My office was getting rid of some old items and let the employees pick through the pile. I found an old style telephone (big white handset and buttons intended to look like a rotary dial) and a boombox. My 13-year-old daughter has a boombox. She uses it all of the time. All of the time. Say, on a Saturday, when I am in the kitchen washing dishes and listening to public radio shows like This American Life or Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me or Prairie Home Companion, and she walks in with her boombox, like straight out of a ’80s movie, blasting the music “the young people listen to these days” and completely overtaking whatever peaceful thing I was listening to on the radio.
The thing about the boombox is, it’s hers. She can listen to just about whatever she wants to on it. And her brothers eye that with secret envy. So, when I saw that boombox at work, I took it home and handed it over to my boys. Now they would have their own freedom to listen to what they want. At first, it was all the Top 40 stuff. Then, it was Oldies. But a few days later, I realized he was listening to something completely different, when he came out to the living room, very alarmed and walked up to me saying, “Mom, I don’t think I like President Obama anymore.” Which is interesting, because my 4th grader has always loved President Obama. (We’re not a very political household, he came to this affinity for the President on his own.) I was shocked to hear him say otherwise, so I asked him why. “Do you know that he’s been having secret meetings with other countries to get treaties passed? And the American public doesn’t know anything about it!”
“Where did you hear this?” I inquire.
“The news guy on the radio said it.”
As a journalist, I knew I needed to set things straight. “What station are you listening to?”
When he told me, my husband and I must have had a collective eye-roll, because we knew immediately he’d been listening to talk radio. We explained to him that talk radio is NOT the news. It is not fact. It is opinion – a once-truth spun in a way that suits the purposes of whoever is using it. We explained that some people like President Obama and will use the facts in a way to make him look great and some people dislike the President and will use the facts to make him look bad. That, of course, led us into a conversation about why some people would like him and some people wouldn’t – which led into the topic of political parties – which led to him asking me what political affiliation I have. “Undeclared,” was my answer – mainly because I want him to make these decisions on his own. Not with my leading him one way or another – or the radio doing it for me – just him and the facts.
Why is it that these questions always come right at bedtime? It’s like all day you are peppered with, “Why is the sky blue?” “How come those dogs sniff eachother’s butts?” And “Do we have to have salmon again tonight?” But, the moment bedtime is announced, it switches to, “Where is God?” “What’s a democrat?” and “How did the baby get in her belly in the first place?” It’s not that I don’t want to answer the questions and inform my kids, but geez, give a mom a chance here!
At least he only found news talk radio. Imagine the bedtime conversation we’d be having if he had stumbled onto Loveline with Mike & Dr. Drew show.