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Friday, Nov. 3, 2006 | Lately, my wife and I have been having our first-ever conflict over parenting styles. Usually, I agree with her about things because, uh, she’s usually right.

But lately, we’ve been having a conflict over Alex associating with someone my wife considers unsavory: “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

It’s a real conflict. My wife considers SpongeBob to be inappropriate for a 3-year-old while I consider it perfect because, well, it’s funny.

“Funny to you,” my wife might say, before explaining how there is no redeeming social value to the show.

“Well, it’s funny,” which, to me, trumps all other decisions in my life – especially when I’m trying to decide who to vote for in the upcoming election.

Plus, I so want to bond with my daughter over TV. Some of my happiest memories with my Dad were watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. They were funny, and I’m sure my wife enjoyed them as a kid too. But I’m sure if she thinks SpongeBob is bad, she doesn’t want Alex to watch Bugs either.

I want to be able to laugh with my kids at cartoons as we grow up. I realize I will have to wait until Alex is at least 10 before watching “The Simpson’s” and I may not ever convince my wife that “South Park” is appropriate – for anyone.

Still, the SpongeBob conflict is simmering between us. I figure if it’s on a kids-only network like Nickelodeon, it’s gotta be pre-approved and safe – even safer than prepackaged spinach.

Because my wife doesn’t want Alex watching SpongeBob, I find myself channel surfing in hopes of sneaking a peak while she’s feeding Owen, our 7-month-old son. It’s hard because my wife is going out tonight and I’m tempted to let my daughter watch the show. I figure if Alex doesn’t turn into a maniac afterwards, my wife will agree the show is harmless, and funny.

I had a lot of time to let the SpongeBob issue fester. I took Alex to an advance viewing of “Flushed Away,” a new computer-animated creature about mice and England. I enjoyed the film but found it unrealistic because all the British mice had decent teeth.

Two local radio stations sponsored the screening and while families and many small kids mainly attended the event, the background music featured a woman singing romantic lyrics such as, “is your girlfriend a freak like me?”

The Dad behind me must have seen me wincing because, he said, “Interesting lyrics for a kids film.”

I agreed but, in retrospect, I believe the song choice was fitting since “being a freak” is one of the ways babies are conceived.

I engaged in small talk with my fellow dad, mostly about Halloween costumes. But I had one nagging question: “How do you feel about your child watching SpongeBob?”

“I think it’s great. It’s funny.”

“See, I agree. But my wife doesn’t think there’s anything redeeming about it.”

“But it’s funny.”

“See, that’s what I think.” I suddenly felt at one with the universe. For the first time in months, I felt like someone truly understood me – or at least agreed with an opinion of mine.

I figured with that sort of endorsement from a random stranger, I was in the right. However, my wife doesn’t seem to agree, so I’m stuck between doing what I believe is right (watching a funny TV show with my daughter) and what I believe is wrong (my wife’s anti-SpongeBob decree).

It’s hard because anytime my wife sees me laughing at something on TV, she automatically assumes it’s inappropriate for a small child.

I know parents are supposed to be a united front but I’m afraid neither of us will compromise on this issue. It’s a shame because I figure we are missing out on laughter we could be sharing as a family.

I know PBS and Disney Channel have lots of, ugh, quality programming and I find shows like “Arthur” and the “Doodlebops” to be genuinely engaging at times.

But I don’t belly laugh the way I do with SpongeBob.

I’d really like to know your opinion. If you think SpongeBob is perfectly acceptable for a preschool student, help me out so I can lobby my wife.

On the other hand, if you believe the show will turn our precious daughter into a regular juvenile delinquent, let me know so I can prevent her slide down the slippery SpongeBob slope.

Either way, your vote could make the difference in our lives.

David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who has watched bad television for 41 years and still came out all right. You can reach him at moyemail@cox.net but if what you have to say is really complimentary, send it to the editor.

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