“I ship JohnLock.”
If you’re hearing those words, or similar ones, in your house lately, you may be wondering what exactly it means. What is shipping anyway?
It’s certainly nothing to panic about. The word, ship, is short for relationship, and when someone ‘ships someone, it just means that they would like to see them hook up. It’s generally intended for fictional characters; my example above relates to the BBC show Sherlock and my belief that John Watson is in love with Sherlock. For your kids, it’s an expression that shows how involved they are with a fandom. They love it enough that they are emotionally invested to the point that they are rooting for the romance between fictional characters.
We did it in our day, too. We just didn’t have fancy words for it. In the time frame between May 21, 1980, and May 25, 1983, a lot of my generation ‘shipped Luke and Leia. Then we felt silly (or horrified) when we learned they were related in Return of the Jedi. When I was in high school, my friend and I were huge fans of Days of Our Lives. On the day of John and Marlena’s wedding, my friend had to work at a local mall, so she scheduled her lunch for when the show aired. We spent the hour eating popcorn and watching the show in the consumer electronics section of Woolworth’s. We seriously ‘shipped John and Marlena, and the wedding was the culmination of all of our romantic teenage dreams. By the time the episode was done, three or four others had joined us to watch.
Some people worry when their kids get so deeply involved in a television show, movie, or book series. I’m going to disagree with you there. While I’m a big fan of my kids spending time outside, I’m also a huge fan of letting them get emotionally attached to fictional characters, even if screen time is involved.
First off, the ability to be passionate about something, anything, is a vital quality to have in healthy, well-adjusted people, and I’m never going to discourage passion in my children. It’s our job to put boundaries in place when they’re appropriate and to make sure that we nurture and foster those qualities, like passion, that will serve them well as adults. So while I may make my kids turn Netflix off at a reasonable time on a school night, I’m going to let them watch as long as chores and homework are done, and they aren’t neglecting other parts of their lives such as family and friends.
Next, being passionate about characters fosters reading, and we all know that with their often hectic activity schedule, and the amount of screen time they get, reading time may not be a huge priority in our kids’ lives. Sometimes, it is difficult to motivate kids to read. If we can get them that excited about characters, we can use that excitement to move them into the world of books, where their worldview can be changed and expanded.
Third, when kids are passionate about fandoms, it gives them a tribe. Whether it’s talking about the latest episode of The Walking Dead as they walk home from high school or connecting with other fans via Tumblr or a Facebook group, fandom opens the door for my kids to meet others that are like them. Teens who feel peer group acceptance have higher self-esteem and do better in school, and their peer group doesn’t necessarily have to be local.
All in all, ‘shipping is pretty harmless. If you’re concerned that your child may be overdoing their fandom love, you can set boundaries or find other activities for them to do instead. If you’re facing anger or tears over, for example, a reduction in screen time, there may be other issues at play. However, in most cases, their pouting and whining will only be temporary, and in the long run, they will accept the boundaries you’ve put in place. Alternately, you could start watching the show or reading the books that your kid is so passionate about. It may bring you closer together!