British Board of Film Classification, Vevo and YouTube to pilot the age rating of these videos.

This is not about burning, banning or censoring. It is about rating the thematic nature of the material in order to guard impressionable minds.

As I sat in our School Board meeting last night, I looked around the room. The School Board itself is comprised of people who care enough about kids and their education to sacrifice a large chunk of their valuable time to the cause. Teachers and Administrators devote their lives to education. And, parents, who came out in force, fight for the protection of their children’s minds. Working together could be streamlined with a little help from the publishing industry.

Cameron said he has blocked his children from watching some content online. He said: “As for my own children I am sure there are times when they have been disappointed because they haven’t been able to do something or see something. But that is part of what being a parent is about – being able to deploy the use of the word no and sometimes even to deploy the off switch on the television, unpopular as that can sometimes be, and sometimes ineffectual because they find another screen somewhere to switch on.”

The framework has been set by other industries, publishers should must follow suit.

Thoughts?

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

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CBS11 news coverage on the issue.

Dissapointment – An unlikely gift

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Since the start of school, life has been a bit crazy.

It has something to do with my flaky, not so organized, stop-and-smell-the-roses way of living. Which is a fine way of living – until deadlines enter the picture. Deadlines and forms. Forms that have to be turned in … not lost. Deadlines and calendars. Calendars that list (or should list) meetings. Meetings that need to be remembered in order to attend.

So, I’m still not sure all of our bases are covered. But I’m hoping.

And, the start of school has already been up to its teachy-ways with more than one lesson to learn – not all of which involve textbooks and teachers. A few came from Barton’s volleyball team try-outs last week.

Now, I know that I’m a sucker for my own kids. In fact, I might err on the side of total sap. Even though my kids can get my ire like no others, they pretty much walk on water in my book. To say I’m their biggest fan is an understatement. (It’s that parent thing.)

And, though not all of the Wyma kids are athletes, a few of them have natural talent and ability. Barton is one of them. She has instinct and feel, like her athletic dad.

Last year, Barton made the volleyball team at her school. Trying out, she was a tiny bit nervous since most of the girls play on club teams – which she doesn’t. But she made it anyway. Not playing on club teams is a life decision for us. Barton’s older sister played on a club team for one season. No one in our home liked how it ruled our life. Multiply that times five… and we’re just not sure it’s worth it. For us.

Still, I offered her a couple camps, some clinics, practice with her sister’s school-team before last week’s try-outs … but she said no. She loves the game and figured she would step up and do what she did last year.

She stepped up; but apparently it wasn’t enough. At then end of a stressful try-out week, we looked on the coaches web page to see her number missing from the list that made the team.

My stomach hurt. My heart ached for her as she stared at the list in disbelief. Sadness took over every emotion.

We refreshed the page a couple times in hopes that maybe it was a mistake. Could I have clicked on the 7th grade team instead of 8th grade? Was that 7 actually a 1? I hadn’t; it wasn’t. She didn’t make the team.

Within moments, I had to leave to take her brother to his cross-country meet. I hugged her and told her how proud I am of her and how much I love her. Then I got in the car and gave myself a mental beating as I combed through all of the should-have’s and would-have’s. We should have done the club route, then she would have made the team. I should have forced the camps and clinics, then she would have gotten what she wanted. I should have been a better parent, then she would have been included and have group to fit into … I blew it … our life-approach has ruined hers.

But, I force myself to stop.

Failure and disappointment come with the territory. Beyond, and in the midst of, the heartache lie some absolutely golden life-lessons. Welcome to fertile training ground and some unlikely gifts that come with disappointment. Because one day she will absolutely be passed over for a promotion; she will most likely fail to get into a college she wanted; she will be left off a party invitation; she won’t be picked, she won’t be chosen … the list goes on.

What a great opportunity to walk the road next to her.

Little did I know, she was already – though begrudgingly, and a little sad – getting back up on her own.

She dreaded, but bravely responded to the “Did you make it?!” texts from now former teammates. And she was beginning to get a taste of at least one important life lesson: community. Though the blow tempted her to believe that she would be left out in the cold and alone, she wasn’t.

Before I got back from the cross-country meet, one of her friends had invited her to a movie, another a football game for the next day, and still another to go bike-riding and spend the night the day after.

Next, she was honest with herself… and me. “You know, I could have practiced more before try-outs. Next time (yes she said “next time”!) I will know to work harder on the front end.” A set-back doesn’t mean quit.

