Thursday, November 29, 2012

Talking is Overrated... Blah, Blah, Blah

My 4-year old spends a lot of time in the car while we shuttle his older brothers to and from school, soccer practices and piano lessons.  Therefore, it is only fair, in my opinion, to give him the right of first refusal when it comes to the all-important decision: What DVD should we watch in the minivan?

Lately, however, the grumbling from the two older boys regarding the little guy's viewing choices has become more pronounced.  My 8-year old, in particular, frequently protests that his brother's choices are "baby shows".  Said protests are then followed by vociferous arguments to replace "Blue's Clues" or "Thomas the Tank Engine" with something vastly more sophisticated... like "Elf".

This afternoon, the protests began the minute the older boys entered the minivan after school.

"Another baby show?" one of them exclaimed indignantly.  "Why are we always watching baby shows in the car?"

"What exactly is your problem with baby shows?" I asked.

"They're so boring," he replied.  "Nobody fights, and nothing gets blown up.  Usually somebody walks around and tries to teach you the alphabet.  But mostly it's a lot of nothing."

"Boooring," my 6-year old sighed from the back seat.  "We already know the alphabet.  Blah blah blah."

The exchange reminded me of another conversation I had with the boys over the summer while we watched "Kung Fu Panda".  On that evening, I had suggested we fast-forward through the fighting scenes. 

"They're rather violent for a kids' movie," I muttered, reaching for the remote control.   "And besides, the last fifteen minutes has been nothing but a montage of kicking, punching and jumping in the air.  It's kind of repetitive.  Boring.  Let's just watch the scenes with dialogue to see how the story develops.  That's more interesting."

"What?!?" my 8-year old gasped.  "I'd rather fast-forward through the talking scenes and just watch the fighting scenes.  The talking scenes are the boring parts."

"Why would we choose 'Kung Fu Panda' if we don't get to watch kung fu?" my 6-year old added, aghast.  "That makes no sense, Mom."

Alas, I realized there are two things going on here.  First, my boys are growing up.  Few are the years when their favorite shows are cartoons that teach you the alphabet.  Before I know it, my youngest son will be a third grader scoffing at "baby shows" and all the other things he loved as a little boy.  Time marches forward, even when you're not ready.

Second, a fundamental difference between boys and girls can be boiled down to this point regarding entertainment value: For boys, dialogue is overrated.  If nothing is blown up and no one gets shot at, boys wonder what they've just sat through.  

There's an excerpt from Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz that always makes me laugh.  I like to imagine one of my boys writing something like this when he's grown up.  Donald mentions a piece of dating advice that he received from the opposite sex:
Here’s a tip I’ve never used: I understand you can learn a great deal about girldom by reading Pride and Prejudice, and I own a copy, but I have never read it.  I tried.  It was given to me by a girl with a little note inside that read: "What is in this book is the heart of a woman." I am sure the heart of a woman is pure and lovely, but the first chapter of said heart is hopelessly boring. Nobody dies at all. I keep the book on my shelf because girls come into my room, sit on my couch, and eye the books on the adjacent shelf. "You have a copy of Pride and Prejudice," they exclaim in a gentle sigh and smile. "Yes," I say. "Yes, I do."
To me, the funniest part of the paragraph above is the fact that Donald can't get through the first chapter of Pride and Prejudice because nobody dies in it.  This is funny because it illustrates the point that boys (of any age) really just want to see (or read about) stuff getting blown up.  

And this point rings no truer than with the largest boy in the house, my husband.  When we first started dating, I forced him to watch all of my favorite movies: "Anne of Green Gables", "Emma" and "Pride and Prejudice."  Oh, the things a man will do for a woman when they're dating.  The first time he watched "Emma," he may have fallen asleep. 

"That movie was pointless," he told me later.  "There's no storyline, no actionIt's just a bunch of women gossiping about other women.  Blah blah blah." 

"What?" I exclaimed. "Were we watching the same movie?  It's a love story between Emma and Knightley.  She is the earnest but flawed heroine who learns through her mistakes what is really important; and Knightley is the noble friend who loves her, despite all her shortcomings.  But he too is misguided in matters of the heart.  They both take a lot of wrong turns but eventually realize how much they need and love one other.  That is the heart of the story."

He paused and shook his head.  "All I heard," he replied, "was blah blah blah."

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