Growth Spurts: True Love (As Seen on TV)
When I was a kid, I had a crush on John Schneider (“Bo Duke”) and Henry Winkler (“Fonzie”). In my teenage years, I had a crush on Michael J. Fox, Kirk Cameron, and later, Andre Agassi. I’m sure there were others. Did I have a chance with any of them? Well, legal matters concerning our ages at that time aside, I still don’t think it would’ve worked out. Plus, did I even really know who these guys were? Of course not. I only knew of the characters/images they portrayed on television once a week. Any feelings of admiration I had for them were based completely on the imaginary.
In this “month of love,” I wonder who or what is capturing the attention of our children. And do they realize that most of it is based completely on the imaginary? Our youngest children might be infatuated with Disney channel stars, superheroes, or even animated princes/princesses. Our older children might be infatuated with pop stars, YouTube celebrities, or any number of people they can so easily “follow” via the World Wide Web. And even though these people are more real than Cinderella or Iron Man, who they really are on a day-to-day basis is still very much left to the imagination.
Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against the imagination or even against childhood crushes. What concerns me, though, is that many of our children get stuck in the thoughts, feelings, and impressions of imaginary love, because they spend so much time observing made-for-TV love instead of real-life relationships. This can lead to unhealthy and unrealistic expectations in a relationship, which could go either way: expecting that love should be perfect and without conflict or the other direction — that abuse is what is normal. And we all know how powerfully we are affected by the media images we see, the comparisons we automatically make, that can make us believe we are ugly, unimportant, or unworthy of love.
Parents, I’m not saying we should never let our kids watch movies or TV, but I do believe it is wise to make sure that our children are also being influenced by good, strong, real-life relationships. They need to see what real love looks like. We should talk to our kids about the strengths of our marriages; point out the good things we see in other couples’ relationships; and even point out the good things we observe about couples in movies and on TV! We should use it all to bring about awareness and preparedness and have ongoing conversations about relationships — the good, the bad, the right, the wrong. Let’s not let YouTube become our children’s tutor on relationships. And let’s not assume that our kids have automatically picked up on some kind of relationship wisdom through osmosis. We are to be their primary teachers. Let’s not forget to teach them about this paramount issue: discerning between real and imaginary love.
Because as fun as “Carrie Fonzarelli” would’ve been to say, those happy days would’ve been restricted to TV Land.