Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Doctor and us

One of the things, of very many, that makes me a bad mommy (or, arguably, just feel like one) is that I watch Doctor Who with my 4-year-old daughter. (Is that hipster parenting, or what?)

Whether or not it's too narratively sophisticated for the 4-year-old mind, many parents would find it objectionable for its scary monsters, frightening situations, and violence.

(Helena's educateur had overheard her reminding her father that she'd be watching Doctor Who that evening, so he made a point of catching an episode himself. His only comment afterward to J-F: "weird." That sounds judgmental to me.)

None of these concerns outweighs my deep-seated need for a peaceful Monday evening watching my television program of choice. (Sure, I watch other programs, but none regularly.) We tried to get her to bed swiftly so that I'd be sitting comfortably and undisturbed by 8 o'clock, but she knew something was up — she dawdled, she resisted. And I was not willing to sacrifice this selfish pleasure for the sake of my daughter's well-being. So I walked away, and she followed me, and a monster of a habit was born.

I rationalize it. It's bonding time. It's not breastfeeding, or storytime, or a bath. It's something so completely outside ourselves, beyond the bonds dictated by family. It's a shared pop cultural experience.

I like that we've planted a seed of open-mindedness in her. A respect for science fiction. For space exploration. I like that she's introduced to idea of alien life and time travel, regardless of whether they're a real possibility, for the philosophical implications that must then be considered.

Helena loves monsters. And robots. Sometimes they scare her, but mostly they thrill her. Occasionally she whimpers a quiet "I'm scared" and burrows her face into my arm.

I'm not too worried about the "monsters," particularly when many of them are not essentially malevolent — they're just misunderstood, trying to survive.

The best part is, Helena asks questions.

(Possible spoilers ahead.)

This week's episode I was wary of. Children were disappearing off the streets. Creepy kids' drawings were coming to life, or trapping life. I feared Helena might take it a little more personally, relate it more directly her experience of life. But it was not so alarming as previews had suggested (episode guide).

An alien life form had essentially possessed the body of child. Its spaceship was broken. It was lost and lonely for its brothers and sisters. So it literally drew the London children into its energy field. But it wasn't a mean creature; itself it was a child, and doing what it could to survive, if a little selfishly and at the expense of others. The Doctor helped it go home.

We talked. Just because you're sad or lonely doesn't give you the right to do whatever you want. Just because you're young doesn't mean you can't be helped to understand and to do right.

We talked about drawing. How drawing can help you express your feelings. How it can make you feel better if you're sad or lonely. The difference between a drawing and reality. (One drawing depicted the girl's father as he appears in her nightmares, an emotionally twisted, dream version of reality.)

There are issues. Moral dilemmas. Logistical problems. Ongoing narrative developments. Things that are more sophisticated than contained in a half-hour Dora episode or a Kevin Henkes book. Things Helena's mind has the potential to grapple with, and some of that capacity is already afire.

The thing is, Helena likes Rose. (Not Barbie! Rose!) She asks where the Doctor is and cheers when he comes on screen, but she worries about Rose. And the thing about her liking Rose is, well, Rose is going to die.

Scenes from next week's episode reference a previous story in which the Beast said Rose would die in battle.

It's inevitable now. I know it's coming, if not next week, then soon. But I don't know how to brace Helena for it.


Stefanie said...

What a wonderful shared time together! When Rose dies it sounds like both of you will be okay simply because you will talk about it.

Bookfool said...

Rose is going to die? Oh, no!!!

We're always so far behind at receiving Doctor Who episodes, here. I envy you the time to sit and watch it with your daughter. Apart from frightening her, I don't think you're being a bad mommy to watch one favorite show with your child! I'll bet you read to her a lot more than you watch TV with her. Right?

Elizabeth said...

You are a great mommy - a mommy who knows that following those silly rules all the time is just...silly!