Censorship: Alive and Well in Our Home

Reading to Raggedy this summer.

Our 3-year-old has a wide range of passions—from playing her instruments (especially the ukelele, maracas and harmonica) and painting with watercolors to playing dress-up (particularly with anything pink, purple or sparkly) and listening to her favorite musical artists: Zoe Lewis and, more recently, Lady Gaga (more on that another time). But there’s probably nothing she loves doing more than selecting a stack of books, cuddling up with one of us and being read to. Books, more than anything, are her window to the world. And that’s why we are prone to rejiggering/editing/censoring—call it what you will—the words from time to time.

Generally, concepts we censor include: God and overt religion (like praying), eating meat, ridiculous gender statements (typically things like the “Ew, boys are yukky!” stuff in the annoying Fancy Nancy and the Sensational Babysitter, a gift from a sitter) and, occasionally, fathers.

Sure, go ahead and roll your eyes. But before you decide that these two mommies are control freaks who have lost their grip on reality, here are some basic thoughts on our logic (most likely completely over-thought, like much of our parenting; sorry, we’re process-y lesbians. So sue us!):

1. God gets slashed because it’s just too complicated a subject to introduce at this point, especially when I’m still not sure of what I believe and when Lula’s other mother is a self-defined spiritual atheist (“If there is such a thing,” she adds). And because she’ll spend the rest of her life thinking about these huge concepts, and it’s just not necessary yet. This one comes up a bit regularly in our library, as we got a monthly Jewish-book subscription from a dear friend, with stories usually conveniently about whatever holiday is about to occur. They’re most often just about the family or ritual aspects—you sit and eat at a seder for Passover, you light candles and spin a dreidel for Hanukkah—but every once in a while God sneaks in (I guess you could call it a Reform-Jew book subscription). Here’s our most recent edit, in the adorable Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast:

"They thanked God for their beautiful sukkah, their delicious food, and their wonderful friends" becomes "They were thankful for their beautiful sukkah…"

No biggie, right? Right.

2. Meat gets the boot because, simply, we’re a vegetarian family and we want to make sure she’s sufficiently brainwashed before allowing carnivorous behavior to become a normal part of life. Seriously. We spend a lot of time talking about how we love animals, and therefore don’t eat them. Being veg is just normal to her at this point—and sometimes the way meat eating is presented in books is less than sensitive. Recently, we were pedaling the bike trails in Provincetown when we came upon some beautiful wild turkeys waddling through the dunes. I reminded her of them right before Thanksgiving, explaining that some people actually eat turkeys for the holiday, but that we don’t, because they are beautiful creatures that we love. She totally got it. But sometimes it’s a point not worth getting into. Like in this awesome book she got as a gift recently: My Foodie ABC, which has items like alfajores (yum), jicama (awesome) and quinoa (yes!)—and, wouldn’t you know it, Kobe beef. This was an edit that proved tricky. We couldn’t just change K to kale, because there’s a picture of fat cows grazing. So instead we left it all, including the last line: “These animals are fed a very special diet, massaged daily, and brushed regularly,” and just cut out the end of that sentence, “…to keep their meat tender.” Too gruesome, even if it would probably be over her head. So now it’s just a random, cute, apparently irrelevant cow.

3. Not all fathers get the boot—the vast majority, in fact, get to stay, especially when they are central to the storyline, such as in the Knuffle Bunny series. But, while we certainly don’t want to pretend that the world is made up of two-mommy families, we also want to at least get our 10% due appearance. And since there are not a ton of books out there to help us out (big shout out to Lesléa Newman!), we sometimes have to take matters into our hands. Luckily, there are enough times when the dads happen to look a lot like Lula’s other mom—like in the awesome Soup Day, below—and so then, presto chango, they go from being “daddy” to “mamo” [má-mo], our own special made-up word for my partner, kind of like the masculine form of “mama” (which we happen to think is genius).

"And then mamo's home! Now it's time to eat our soup!"

Anyway, I almost didn’t write this post, because I couldn’t figure out if I was proud or embarrassed, but here’s the thing: It’s only a matter of time before she starts preschool, has friends from all walks of life (hopefully), and becomes addicted to her iPhone like the rest of the world. Until then, why not filter information in a way that fits perfectly into our value system? It’s our only chance to make such a pure impression, while she still listens intently to what we say, and wants to please us, and is not yet screaming “I hate you!” while doing things like admiring Republicans and pining for an SUV just to spite us. She’s like a gorgeous, precious sponge right now, and we want her soaking up all that is good and fair and beautiful and logical (in our humble opinions). We won’t be able to control the floodgates for much longer. But for now, well, long live censorship.
Anyone else out there edit/rejigger/censor? Please, do tell by posting a comment!


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7 Responses to Censorship: Alive and Well in Our Home

  1. Delightfully, insightful. Thank you!

  2. Amy Metzger says:

    We censor too! Barbies are doctors, scientists or astronauts. And they go on trips instead of getting married at the end of the story. This morning I heard Leah say, “Barbie you have to go to Africa. It’s where you’re from.”

  3. Beth says:

    I love that! What a cool Barbie.

  4. Gus says:

    This is so great Mama B.
    You guys are doing a phenomenal job, she is simply lovely.
    I love you all, Mamo, Mama and Lula.
    Happy Holidays.

  5. I’m all for censoring at this age :) I still censor. Especially when it comes to religion and because I am also one of those self-defined atheists. But when a couple of months ago the subject of praying came up and Emilia (5.5 years) said “I know what praying is: it’s when people say “Oh my God,” I thought the time for some kind of religious “education” has come. I got her the book “What is God”. I like the way it talks about praying.

  6. Star says:

    so far so good. love this piece Beth.

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