I warned them. They can't say I didn't warn them.
Brett Berk: But we all know (or at least a parenting guide-writing professional like myself knows) how hard it is to get contemporary moms and dads to listen to advice on dealing with their preschoolers. I did my due diligence. I couldn't have been more explicit. My recent review of "Where the Wild Things Are" said very clearly to "leave the little buggers at home." I felt that the movie nailed its depiction of the psychological struggles and horrors of childhood, but did so in a very adult-oriented fashion.
Still, I got all sorts of contrary notes on the subject from parents who didn't believe or desire to heed my words of warning. "Taking my kids to see it today, despite your review," said one mom in the blustery Northeast. "I'll be the one in line with all the other parents who are trying to find something to do in this horrible weather!" And an auntie in the Midwest wrote, "Going with my best friend's daughter tomorrow. She's a hilarious kid and very thoughtful/critical, so I bet she'll have lots to share."
I rubbed my hands together in prurient anticipation, waiting for reports of tears, nightmares, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. "How'd it go?" I wrote to friends who'd brought their toddlers. "Have they stopped crying yet?"
But the consensus seems to be that the kids handled it just fine. "My sons, 4 and 5.5, saw the film and thought it was less disturbing to them than 'Up' was -- for a week after that one, my 4-year-old would not sleep because he was afraid I was going to die." (Fortunately, I've written about that as well.) "The boys were mesmerized by it," this mom went on, "and I think they both identified, on a very basic level, with Max ... Perhaps, the level of loss of control in the movie was frightening for them, but they might have also found it ultimately cathartic."
Note the use of the word "may" in that sentence. Anxiety often works slowly and cumulatively with young kids. They're resilient up to the point when realities begin to sink in, and then, days or weeks later, it erupts and they're overwhelmed. So only time will reveal the true scars the movie will engender in the early childhood set. I'm picturing long lines for grape-flavored psychotropics this winter, an inexplicable number of solo boating accidents, and a rash of moms queuing up for rabies shots. But maybe I've got it all wrong. Maybe the adverse effects will be adult-based. This is certainly the thinking of another mom who wrote me: "Although my 6-year-old son loved it ... and has suffered no ill consequences as of yet," this mother found the movie to be quite traumatic. "I, on the other hand, may need hospitalization!" (Beware the "as of yet"!)
So what was YOUR experience? Did your 4-year-old run screaming from the theater? Did YOU? Or did everyone just settle down to a nice Wild Rumpus? Tell us about it in the comments below.
|Brett Berk, M.S. Ed. has worked with young children and their families for over 20 years--as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and research consultant--and is the author of "The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting."|