Karen James posted this on her facebook page, September 12, 2015, when Ethan was 12, nearly 13.
So, Ethan and I were at the grocery store yesterday, picking up lunch for ourselves and flowers for our new friends. While in line, Ethan chuckled. Turning around to see him, I asked what was so funny. He pointed to a caption on the front of a woman's magazine that said something to the effect of look inside to find some kind of green vegetable that can "turn on the weight loss gene" for immediate weight loss. Now, I read that caption, chuckled and casually thought, "Maybe I should eat more kale." But before I could say anything (thankfully!) Ethan said "Pfft! Weight loss gene. There's no such thing as a weight loss gene. It wouldn't be in the human species best interest to have a weight *loss* gene. And you can't lose weight immediately anyway. They're just trying to sell magazines."
He continued talking about this all the way back to the car and for a short distance while we drove to our friend's house. He talked about how it's only been a short period of time in history that we've had such an abundance of food, and that the evolution of genes doesn't happen that fast. We wouldn't have needed a weight loss gene previously, he thought. Maybe a weight gain gene if anything even existed, he guessed. He talked about how he thought the magazine was using women's insecurity about weight to get them to buy it. He talked about how he's noticed different people have different body types. We talked together a bit about how that's also true of different races and ethnicities and ages. I talked about my own weight changes over the years. He talked about a few other things that I don't remember now, unfortunately. I mostly just listened, fascinated by how much thought he'd put into a short caption on a magazine cover that he had no intention of buying, and how him sharing his thoughts with me lead to me knowing him a bit more, and us having an opportunity to share our thoughts with each other. I don't know if he's right. I don't know if there really isn't a weigh loss gene. I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts though.
Early on, when he was younger, I didn't want him watching commercials or being exposed to overt marketing attempts because I was afraid they would have a negative influence on him. But it quickly became clear that he loved commercials, often more than the shows we were watching, so I finally decided to let go of my fears and join him. He likes the jingles and the humour especially, but he also likes seeing all the new things being showcased. He use to like watching the commercials over and over again, even searching for them on Youtube to watch them whenever he wanted. Sometimes, now, on road trips he has Doug and I name that tune, where he gives us a few notes from the beginning of a jingle. He doesn't know the game "Name that Tune." It's a game he's made up. He's always amazed when we don't know one of the jingles he sings. I'm always amazed at how many he knows!
Over time, because of his enthusiasm, I've grown to like the ads and commercials more too. And I'm happy to report that all that commercial watching hasn't had a negative effect on Ethan at all. If anything it seems to have helped him be discerning. I didn't make him discerning by nattering while he watched. I said very little, trying to be mindful of not disturbing his enjoyment. He became discerning by watching and thinking about what he was watching himself. That's very interesting to me.
If I could go back in time and tell myself to relax, that the influence that matters most in those early years is mine and Doug's generous and open support of Ethan's wonder at the world around him, I would. I can't go back. But I can share this wee bit of insight with new parents, for what it's worth.
Instead of being afraid of this and that in society, open your heart to wonder. Spend meaningful time with your kids doing the things that captivate their imagination. Don't talk too much. Listen more. Really look into their eyes, and see how they see the world. Listen to what they're sharing with you, and hear how they interpret the world. Support what they see, and hear, and come to define as their model of reality. The more you show your support, the more you'll be invited to be a part of their lives, and the more beautiful your mutual experience will be.
It's a rare gift to know another person so intimately. I want Ethan to continue know this kind of intimacy with as many people as he trusts and cares for and invites into his life. I'm glad I've known it. I probably need to stop rambling now. It's amazing how far a caption on a magazine can take a person.