Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bedtime Story

“The gnome-mobile, the gnome-mobile, we’re driving around in the gnome-mobile!”

I am probably one of the few people who remember this rather obscure Disney film (The Gnome-Mobile) and still have the song playing in my mind some forty years later.

My memory of it is the two kids from Mary Poppins make friends with gnomes and then drive around in the forest in a big car called the Gnome-Mobile with Walter Brennan, some old rich Irish guy and the only real adult in the film. (I think Walter Brennan also played one of the gnomes.)

I swear I saw this movie, or at least part of it, on the Wonderful World of Disney, but maybe not. Maybe I only saw a preview of it on Disney.

Sunday nights at our house growing up meant the Wonderful World of Disney. I can actually remember Walt Disney introducing some of the segments. Since he died in 1966, that is kind of impressive as I would have been… three. In fact, it may mean they were using canned footage of him introducing the Wonderful World of Disney well after his death. Or not. Who knows, maybe I have an incredibly good memory!

My recollection is also that the Wonderful World of Disney ran from 7 to 8 pm on Sunday nights; the Internet tells me it ran from 7:30 to 8:30 pm. Whatever. What I do remember is that for a while, my sister and I had a bedtime that fell halfway in between, and honest to God, my father would make us go to bed halfway through Walt Disney!

I am not kidding. At the time, I thought that was the cruelest thing imaginable. I mean, really, give us the half hour more; let us finish up with Disney and then we will gladly go to bed. Of course, we would never have argued with my father; we would have just gone to bed. Unhappy, yes, but we would have gone without putting up, well, really any kind of fight.

I distinctly remember having to go to bed halfway through Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, with Fess Parker. What father in his right mind would make his kids miss out on Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier?

Just because bedtime was bedtime?

In hindsight, I would have made bedtime half an hour later on Sundays.

Unfortunately, I was not in charge.

I believe in rules and routines and all, but only if they make sense and make things run more smoothly. I don’t believe in rules for the sake of rules, or rigidity.

I am sure I would have let my own kids stay up to watch the entire episode of the Wonderful World of Disney! In part because they would have been transfixed and quiet; in part, because it would have been insanity to try to tear them away. Because they would have protested vociferously! And it wouldn’t have been worth it. But also in part because, quite simply: why not? Who wouldn’t want to watch the entire episode?

I can remember when my sister and I would wake up too early on Saturday mornings and go turn on the TV to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I am not sure what “too early” was, but if my father decided it was too early, he would send us back to bed. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. And, of course, we would go. With little, if any, protest. We wouldn’t go back to sleep, mind you. Normally, we would go to my bedroom, which was further away from my parents’ room, and we would play covered wagon on my canopy bed. So, maybe that was more creative and engaging than watching cartoons, which we would watch later anyway.

As a parent, I can appreciate the desire for sleep that one has on weekends and the fact that little kids get up way too early for their own good. Although one could argue that if our father had let us stay up a bit later in general, we might have slept in a bit later the next morning. But – sigh! – I guess there was no desire to have us sleep in on Monday morning.

I think our bedtime was pretty much set period. My memory of it was as 7:30, at least on school nights. I guess the Wonderful World of Disney research bumps this up to 8:00. I have memories of watching The Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family on Friday nights, but not anything past this, unless we had some unknowing babysitter we could dupe, and got to watch Room 222 or Love American Style on occasion.

I know Saturday night and a babysitter meant a bath followed by The Sonny and Cher Show.

Now, that was living life on the wild side!

Later on, Saturday nights meant The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. I can still sing the theme song from Love Boat and remember fondly Tattoo shouting “Boss! Da plane, da plane!” as that week’s guest stars (mostly movie and TV has beens) would arrive to be greeted by Ricardo Montalban, himself a former movie star.

Nowadays, I go to bed before my two teenaged sons, more often than not. Of course, if it is a weekend, I will be up early and they will sleep til noon!

There are no bed times really.

Sometimes, if it is late and they wake me up, I will tell them to go to bed, if it is really late. If it is a weekend, I am less likely to do this. If it is a weeknight, and I know they have to get up at 6:30 am, more likely. As I am the one who is going to have to get them up!

They do not watch the Wonderful World of Disney. I am not even sure if it is still on or not. Of course, they would be far too old for that now. They watch things like South Park and Family Guy and Futurama and Adult Swim. And the Comedy Channel. I know this because sometimes I am still up and see them watching these shows. And sometimes because when I wake up in the morning and go to turn on the CBS Morning News, the TV is still on Cartoon Network or what have you.

Am I a bad mom because I let my children watch these shows?

Well, I may be a bad mom for a bunch of other reasons, but, frankly, I am not big on censorship. And to be honest, I find a lot of these shows to be funny myself.

They are just on way too late for me to stay up and watch them.

My kids are good kids. They do well in school. They seem well-adjusted. Granted, they are teenagers and drive me to distraction at least several times a week. But I think they are old enough to select their TV shows. Even if they are a bit raunchy. The TV shows, not my kids.

Plus, when my bedtime rolls around, I need to skedaddle under those covers pronto ASAP!!!

Because Lord knows, morning will be coming soon enough….


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