My evolution as a parent has been an interesting thing to watch. I was so much more careful with what my children saw when I was new at this. I’m not sure which version of me is better.
My first memory of cautious parental censoring has to do with whether Jane, then about 4 years old, could watch Shark Tales. I watched it first before deciding that there was just too much blatant sexual innuendo and she simply could not watch it.
My first stumble came when my husband and I thought it’d be so cool to show the kids (barely turned 7 and 4) that great movie from our childhood: Goonies. I squirmed on the couch as the boys in the movie tried to glue the penis back on a small replica of Michelangelo’s David – upside down, all the while repeatedly yelling “s**t!” and “my mom’s going to kill me – that’s her favorite part!”
Jane was too scared and left the room for most of the movie. Daryl, the four year old, repeatedly declared it his favorite movie at his preschool. His teacher raised her eyebrows in surprise. I guess she has a better memory than I do.
Since Jane was more sensitive than Daryl, we didn’t have too much trouble keeping everything age appropriate before Hal came along. If it was too mature for Daryl, Jane probably wasn’t ready to watch it either.
But then Hal came along. He’s five years younger than Daryl and eight years younger than Jane. When he was a baby, we’d just plan Harry Potter or other viewing for his nap time. He still has nap time but is particularly gifted at avoiding sleep during it. This means that won’t work anymore. He also resists going to bed without his big brother so after bedtime doesn’t work well either, unless the movie is only for Jane to see.
One day, Jane came home telling us that we just had to watch the movie Pitch Perfect. We tried to send the boys to bed but Daryl lobbied for permission to stay up and watch it with us. Once he secured permission, Hal put up his own fight.
Since it was so late, my husband convinced me that Hal would probably fall asleep anyway so we should just let him stay in the room. I had my doubts and I was right. He stayed awake the whole time, and since the entire family loved the film, we’ve watched it a dozen times since.
It’s hard to justify not letting him watch a movie that he’s already seen but now that he’s watched it so many times, he’s able to quote significant passages of the movie. Most of his favorite ones are ok. “Bootie work! Bootie work!” while he shakes his fanny at you is borderline. The worst, by far, is this one:
“I’m going to pitch-slap you so hard that your man boobs are going to concave.”
A preschooler is not known for clear enunciation and without the context of the movie to help with the pun, it sounds to any innocent bystander as if he just said “bitch-slap”.
You could say that we just made a mistake and this movie is not an indication of a slipping of our standards, but the fact is, even though I know we shouldn’t have let him see it, I don’t particularly regret it because we have, as a family, enjoyed referring to the movie.
Pitch Perfect was just the tip of the iceberg though. I let Daryl race through the Harry Potter books much younger than Jane. I’ve let him read Ender’s Game a full two years earlier than Jane – just so he could go watch the movie with us, which we did at 8:00 opening night – a school night! I even let Hal watch Thor on his birthday (PG-13 and on a school night!).
And the crowning jewel: when my husband passed off the decision on whether to let Jane go to a Walking Dead premier watch party at a friend’s house late on a school night, with the full belief that I would disallow it, I gave permission. Despite the fact that she had been having disturbing and terrible nightmares about zombies just this past summer.
I still draw the line at Hal seeing violent, intense, and/or action-packed PG-13 movies at the theater. I still check commonsensemedia.org before letting Jane see a theater movie I’m unfamiliar with. I still expect family to restrict viewing to PG or G without my consent. And when Jane asked to return to the friend’s house for week two of the Walking Dead, I loudly proclaimed NO! in unison with my husband.
So I’m not a lost cause. Just a considerably more relaxed version of my former self.