Bringing kids to movies

A few years ago I saw The Dark Knight in the theater. The title was very appropriate, it was a very dark Batman movie, and honestly, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to be there.

When Todd and I sat down, there was a little girl, somewhere around 6 or 7, sitting on the floor with her hands over her ears. The previews had started and they were loud, fast and violent. This was very upsetting to me and I realized I couldn’t sit there and watch her struggle.

If the previews were causing her this much distress, I couldn’t imagine what the next two hours would be like for her – it was too much.

We moved seats, but my stomach churned throughout the movie – I thought about her during every violent moment, every scary appearance of The Joker and every car crash.

Not to mention that my new seat was two rows behind a crying infant…..yes, there was an infant in this movie.

I am not bothered when a baby cries in a public place – I think once you’re a parent your first feeling is compassion and total understanding when a baby is crying….all you want to do is help because you have been in the same situation so many times.

But listening to the little baby cry in a movie like this gave me a headache. It hurt even more because the parent was telling the baby to calm down instead of leaving the theater.

How could this sensitive little being ever feel relaxed or content in such a situation?

Many have suggested that children are too young to know what is going on in a movie, but children are sensory beings – they feel everything that is happening.

They may not have the words or experience to understand the plot of a movie, but they know what fear feels like – they can feel heaviness, they can feel negativity.

Children are actually at a greater disadvantage because they can’t discern what is real and what is not. They fully experience what they are seeing/feeling and they don’t have the maturity to realize it is fictional.

So their little bodies take in the pain, the discomfort, the killing, the adult language, the sexuality, and then they don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to process through it; they don’t know what it all means.

Several years ago I took my then 3-year-old to see the first Happy Feet movie. After 15 minutes she was sitting on my lap and was complaining of a headache. A few minutes later she threw up all over me.

Once I got her out of the theater, she was fine. She didn’t have the flu and she didn’t have food poisoning – the sights and sounds were just too much for her. And this was a kid’s movie.

Fast forward to a few weekends ago when Todd took me to see Breaking Dawn (yes, he is a great guy). I am sitting in a crowded theater and I can’t help but notice all the children sitting with their parents; kids as young as 3 or 4 years old.

I know we all love Edward, but Edward is still a vampire. And Jacob is a werewolf. And Bella has a pretty gruesome birth scene.

I could hear children crying throughout the movie and I could hear parents shushing them and getting frustrated, obviously not understanding that the kids are just trying to convey their discomfort, their fear, or maybe just sensory overload.

I love the movies and I love taking my children to movies, but my hope is that they enjoy the experience. I hope they laugh or feel inspired, or at the very least I hope they have fun.

Movies are powerful – they can create a view of the world and an outlook on life. They tell the story of our society; they teach us what is great (and not so great) about being a human being.

As parents it is our job to help our children integrate as much “great” as possible before they are inevitably bombarded with the “not so great” – the graphic material, violence, heavy subjects, and negative energy.

Before they are subjected to what our society loves to call “entertainment.”

Click here to hear Cathy and her husband Todd discuss this blog and more on Zen Parenting Radio.

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