Monday, August 23, 2010

Feeling 'Up' the Creek

We were very excited a couple of nights ago. After all, we were we were finally opening the doors to a whole new world for Lukas. A world where he could travel to the furthest reaches of the globe, see magnificent sights, encounter strange and mythical creatures, and....

apparently have the bejeezus scared out of him too. We feel like such great parents right now.

Saturday night we implemented a family ritual I have long been waiting for. Family movie night. It was also Lukas' first ever movie. I'll repeat that for those of you skimming over this post. FIRST. EVER. MOVIE.

All he had watched up to that point were video episodes of kid television shows and short stories. You know, Elmo, Clifford, Max and Ruby. All pretty tame stuff full of love and hugs, rainbows, cute kittens, and lovable bunnies. At least I am pretty sure they were, since I rarely made it all the way through one of those episodes without getting distracted by life's task list.

Anyway, as a policy we have limited the amount of screen time Lukas has been exposed to as his brain has been developing, so a feature length movie has always been too long for us to commit to showing him. Until now. Mrs. LIAYF and I decided that now that he was past 3 years old it would be a good time to implement the movie night once a month. You know, make it a special occasion...with popcorn and hot chocolate, PJ's and snuggling on the couch.

Unfortunately, our planning didn't extend to carefully researching the movie we were going to show him. And it turned out to be one of those moments, as a parent, that no matter how good of a job you think you are doing (and I think Mrs. LIAYF and I are doing a pretty decent job) that you realize that you haven't quite done right by your child.

It's humbling, and also a bit of a jolt to your parenting ego. Mine at least.

No, I didn't pick up 'Cujo' at the video store, but at times during the movie 'Up' I was wondering if I had. All that we had heard about it was true. It was a great movie. We just didn't realize that it was rated 'PG' and recommended for school age children. I didn't do my research on this one and I feel like I let my son down a bit as a parent. That's because this movie had a lot of serious, and scary stuff for a 3 year old.

Packs of vicious dogs, shooting guns, a house fire, falling, blood, and death all led Lukas to call out a couple of times "OH! This is a scary movie!" While Mrs. LIAYF and I glanced at each other, a bit mortified of what we were showing him, and wondering if we should pull the plug. Instead, we chose the alternate strategy of explaining to him what he was seeing and emphasizing the braveness of the characters, and of course that it wasn't real. It seemed to work.

On a slightly humorous note, the thing that seemed to upset our son the most wan't any of those things, it was when the old man began throwing his belongings out of the house. "They're BREAKING those things!" he wailed, obviously upset. "It's ok, he can replace those things." We explained.

In the end, perhaps we didn't give Lukas enough credit. That's because once it was all over, it was as if the scary parts didn't even happen. He didn't mention them as we prepared for bed, didn't wake from any bad dreams, and hasn't talked about them since. He seemed to understand that it was just a story.

Still, I think we are going to do a lot more research before we choose our next family movie.

Any suggestions?
Image: Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures


Ben said...

I recently took my 3 y/o to see Toy Story 3. There were some scenes of 'vague peril' in there as well, but he didn't seem fussed.

You'll struggle to find a film that has no element of danger in it, as you wouldn't get the 'good guy/fairy/fish overcomes evil' moral that seems to run through every kid's film.

Having said that, try Garfield. My boy loves it, and so do I. It stars Jennifer Love Hewitt. Purrrr.

j9onLife said...

James, I still struggle with this and my children are now 9 and 11. Firstly, let me tell you you're not alone in making such mistakes. I heard a parenting expert once say that it's being a great parent most of the time that counts!! Secondly, be prepared to be in the minority if you are carefully monitoring your children's media exposure. Most parents with whom I interact are much more carefree to the point of "What's the big deal?!" and can make you feel almost prudish. I still try to stand my ground and do what I believe is best for the children with whom I have been entrusted. This is only the beginning of the journey. The important thing is that you're talking about it and you're trying to make good choices.
All the best to you and your wife as you continue to be great parents! Remember, be great most of the time!
Janine Murray

Didactic Pirate said...

You're describing exactly what happened when I, in an act of total Dad Bravado, took my daughter to see Jung Fu Panda a few years ago. She was 6. She went from laughing at the silly fat panda bear to hysterical crying at the scary evil tiger, to open sobbing when the old turtle dies.

Then more crying during the closing credits, because the music made her "feel too much."

Now, it's one of her favorite movies, and she makes me watch it with her at least once a month. Weird.

Didactic Pirate said...

That, of course, was Kung Fu, not Jung Fu. Stupid typing fingers.

Mrs. M said...

Hannah saw Up on the big screen and it freaked her out - we almost left halfway through. Toy Story would probably be a good choice for you 3! t

Brandon said...

Amanda and I definitely had our fair share of movies that we thought Maddie would absolutely love and we ended up with tears at one point or another (Disney Princess Movies that she begged to watch). Crazy enough we watched the original Winnie the Pooh with Maddie and apparently Pooh getting stuck in the rabbit hole was way to traumatizing (She was like 2 or 3).

