I’ve generally been pretty good about monitoring the appropriateness of what my children watch. I always check with Common Sense Media before I take them to see a PG-13 movie, and when my daughter wants to watch shows like Glee or Modern Family, I screen them first to make sure there’s nothing she can’t handle. But now that she’s eleven, I’ll admit that I’ve gotten more lax in my oversight. And as we all know, once you let your guard down with the first child, the second one always ends up with the short end of the parental guidance stick.
My kids really want to see Iron Man 3 when it comes out in a few weeks. My husband and I loved the first one, but our kids were too young to see it at the time it originally came out. I do remember thinking, however, that it wasn’t so bad, and that in a few years, they’d probably really enjoy it. So on Friday night I thought, let’s Netflix it, so that when we do go to see Iron Man 3, they’ll know the backstory. My daughter thought it was awesome. My eight year-old son, not so much. Let’s just say that I forgot about the part where Tony Stark gets tortured in a cave in Afghanistan. And let’s just say that my son hasn’t slept in three nights because of it. Oops.
At two in the morning on Saturday night, when my son came into my room after a nightmare about the cave, he informed me in no uncertain terms that he does not want to watch anymore PG-13 movies until he’s thirteen, period. They’re just too scary.
The great thing is, I can control that. I can promise him that he will not have to watch a PG-13 movie until he’s absolutely ready. But what happens when life is PG-13? Last year, when we talked one night at dinner about the awful tornadoes that tore across the south during Christmas, he burst into tears, put his hands on his ears and yelled STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS!
After the Newtown school shootings, I was incredibly careful about restricting the flow of information in my house. My daughter knew about what had happened, but we never discussed about it at home, I kept the TV off, and I made her swear not to say a word about it to her brother. I knew that if he found out about what had happened, he would never have felt safe again.
But as these horrible tragedies continue to happen, it’s becoming nearly impossible to shelter our school-aged kids. I didn’t tell my kids about the Boston Marathon bombings last week, yet my daughter heard about it from a friend, and my son got wind of it from the car radio. I did my best to explain it simply – there was an explosion at the marathon that hurt some people – without letting him know that bombs had been set on city streets with the sole intention of killing and maiming innocent bystanders.
But at two in the morning, when I’m stroking his hair and telling him that the bad guys in the movie are just actors pretending to be bad, that it’s all made up and that things like that don’t really happen, that he’s safe and that he doesn’t have to be scared of things like that – well, I can’t help but find the words getting stuck in my throat.