You know, for as much training as Craig and I have received in parenting over the years, we have not always used sound judgment in choosing movies appropriate for children.
Now, I’m not talking about overly violent or sexual movies, which are clearly inappropriate for children. Instead, I’m talking about those movies that we adults would categorize as “classics,” but turn out to be the stuff of nightmares for our poor kids.
Exhibit A: “E.T.”
Now “E.T.” is a great movie and should be viewed by everyone OF A CERTAIN AGE. Five is not that age. Craig and I once showed this movie to a friend’s five-year-old son while we were babysitting (we were, of course, obliviously childless at the time). The boy sat there rapturous for the first half. But once things turned south and E.T. was dying in a glass tomb, poked and prodded by scientists, the little boy started to cry and shouted “My heart hurts!” I think that roughly translated to, “I’m five, this is way too adult for me, and why did my parents leave me with the two of you?”
Exhibit B: “The Wizard of Oz”
Now this one was all Craig’s fault, simply because I flat-out refused to watch it after my first viewing 35 years ago. Seriously, those flying monkeys nearly did me in. Truth is, I can barely stand to look at the monkeys at the zoo, half expecting them to turn into maniacal winged instruments of death. I know, Curious George is cute, but inside he’s on the Wicked Witch of the West’s side. You can see it in his eyes.
After Craig had him watch “The Wizard of Oz” at age six, our son had nightmares about tornados for months AND he’s never once asked for a monkey as a pet.
See what I mean?
Exhibit C: “Signs”
I’ll take credit for this total lack in parental judgment. Craig was out of town, and I thought it would be fun for Nathaniel and me to watch something once I put his baby sister down for bed.
I had read about M. Night Shyamalan’s movie and was intrigued, especially by this blurb: “In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a five-hundred-foot crop circle is found on the farm of Graham Hess, the town's reverend. The circles cause a media frenzy and test Hess's faith as he journeys to find out the truth behind the crop circles.”
I checked the rating and it was PG-13 for some frightening elements. Our son, age nine at the time, had already seen “Star Wars,” so I figured we were good to go.
But by the time the aliens started creeping around the reverend’s house, forcing the young son to walk around with a baseball bat in order to protect his siblings, Nathaniel stared in horror and yelled, “WHY ARE YOU LETTING ME WATCH THIS?”
Recently, as we laughed about this horrible display of judgment, Nathaniel said, “You’re just lucky I didn’t wear a tin foil helmet to school after that to protect myself from aliens.”
Yeah, not my best parenting move.
Which brings us to present day, with “The Hunger Games.” Nathaniel had read all the books in middle school, and insisted I read them as well. I finally sat down to read them a year ago and blew through the entire trilogy in a week’s time.
So of course I couldn’t wait to see the movies, and I was not disappointed.
But as I sat there in the dark theater and watched the story unfold, I caught myself thinking, “Yeah, this isn’t appropriate for our 10-year-old to see.”
Could it be that I’m finally growing up as a parent?
Fingers crossed, by the time our kids leave for college, I’ll have this parenting this down.
Eileen Burmeister lives, works and attempts to parent well in Roseburg. She can be reached at email@example.com or you can follow her on twitter @EBurmeister.