Dan said...

I took Evan to see UP at the cinema, and we had to leave as soon as the pack of dogs turned up as he was too scared.

Amy is even more sensitive and even now at the age of 6 she can't cope with anyone being in peril, which rules out most films to be honest.

Mary Poppins was a real favorite of Amy's at around three mind you, you could give that a whirl.

HHTales said...

My son at age 4,thanks to sharing a hospital room with a teenager, watched all three Jurassic Parks on three consecutive nights. He cheered for the T-Rex which was a bit disturbing. We also talked about reality vs make believe. 'So the T-Rex just pretended to eat the man' 'basically' He is now 8 and watches a movie once for the fun and then to take apart and try to figure out how they did every scene. By no mean do I recommend Jurassic Park for four year olds but talking to them about make believe is useful. They understand more than we think in their own funny way.

Homemaker Man said...

Nemo, Man finding Nemo is Money. Except for the sharks. But they never actually bite anyone. Of course, the mother and 500 of his siblings die in the first scene, so maybe not.

Anonymous said...

We are the opposite as far as the "screen time" goes...and we home school. My wife can get any 4 year old to read...but they all can name every movie character alive...or animated.

The Toy Story movies are very good and safe.

Keith Wilcox said...

Up, I think, was definitely more of an adult movie in that the theme dealt with serious sorts of sentimental stuff that kids don't quite understand. Obviously the kids love it too, but I can see how a little one might be a bit freaked out by some of it. Nevertheless, I think you did well. He'll see that stuff eventually -- might as well get it over with, right! :-)

Steve said...

I made the mistake of taking my 4 year old to see "Where The Wild Things Are", which was way more dark then the trailer had suggested to me. We left after 20 minutes. Now I don't take him to PG or above and at home I watch with him unless it is a "U".

The real trouble is all the super-hero films these days (Spiderman, Iron Man, etc) seem to be certificate "12".

FilmFather said...

With Up, you went the right team (Pixar), but check out their G-rated films for your next movie night with Lukas -- which I think would be any Pixar title except the PG-rated Incredibles, which is awesome but could be a bit much for a 3-year-old.

I agree with Homemaker Man: Finding Nemo. A great film on so many levels, and one to really bond with Lukas over. Yeah, there's a "Disney mom death" right at the beginning, but it's quick and off-screen, while Marlin the dad is unconscious.

And if you need any more recommendations, I know this blog where a guy reviews movies for dads and their kids... :)

Captain Dumbass said...

Milo and Otis. Added bonus for parents who don't like cats, you get so see one jump off a cliff into the ocean.

SciFi Dad said...

Our first theatre attempt was an IMAX movie; it took almost three years to get her back into one after "THIS IS IMAX" made her run screaming.

My five year old couldn't watch Up, for what it's worth.

I'd suggest Curious George (bonus: Will Ferrel is the voice of the man with the yellow hat).

Papa K said...

Interesting to see those kind of movies through the eyes of a 4yo. I wouldn't beat yourself up about it but I def applaud you for keeping they eyes of Lukas off the glow of the television... we're not quite so strong!

I know someone mentioned the Toy Story movies... I think those would be a good second choice.

Papa K said...

Interesting to see those kind of movies through the eyes of a 4yo. I wouldn't beat yourself up about it but I def applaud you for keeping they eyes of Lukas off the glow of the television... we're not quite so strong!

I know someone mentioned the Toy Story movies... I think those would be a good second choice.

Anonymous said...

We did Finding Nemo, but fast forwarded past the part where the Mom dies. Seriously what does Disney have asked Moms?

Rachael said...

DC Urban Dad, I totally fast forward past it every time too. My 4 year old isn't that bothered by it, but I don't like to watch it. I also fast forward through the scene in The Lion King where the dad dies.

We watch a lot of movies, so maybe I can recommend a few...

Ponyo is rated G and is a great one, it's a sort of modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, and it's very cute.

Chicken Run is cute too, it's claymation like Wallace & Grommit.

Babe is pretty cute.

Milo and Otis is pretty good, it doesn't have any talking, just narration and it's a real dog and cat who go on an adventure. I loved it as a kid.

Wall-E is also rated G, if he likes robots or space, that might be a good one.

Curious George is a great movie too.

These are all movies that don't make my brain hurt when I watch them with my son.

Average Girl said...

Don't know if you're into the "Veggie-Tales" scene,but they have a couple of feature-length films and are funny! I would also agree with Curious George (great soundtrack for the grown-ups, too). Elmo in Grouchland, maybe? Good luck~

PJ Mullen said...

I think any of those Pixar movies could potential have a scene or two that kids aren't terribly fond of. My son hates the sharks in Finding Nemo, but he loves the rest of the movie.

DGB said...

There are so many movies that would freak out a small kid.

Cars is a big hit in my house. As is the first Toy Story. My son doesn't like the second one because Woody gets stolen. He couldn't stand the third one.