Then, in almost a pinch-me moment, as we sat a dinner that night she thoughtfully digested the disappointment and took it a step further.

“I can’t believe I didn’t make the team,” she lamented. “But I really am okay. I know it will be hard, but I will get through it.”

She took a bite of her taco and continued, “It’s weird because making a team sort of decides who you are. People put you with a group and that’s who you become. The volleyball player, or the band member or TAG student or whatever. And the truth is, I don’t like how those things define you.” She thought for a minute, then hit it home, “I kind of wish we would know people for who they are, not for what they do.”

Out of the mouth of babes can come some fairly thought-provoking words of wisdom. As usual, they apply as much to my life as they do to hers.

Hmmm…

Failure hurts; disappointment stings, but – if we can see beyond the moment – it offers opportunity for lasting growth. A gift in unlikely packaging.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Life is a like Game of Rummy

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Around our house we love games and puzzles. Okay, so I’m really the only one that likes puzzles, but I haven’t given up the fight to get the kids to join the effort. A puzzle, in all its addictive nature, forces a life-pause. And good conversation can occur in the midst of searching for just the right piece.

So, puzzles – not so much. But the games, we love. And right now it’s cards. Rummy to be exact.

Rummy goes a step beyond the game of Gin Rummy, at least the way we play it. Rummy offers a bit more strategy and gamesmanship. One hand doesn’t make the game. And, you can play off each others hands. The discard pile stays alive. Points are gathered or lost based on cards laid and those remaining in a hand. We usually play to 500. It’s exciting … and fun. And I’m so glad at least one of my kids has caught the Rummy bug. Well, mostly glad. Sometimes he can get in a huff.

“Did you shuffle?” Fury asks, slightly perturbed, as he looks at what he thinks is a less than winning hand.

“Yes,” I reply. “You watched me.”

He eyed me suspiciously. I ignored him.

It was my turn to go first, so I do something that is sure to fire up ire. I begin the game by laying down points.

“What?!” he protests. “That’s not fair…. You had those in your hand?”

I did. What can I do but admit, “I was a dealt a great hand.”

“That’s not fair!” the he protests again. “My hand is terrible.” Then he goes down the road of poor-pitiful-me. “I’m going to lose. That’s all there is too it. I’m losing for sure.”

“You know that’s not true,” I try to offer perspective, trying to remind him it’s a game. His hand doesn’t define him. You know, all that mom-stuff that sounds like squirrel chatter to stubborn, I’ve-been-wronged, feeling-sorry-for-myself ears.

“There are a lot of cards to play,” I encourage him. But he wanted nothing to do with it. He was dying to know my hand. And to lament even further the unfairness of it all.

“What else do you have,” he asked. “I bet you have the aces, too.”

“Oh my word,” I shake my head. “I didn’t do anything to get this hand. It’s a game. You had a great hand last time. Can’t you be happy for me this time?”

“We need to start over… My hand is terrible. It’s the worst hand ever!” he huffed and dug in, determined to be miserable.

We didn’t start over. We played that hand and more. And he actually won the game. He ended with more points than me even though such a prospect looked dim at the beginning.

It’s a little like life, isn’t it.

We start something like a new school year, and we eye each other’s cards, thinking about all the I’m-so-glad-I-got’s – or wallowing in the I-wish-I-had’s. Someone got the teacher our child wanted. The “other” class has a better group than ours. My kid should have been on the other team, or sitting in another desk. OR maybe my kid got it all great. They have a terrific hand. Their cards are everything for which we/they hoped.

But like Rummy, the game is long. It isn’t over after one hand. It doesn’t end with the first play. Lots can change. Life is so much more than a single hand. It’s made up of multiple hands, that work together to make the whole. Still, we try to position ourselves to have the best, to be the best. And, it’s often hard to rest with the hand we’re dealt.

Then we can’t help but wander –what’s in her hand?… what if that card is an Ace? We worry about what everyone else has. And, the agony of not knowing magnetically pulls us to want to know… mostly so I can be sure mine’s okay.

But, unlike the game of cards that truly hinges on luck and timing, the Dealer in the game of life knows never relies on luck. He knows each and every hand that is dealt. Because He creates them. He distributes the cards purposefully. He tailor makes every hand for every player. And he is Lord over all of the timing.

Is it fair to compare life to a card game? Probably not. But I couldn’t help it. I’m tired of there being a right way; I’m tired of the pressure to strive; I’m tired of all the endless spin and positioning; I’m tired of defining based on dealt-hand. It really seems to sap a lot of the joy out of life. Do we lose sight of enjoying all that is around us as we take the be-better-than bait?

