22 September 2011

SpongeBob StupidHead

You may have heard about this, but recently two studies were released that impact parenthood and fatherhood, in particular, in the case of one. The first study was done by the journal Pediatrics and the results showed something that perhaps many people long suspected (or feared) and did not need a study to reach the same conclusion. Essentially, the report indicates that watching the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants makes your kids stupid. At least, that’s what I took away from this study and the surrounding media hoopla. That was the message, right?

The funny thing about this is that I could have told you the same thing without a fancy report done by “experts” with impressive initials behind their names. Have you ever watched SpongeBob? Although I’ve never caught an entire episode, on the few occasions that I’ve witnessed a few spare minutes of the show, I’ve felt myself getting dumber, just by being exposed to it.

And it’s not that I’m against absurdity in my television programs, or weirdness, just the opposite. I embrace all those things. But something about SpongeBob is so bizarre, that I’ve never been able to embrace it. The problem is they advertise this show around the more toddler-friendly programming that Nickelodeon has to offer (Wonder Pets, Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, etc.). The Doozer has been obsessed with Dora for a long time now. And Dino Dan. And Ni-Hao, Kai-Lan. Nick got its hooks into him and this led to a few viewings of SpongeBob before my wife put a stop to it.

She described it as junk (it made her feel stupider too). At least Dora solves problems and Kai-Lan preaches tolerance and how to deal with one’s emotions. SpongeBob sends weirdly confusing messages about the behavior of sea life. And so the wife and I (like many other parents, I’m sure), took the news of this report as validation that we were onto something in our parenting. That we had done at least one thing right, that shielding our son from this yellow menace in whitey tighties accorded us a big check mark in the success column as parents.

The other study seems to me to be somewhat related to the first. It was about fatherhood leading to lower levels of testosterone. And sure, if you spend your time watching things like SpongeBob, then that’s less time you’re watching Ice Road Truckers or Game of Thrones. That would probably cause anybody’s testosterone to drop.

Of course, I didn’t feel that strongly about the results of this research. I’m not sure how testosterone-y I was before, in pre-Doozer days. There’s an old joke in our house about how my wife got me to watch Red Wing hockey and Michigan football, while I returned the favor by getting her to watch Gilmore Girls. Seems a fair trade-off. I’ve never been that concerned about testosterone, so the fact that my supply might be depleting doesn’t faze me all that much.

I’ll tell you the other thing about fatherhood that could lead to reduced testosterone (something I’m not sure this study covered): getting smacked in the testicles by your children. This is something nobody really warns you about, but should. You’re going to get hit in the testicles frequently when you’re a dad, like you’re a character in a Farrelly Brothers movie. And it’s not going to be malicious or intentional, it’s just going to happen. They don’t realize what they’re doing, they’re unaware of the impact and the effect of such actions and so it’s going to keep happening.

Because if nothing else, kids like to pounce on you. And I mean pounce. There are times I think my son has mistaken me for a trampoline. And I’m not sure how you explain this to your child exactly. You can only hope that someday he gets smacked in the testicles himself and in the midst of his own pain and suffering, has sudden recall to his toddlerhood and feels bad about inflicting similar punishment upon his old man.

Or I guess I could always start wearing a cup.

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