I don’t want him to grow up

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I was watching The Simpson’s with my 8-year-old son for the first time. It was a little after 8 p.m. We were seated next to each other on the sofa. Tristan was snuggled up next to me, wearing loose blue and yellow Pokémon pajamas. Mel and my two daughters were out of the house, I don’t recall where. It was just the two of us.


I’m a huge Simpson’s fan. Or at least… I used to be. I own many of the seasons on DVD. They are lined up along my living room wall on a shelf, like artifacts of a former self. After having kids, I kind of stopped watching it as often. Not that the show got bad (I hear that it kind of did, but I haven’t been watching, so I wouldn’t know) more that I just didn’t have the time. My kids control the TV now. I watch a lot of kid shows. Animal protagonists. Puppets. I know a lot about Pokémon and The Littlest Pet Shop. I’ve seen every episode of Blue’s Clues. None of these shows are influences on my life.


But The Simpson’s, at one time, that show was huge for me. I watched it almost every day. It was my go to show for a laugh, or to unwind. So it was kind of a big deal when I felt Tristan was old enough to get it. I looked forward to the moment when I could sit next to my son, relax, and watch The Simpson’s. It felt like a right of passage, or something. It was also a slight source of tension in my marriage. Mel didn’t like the idea of the kids watching the Simpsons. “It’s not a good show for kids. Too much adult humor,” she said.


“Oh come on! It’s funny. Most of the naughty stuff will go right over their heads.”


She didn’t agree. Long story short, Mel didn’t know that Tristan and I were watching The Simpson’s. It was to be our “little secret.”


It was an episode from the first season, when Bart and Lisa are left home with some ‘for hire’ babysitter who happens to be the Babysitter Bandit, while Marge and Homer went out for a fine meal and a night in a hotel. I must have seen this episode 100 times since it first aired, and every time, I laughed.


And Tristan did, in fact, get a lot of it. He laughed at Bart’s antics. He asked questions about a few things, sometimes I saw his little brow furrow, and I knew that he didn’t understand some cultural reference. But not nearly as much went over his head as I expected.


And as much as I wanted to enjoy this moment. As much as I wanted to kick back and relax, I suddenly realized that, with my son there, I was watching The Simpson’s with a new eye. Every time Bart swore, I cringed a little. When Marge and Homer went into the hotel, I wondered what questions Tristan might ask that I wasn’t ready to answer.


When The Simpson’s first came out I was a little older than Tristan, and my mother didn’t want me watching it. Mostly because of Bart. She didn’t want me to try some of the same stunts he pulled. I didn’t really get why that was a big deal. Now, as a father, in that moment with my son, I got it.


This is not to say that The Simpson’s is a particularly bad show. There are worse shows. Much worse. And I hope this isn’t making me come across as a prude, or an over protective, shelter my kids, kind of father. Because I don’t think I am. What I want to put across here is that something had happened to me between the last time I kicked back and watched The Simpson’s alone, and watching The Simpson’s with my 8-year-old son. I was suddenly hyper aware of every little thing that might cause him to question his own reality or teach him bad behavior. It was unexpected and nerve racking. It helped me realize that there is a huge part of me as a father that wants my children, in this case my son, to be sweet and innocent forever. And I honestly don’t know where that comes from, or why it is, but I think that a lot of parents have it, and I never understood it until I had my own kids.


I remember back when I was a foul-mouthed teen I was once confronted by a mother who was angry with me for casually dropping an F-bomb near her child. I was chatting with some friends at the mall and she approached me, and angrily told me that I needed to be more considerate. I remember being really offended. I felt like she needed to get over herself. “That kids going to hear that word someday,” I thought. But did it really need to be that day? Did it really need to come from me?


I didn’t get it then, but I do now. Protecting my children from elements of the world I don’t want them exposed to just yet is a very similar feeling as when I protect my children from wrecking on their bike, or bonking their head on the dining room table. I know it will happen, but I don’t want it to. There is a big part of me that often says, “He doesn’t need to know that just yet.” Which really means, “I’m not ready for him to be ready just yet,” which really means, “I don’t want him to grow up.”


The Simpson’s episode was almost over. I looked down, and Tristan was sound asleep. I didn’t know how long he’d been out, but in a way I was happy. He obviously wasn’t into the show. I carried him into bed. He snuggled up into his brown gorilla Pillow Pet. I kissed his forehead.


Then I went into the living room, put the Simpson’s DVD back in the case, and placed it back on the shelf.


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