Last month Brendan’s class watched March of the Penguins in school. I knew nothing about the movie having never seen it myself, but wasn’t too concerned about it since it had a G rating and was a documentary. Well apparently I should have done my homework. There are a few scenes in the movie where penguins die, and my poor child sat sobbing in his long term substitutes arms and begging her to explain why they had to die.
This isn’t the first time we’ve gone through this with Brendan. He’s so sensitive about things that we try to be really careful about what we let him watch. We aren’t terribly conservative people, so I don’t look at the rating necessarily when making the determination if the movie is right for my children. What I do use is common sense. I know what types of topics will upset the kids, and those are the types of movies and TV shows I keep them away from. For example, Cameron scares very easily so we steer clear of movies that we know have things that will jump out at the kids or have an overly scary villain in them.
With Brendan it’s really much harder because the things that bother him wouldn’t bother most kids, and the things that bother most kids don’t really bother him. Take the penguins for example, most of the kids in his class glossed over the death of a couple of penguins and saw the bigger picture of the movie. Whereas Brendan couldn’t understand why those penguins had such a hard life and were destined to die. He didn’t think that was fair at all. There are a lot of Disney movies that we’re unable to watch with him as well. His biggest fear has always been losing Matt and me. The thought of losing us has even given him nightmares. Well, since Disney’s mainstay theme is orphaned children its really hard to allow him to watch them.
The worst reaction I can ever remember him having surrounded an episode of Franklin. I was pregnant with Kaylee at the time, and probably about 3 months from my due date. Brendan (having only been 4 at the time) didn’t have very many memories of me being pregnant with Cameron or bringing him home, so he had lots of questions about my pregnancy with Kaylee. So when the episode of Franklin aired where Franklin’s mommy is having a baby, I thought it would be a really good thing for him to watch. Wrong again. The episode focused on Franklin’s fears that his mommy wouldn’t love him any more or would be hurt by having the baby. At the end of the episode his mommy was fine and she loved Franklin just as much as she did before, so it was a happy ending…or at least I thought so. Brendan sat on my lap and sobbed for what felt like hours after the episode was over. He wasn’t worried I wouldn’t love him any more, he already had a little brother and knew that wouldn’t change anything.
But as he sat there and cried I finally worked out what he was saying. He was worried that when I went to have the baby I would die. My poor baby took all of Franklin’s worries and made them his own. For weeks this upset him, and he was so adamant that I was going to die, that I began to worry that he knew something I didn’t. He did eventually calm down some, but it wasn’t until I actually delivered my baby girl and came home healthy and happy that he finally got over it completely.
This all leads up to Wednesday. We received notification that the third grade class would be watching another movie that tied in with their lesson that week. This one was called Big Miracle, and since it contained a PG rating they needed parents permission for each child to watch it. We were much smarter this time, and researched the movie since again we hadn’t seen it before. What we found was that there is a death of an animal in the movie and that it might be a bit much for little ones. We weren’t sure what to do. The last thing we wanted was to traumatize Brendan again and force him to watch this movie, but at the same time we understood that the bulk of the third grade (if not all) would be receiving permission to see this movie and didn’t want him to feel left out by denying him the opportunity. So we sat down and discussed it with him and let him make the decision on his own.
When we first brought it up, he automatically assumed that we were going to deny him permission because of the PG rating on the movie. We quickly explained that wasn’t the case, and told him about the scene in the movie we were concerned about. As soon as he heard an animal died in the movie he begged us not to make him watch it. So that was that. We sent an email off to his teacher on Thursday morning and let her know that he wouldn’t be viewing the movie and why.
I’m so thankful that Brendan is old enough, and mature enough to take part in conversations like this. Even though we ended up going with our original gut feeling on the subject, including Brendan in the decision allowed him to understand why we were denying him and had him on board completely with the decision. I think if we’d left him out he would have resented us for not letting him see the movie.