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Is There Blood?

by Dear Jon
June 10, 2003

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Sort 221_Dear Jon-Is There Blood? ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

What do you think of parents taking their children to movies? Should parents strictly follow the guidelines (e.g. not bring anyone under 17 to an R rated movie)? What age do you consider appropriate for R-rated movies? For PG-13? With very few PG- and G-rated films being produced, should parents bring their young children to movies at all?

Movie Watcher

Dear Mo,

When the movie Jaws came out, it never occurred to my parents or me that this was an appropriate movie for me to see, since I was six years old at the time. Imagine how surprised I was to hear my friends talk about the movie and how scary it was.

My fellow six year-olds have grown up and are now parents of six-to-twelve year-olds. These are the children sitting in front of you at Matrix Reloaded.

Both Jaws and Matrix Reloaded are great movies. The cinematic achievements which these films represent set industry standards. Neither of these movies are appropriate for children. Just in case you have forgotten, Jaws begins with two strung-out pot-smokers agreeing to swim naked in the Atlantic Ocean as their foreplay to sex. Matrix Reloaded starts out with, well, I would not want to spoil the movie for those who have not seen it yet.

I do not advocate sheltering children in a false universe of parental omnipotence and absolute safety. In the days when Jaws appeared on the big-screen, I engaged in unsupervised creative play with toy trucks that contained real metal parts and sharp edges. Now, thanks to stupid people and their lawyers, toys are made out of soft plastic.

I also notice that parenting tends to fall into three categories: Complete Neglect, Absolute Paranoia, and Anything You Want Honey. The parents who completely neglect their children typically appear in newspaper pictures with handcuffs and a caption that read, “Heroine-addicted mother arrested after kid found sleeping in cat’s litter-box.” The absolutely paranoid parents send their kids to school wearing surgical masks and then wonder why their kids are not making any friends. The Anything You Want Honey parents are giving money for admission and concessions to their nine year-olds for the much-awaited sequel 2Fast 2Furious.

I realize now how good my own parents were. My Dad took the family to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was… what? nine years old? Right before the alien ship landed, I really had to use the bathroom. My poor Dad did not get cross with but took me back to the Men’s Room. He still got to see most of it. This is the risk parents take bringing children to movies that adults can enjoy; often the child has no idea what is going on.

I have a friend who may be one of the 117 well-adjusted people living in the world. On the surface, she looked like an “Anything You Want Honey” mother. Toys and games for her children filled a room. However, she forced her kids outside on a summer’s day, where they were able to create an unsupervised play with neighboring children which involved water hoses. During our visit her daughter, soggy and panting, came inside to tell Mom that a friend was crying because he had hurt himself. Mom’s reply was, “Is there blood?”

I realized that THIS was the well-adjusted parent! The well-adjusted parents lets kids play outside with other kids and water hoses in a neighborhood where the neighbors are neighbors and where nothing is a crisis unless it is bleeding! Thank God that sensible people still exist! Her daughter will probably grow up to be a leading medical doctor making millions of dollars off of her series of books and lectures titled “Is There Blood? Tips for Home Healthcare” because she will not have been scarred by being spoiled, neglected, or restricted.

Where do you fit on the spectrum of parenting? Here is a multiple choice quiz:
  1. You attend a family movie in which the hero is a fish, and the purpose of the movie is in the liberation of that fish from an aquarium in order to swim free in the ocean. Do you:
    1. Bring the needle with you into the theatre?
    2. Make your child wear a surgical mask to the movies?
    3. Go to concessions three times for more $4 boxes of gummy bears?
    4. Laugh at the funny big shark and promise to explain the joke later, hush?

  2. As soon as the movie is over, do you:
    1. Forget you brought your kid, or even had a kid?
    2. Rush home and spray all your kid’s clothes with disinfectant?
    3. Rush to the nearest pet store to buy an aquarium and the same breed of fish featured in the movie, so that your child can continue reliving the experience, without any reflection at all that the point in the movie was to let fish swim free?
    4. Remind your whining kid, who is suddenly making promises about how responsible they would be with an aquarium, what happened six months ago with the pet turtle that lasted all of two weeks?

  3. During a visit to your sister’s house, your brother-in-law lets one rip at the dinner table, and your eight year-old child begins to giggle uncontrollably. Do you:
    1. Ask for another smack.
    2. Rush to open a window to restore the oxygen balance.
    3. Let your child repeat the noise over and over again, bursting into hysterics each time, because, after all, at least the child is happy.
    4. Laugh too, with a comment on the general rudeness of all offending parties, and then when you have finished laughing make it known that you expect the child to stop laughing too, since it is not funny anymore and never was all that funny in the first place.

  4. The school principal calls to inform you of your child’s tardiness problem. Do you:
    1. Have a phone where the principal can reach you, or do you use the one on the corner?
    2. Promise to ground your child until his 21st birthday?
    3. Kindly explain to the principal that kids need to sleep these days, especially since they put David Letterman on so late in this time zone.
    4. Formulate a strategy for getting your kid ready for school on time, no ifs, ands, or buts.

  5. Your child complains about a bully who picks on him during recess. Do you:
    1. Inform your child that this bully is your supplier, so your kid needs to show some respect?
    2. Plan to move to another state?
    3. Promise your child all the money he needs to make friends with that bully?
    4. Inform the school that this is a developing harassment problem which you expect them to monitor and deal with or you will remove your student and go through channels of complaint.

  6. Your child has a bad day tending goal for her fifth-grade soccer team, which loses 8 – 2. Do you:
    1. My kid’s playing soccer? Is it a midnight league?
    2. Make her wear shin splints, a helmet and a surgical mask when she plays?
    3. Buy her a new bicycle to cheer her up?
    4. Let her cry, then tell her a story about a time you felt like you failed too, and then remind her that the world has not ended by taking the family out for hamburgers, which you were going to do anyway, win or lose?

  7. Your ten year-old wants to stop taking piano lessons. Do you:
    1. Care at all?
    2. Ground him until his 21st birthday?
    3. Agree that spending that extra hour a week on Playstation is a good substitute, just as long as he is staying busy?
    4. Tell him that when he is older people will think it is really cool that he plays the piano, which is why you won’t let him make this decision for himself until his thirteenth birthday?

If you answered (a) to even one question, you belong in jail and your kids need to be raised by someone else. If you answered (b) to even one question, you are the kind of parent that guarantees the future of the psychotherapeutic industry. If you answered (c) to two or more questions, you are the kind of parent that cannot understand what the big deal is when your own suburban teenagers get drunk and haze each other with baseball bats and dog poop. If you answered (d) to all or at least most of the questions, you are doing okay and so will your kids.

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