I’ve been reading about David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel. Two people dealt two different hands. The latter, by all logic and standards, should have had the former’s hand. He was the heir apparent. But the king card was never his to play. And he was happy. His joy wasn’t sapped. He even celebrated the one who would be king. How could he do that?

I think it had something to do with trusting the Dealer.

Such trust allowed Jonathan to care for and encourage those around him, rather than be consumed by fairIt wasn’t getting ahead or winning or being better, maybe even best, that offered peace. It was in serving, accepting, embracing, doing his best with his hand … that he found freedom to breathe.

I need to remember that. Please … remind me in the midst of college acceptances/rejections, sorority bids/cuts, making the A or C team, teacher/locker/room assignments, party invitations or lack thereof, carpool inclusion/exclusion … to look at the Dealer and to trust rather than have my boat rocked by my idea of a good hand.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God, “Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this. 1 Samuel 23:16-17

Missionary Dresser … not for the faint of heart

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For those who might not know, Jon grew up on the mission field. His parents lived on a tributary of the Amazon River with an indigenous tribe called the Ese Ejas. They became family to each other. So much so, Jon’s oldest sister and her family still live in Bolivia. Mission work is in the Wyma blood.

So, when Jon and I met and we realized we were falling in love, one of the first things Jon asked me was, “Do you think you could be a missionary?” I responded with an enthusiastic, whole-hearted affirmation, “Absolutely!” And I leaned into the dreamy adventure of it all.

Well, it didn’t take long for Jon to question my response. His doubt might have had something to do with my reaction to a roach in our first little rental home. In my defense, that bug was huge and quite possibly flew. But, Jon just shook his head and laughed as he he killed the dreaded intruder. “… And you think you could handle the mission field? It’s this – ” he said holding the dead creature, “times a thousand – and then some. Not to mention the tarantulas, the snakes, the… “ He didn’t need to go on. I’ll admit it. I’m a weenie. I’ll take 1000-thread sheet count over 1000 bugs any day.

But I realized today, that though I might not be a missionary in a jungle on the Amazon River or live a village far across the globe, I am a missionary in Dallas.

A missionary … in a slightly unconventional, but equally as loving, way.

My mission field is social gatherings and functions of any type. Yes, I’m a Missionary Dresser. In fact, I did it this morning – providing fertile ground on which those around me could walk and feel good about themselves. It’s my gift to the world.

At our school’s Parent Fellowship meeting to start the year, I showed up in a white t-shirt from Target and old tennis skirt that I might have worn yesterday (eek) – but only part of yesterday. Please… I’m not that gauche.

“Wow… you already played tennis this morning?” asked one of the new teachers who I was meeting for the first time.

“Ummm….” What?! It’s 8 AM. I’m still trying to remember to back out of the driveway with a full car – full of people and gas. “No … I um…” I wondered if I should admit that a lot of Dallas tennis-skirt wearers do so without always playing; instead I changed the subject. “So how are you liking it here in Big D?”

You might think my unbrushed hair, swept up in a make-shift bun is a last-minute, run-out-the-door routine. It isn’t. I carefully consider, as I get out of bed and forget to brush my teeth, that everyone with whom I come into contact will feel better about themselves because of me.

I’m a Missionary Dresser. I like to set the bar low. Any self-conscious guest can rest assured and feel good because, “at least I’m not wearing what she is!” And, for those concerned about forgetting to grab a piece of gum to combat morning breath? Stand next to me… I just had black coffee. You’re good to go.

And, yes, that’s me in the broom skirt from the 1990′s and sandals, revealing a pedicure gone bad. The invitation said casual chic? I mean really – who even knows what that means? No worries. In my capacity as missionary dresser, I’m there for you. I live to help you feel good about your styling decision – no matter the outfit.

And make-up? Yeah, I’ve got that covered, too – or not. I’ve no clue how to use it. Remedial at best. So stand by me and breathe. You’re beautiful.

Look for me at the next function, school meeting, or social gathering – I’m the one underdressed. I’ll postpone my shower and wait to put on deodorant – for you. Because, I’m there for you. I set the bar low so that others can stand confident in the fact that at least they don’t sit at the bottom of the stylish totem pole.

Missionary dressing. It might not be the Amazon River, but it’s still a worthy cause.

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“Hmmmm…” I look down at a recent interview and question whether I should have reconsidered getting that pedicure ~~ Nahhh… setting the bar low so others feel good about themselves.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay