I recently caught a holiday episode of the original Brady Bunch show. In all honesty, I wasn’t watching the whole show–it was kind of on TV like background music while I was doing other things. I did stop to watch it for a moment. Apparently, somehow Mike had got roped into taking Cindy to the mall to see Santa Claus. She looked about 6 years old. Mike seemed anxious and I think he needed to get some last minute gifts or something. As they approached the area where Santa was, the line snaked around the store. Mike look miffed. Cindy, in all her wide-eyed innocence, said, “I don’t mind waiting by myself, daddy.” The next thing I know, Mike had dumped her in line and took off like a bat in hell. That’s right folks. He left a 6 year old alone in line in the mall waiting to see Santa.
Is anyone else shocked by this? Have things changed so dramatically since the late 1960’s/early 1970’s? When was it ever ok to leave a 6 year old unattended at the mall? Who wrote this crap–single, 20 year old male geeks? Where were the store employees? Outraged parents? Mall Security? DYFS? Where was Mrs. Brady? When the camera panned the line of children, it was just that–all children with nary an adult to be found. Could you imagine if someone did this today? The press would have a field day! Every unemployed and half forgotten actor/actress would make an announcement of public outrage and shock! Sally Struthers probably would have dropped her twinkie!
Perhaps in TV land, it’s ok to leave your children unattended. After all, everyone smiled. Everyone was helpful. Every problem was resolved in 30 minutes or less. Or maybe it was just a one time mistake, an oversight by a network more concerned over showing Barbara Eden’s belly button then it was in promoting proper parenting techniques. Besides, they’d never do that in the movies, would they?
Who doesn’t love the movie, A Christmas Story. It’s a wonderful tale about a little boy who wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and gets shot down by everyone. The classic line, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” has been immortalized by this movie. Watching this movie during the holidays is as traditional as eggnog and jingle bells.
In one scene of the movie, the family takes their children to visit Santa at a local store. The store is full of wonderful Holiday characters, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Yes, nothing says Christmas like a green, crooked-nose witch all dressed in black with a pointy hat. Darren McGavin takes his boys to the line for Santa. He sees what he thinks is a short line, dumps his boys, and runs like hell. Anyone who’s seen the movie knows that the line is miles long and the boys have to trudge to the very end. They almost miss seeing Santa because the store is about to close. Just as Santa finishes pushing Ralph down the sliding board with his foot, Mom and Dad appear.
What a minute? They waited for what seemed like forever to see Santa but Dad thought he left them at the front of the line. Why didn’t dad come back sooner? What did he think the boys would do after they saw Santa? Did he assume that the store employees were also babysitters? Maybe he thought Santa would recruit them as elf helpers. Maybe he was hoping they would get snatched up by the Wicked Witch of the West.
So, were these people bad parents? No, not really. Apparently there was a time when you could leave your child in line waiting for Santa and no one would blink an eye. And your child would be safe. And your child would wait for you to return. Or at least there was a time when we thought these things were true. Ah the age of innocence! Merry Christmas all you moms and dads…and when you take your kiddies to see Santa, stay in line with them. I don’t want to see you face plastered all over the six o’clock news!