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Torturing the world with our children
Scripps Howard News Service


March 09, 2006

I can count the number of first-run, "grown-up" movies I've seen in theaters over the last 10 years on about two fingers.

Now kids' movies - I have seen them all, of course.

I remember talking to a then-colleague of mine years ago, before I'd had the first of my four kids, and asking if he had seen some movie I now forget. A father of four young boys, his response was, "Let's see, movie theaters - now, is that the place where you go in and you sit down in these comfortable chairs, and you watch something in front of the room? I remember those!"

Point taken. And that's where I am now, too.

So, I have not personally witnessed the phenomenon I'm hearing regularly discussed and lamented, but I'm not surprised about it: toddlers and other very young children being taken by their parents to "R"-rated films, movies that are horror features or include incredible violence or sexual scenes.

One parent who leaves her own children at home when she wants to take in such fare recently told the Chicago Tribune that she regularly sees toddlers and preschoolers screaming in fear during movies like "The Perfect Storm," "Hostel" and "The Ring." Wendee Goles isn't upset by the noise the kids make, but by the fact that parents would subject them to such adult movies. She's asked theater owners why they can't prevent it, and she's told it would be "discriminatory." Sheesh.

For the record, the typical response from most other adults from whom I've heard such stories is: "Sure, those kids shouldn't have been there for their own sake, but their caterwauling made it impossible for me to enjoy the movie!"

In that sense, I think the practice of dragging kids along with Mom and Dad is not just a lack of discretion about what these kids should watch, but where these kids should be in the first place.

It always stuns me, for instance, to see very young children at really nice restaurants, cocktail parties and countless other venues where they just don't belong. I think it has something to do with the egalitarian nature of things between parents and children these days and the idea that we're sort of "all in this together," instead of understanding that one generation (that would be us parents) has to civilize the next (that would be our kids).

And in the meantime, there are some civilized venues where the kids don't belong.

Yes, there are some civilized venues that can't be avoided. Airplanes, for one. There are times I have traveled with all four kids, especially when the youngest were toddlers, and have quite literally seen people panic as we approached their row, and breathe relieved sighs when we passed. To this day, when I do find our spot, I quite literally say to the people around us, "I'm so sorry - I realize your worst nightmare has just happened, but I'll do the best I can for you!"

But I also think we parents of young kids would get more slack cut to us in places like airplanes if we weren't also toting our exhausted kids along with us at 9 o'clock at night to Cote D'Or because we couldn't, or didn't want to, get a babysitter. Or, worst of all, because "Junior is such a darling everyone will enjoy having him there."

No, they won't. But you can't convince some parents of this. These are the same moms and dads who make their children play the piano or recite a poem they've written at their dinner parties.

I mean, I don't know if these are the very same parents bringing their little ones to movies like "The Ring," but I think it's part of a type A, "Where go I, there goes Junior" mentality, even when Junior is 4.

But if that's how these parents feel, why don't they just take Junior to Chuck E. Cheese's? Then the parents can be tortured, instead of the kids and the rest of us.



Betsy Hart is the author of "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids - and What to Do About It." She can be reached at or
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.

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