Has your child ever had nightmares over a show you let them watch? When my son was four, it was an episode of Scooby-Doo.
That was six years ago, and I should have learned my lesson. But nope. It’s a mistake I just keep on making.
For example, it was my brilliant idea to watch Life of Pi on family movie night. Come on, it’s rated PG! But thanks to that one stupid cinematic choice, my kids are forever worried about being trapped on a rubber raft with a tiger named Richard Parker.
I should also mention that we happened to watch Life of Pi one week before our first cruise. You can bet my children were unnaturally interested in the safety drills, and my youngest asked several staffers if there were any exotic animals traveling with us.
On another movie night, I picked Indiana Jones. My kids love adventure flicks, and as a child of the ‘80s, this seemed to be a no-brainer. However, I completely forgot about the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where the guy gets his beating heart ripped out of his chest. Oops! Again, not my finest parenting moment.
And don’t even get me started on Coraline. That innocent-looking animated feature gave me nightmares!
All of this got me thinking about potential warning signs you took your kid to an inappropriate movie. And trust me, there are plenty of warnings if only you pay attention.
1. When you get to your designated viewing area, you look around to discover that your young companions are the only underage patrons in the entire theater.
2. The previews make you gag, blush and/or look away.
3. Your youngest asks you to explain or define a word. It is not a word that you are ready to explain or define to a child of this age.
4. The movie begins, and you immediately start calculating how badly the children will be scarred by staying versus how much cash you’re about to throw down the toilet on an abbreviated cinematic excursion.
5. At some point during the film, you’re compelled to cover a child’s eyes. You may or may not also find said child in your lap or hiding his or her face into your shoulder.
6. Resigned that you may have made a terrible mistake, you find yourself scanning the aisles for the nearest exit.
7. You try to remember which movies are playing on the other screens, as you consider sneaking into another screening room and telling your kids it was all just a big mix-up. (The ticket-seller is an easy scapegoat.)
8. If you make it through the entire showing, you force your viewing partners to solemnly swear not to tell their classmates or grandparents about the “bad movie” you just took them to.
While these potential warning signs might help, sometimes a rogue Scooby-Doo episode or that deceptive Coraline will scare the bejeezus out of your kids anyway. Just know, you’re not alone.
And someday, when they’re older, your inappropriate movie choice will turn into just another anecdote from their childhood. I’m sure of it. Because 30 years ago, my sister and I didn’t sleep for days after my uncle let us watch A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Jacqueline Miller is the lone female in a house full of guys. She travels freakishly light and can balance two kids on her Dutch bike. Her recent articles appear in Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, and Grown & Flown, and she’s working on a book about her three years in the Netherlands. If you enjoyed this article, follow her at www.boogersabroad.com and https://www.facebook.com/boogersabroad.