Our family loves movies, our kids love dinosaurs, Beth loves Chris Pratt, and I love getting out of the house, so the new “Jurassic World” movie seemed like a great Friday night activity.
Understanding that we would be providing the Parental Guidance for this PG-13 film, we thought it would be fun to let our oldest son, who will be 10 in a few weeks, see it. I’m fully aware that this may be a bad-parent call in some of your minds (and I respect your right to disagree), but Beth and I definitely talked it over and decided it was OK, since we felt like we knew what our boy could handle and since the rating was based upon suspense and horror instead of curse words and sex. We had a decision, we arranged child care for the younger kids, and we made plans to go.
However, when we shared our plans with the family, our middle son instantly got that dejected look in his face because he wanted to go. Beth and I were on the fence about it. I remember as a 13-year-old how the first “Jurassic Park” made my heart pump when it first came out, and while I thought it would be a OK for my 10-year-old, I thought it might be a little too scary for my 7-year-old.
“Because I want it” is almost never a reason to get something at our house, but we like to include as many kids as we can when we do activities, so we did something dangerous (This may really push you over the top on bad-parent calls) – We made it his decision.
We talked to him and explained that it was going to be scary and that watching a movie at the theater is way more intense then watching it at home. We also told him that playing with his brother and sisters might be a lot of fun too, and it would be the safe choice. It was made known that if he goes, mom and dad weren’t going to miss out on a movie and sit with him outside if he chickened out. Once he committed to it, he would be with us the entire time. This was not to be callous, but it was to make him think through the consequences and learn to live with them, good or bad.
With the proposition set, you would have thought I asked him whether or not we should have dropped the bomb on Japan. The boy agonized over that decision for three days. He definitely wanted to go, but the no backing out part really gave him pause. Several times, I saw him tear up about it when I asked him if he had made a decision or not. I usually don’t let our kids twist in the wind as much as I did, but for one of the first times in his life, he was making a difficult, adult-like decision, weighing both sides and figuring out what to do. Fortunately this was the better of two goods instead of the lesser of two evils (like a lot of adult decisions), but it wasn’t a clear-cut “no-brainer” choice that he was used to dealing with.
I understand that I could have done some things on my part to make this easier (go to a different movie with him, buy a movie for him to watch at his grandparents, allow him to leave the movie if it got too intense, let him sleep with us that night if he was scared, etc.), but I decided against it. More times than not, we as parents jump through hoops to push consequences out of our children’s lives such that they can’t make decisions whilst being mindful of them.
The day of the movie came, and he announced to us that he decided he would wait for it to come out on video in a few months. His ticket went to his older sister who, in her own decision, planned to stay with her two younger siblings at the grandparents house so they would be less jealous if the middle son went.
I was proud of the maturity it took for a seven-year-old to say no to something they wanted (something some adults need to do from time to time… Yes, I’m talking to myself with my Mt. Dew habit). There have been a few times we’ve asked our kids to make decisions, and they’ve made a less mature choice, but if I can live with the consequences they bring upon themselves either way, I believe they learn a lot in those situations too.
For now, the pressure’s off until “Fantastic Four” comes out! (P.S. – “Jurassic World” was a great movie. Chris Pratt wasn’t allowed to be as charming in this one as he has been in other things, but still, a fun time!)
At the dinnermesa,