We Are Both Right

Our Two Cents: The Not-So-Scary Movie That Scared a Friend Away

When it comes to scary movies, ask (mom) first, then press play. ©Jason Smith/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

Two weeks ago my 10-year-old son Jack and his friend Frank were playing at our house. While I don’t know Frank’s parents super-well, he’s been at our house at least six or seven times and my son at theirs as well.

They asked to watch the movie “Transformers” which is rated PG-13. My son has seen the movie quite a few times (we own it on DVD) and Frank said he had seen it before. The two were acting out scenes and quoting dialogue from the movie, so I went ahead and let them watch it. Normally I’d ask the other parent about letting a child see a PG-13 movie, but since Frank seemed so well-versed in it, I didn’t really give it a second thought.

I wasn’t home when Frank’s dad picked him up (my husband was), and nothing was said about what the boys watched. A few days later I got a call from Frank’s mom who was very upset that the boys had watched a PG-13 movie. I apologized right away, but pointed out that Frank said he had already seen it and it didn’t appear to have scared him. The mom angrily responded that it wasn’t the point, that she would have appreciated a phone call. I said I was sorry once more and we hung up. Ever since then, Frank has not been able to come over to our house, nor have their been any invitations for Jack to come to his. At school, Frank told Jack that his mom was mad at me and that he wasn’t allowed to play with my son anymore.

I’m so upset about this, but part of me wonders if the mom is overreacting. Should I call back and apologize once again? I don’t think I need to, but Jack misses his friend.

–Unrated

Amanda: I’ve come to find that in parenting, everyone’s got an “issue” (or seven). At least one thing that gets under their skin and irritates and annoys and drives them crazy whenever they are simply a witness or experience it directly. (For me, it’s parents who don’t watch their kids closely on playgrounds. It just makes me irrationally angry. Also? Moonsand.)

I think you’ve stumbled on to Frank’s mom’s issue. That’s not to say she doesn’t have a point — as you admit yourself, probably should have called her before the boys hit “play” on your DVD player. But you didn’t and she was bothered by it, you had a conversation and you apologized. And apparently, your apology wasn’t accepted.

Normally I’d say to let it go, but keeping in mind that there are two children involved who did nothing wrong and are paying the consequences, I’d give it one more shot. Give her a call, write a note, shoot off an e-mail, once again admitting your mistake and saying how sorry you are. Don’t mention what Frank told Jack, don’t try to justify your actions by pointing out that Frank’s already seen the movie. For all you know, the movie causes Frank to have nightmares or maybe he behaves poorly after viewing it. Maybe she’s not a fan of him acting out the script. Whatever her reason, the decision is hers to make, not yours and she has every right to make and stand by it.

Suzanne: For the sake of your son’s friendship, you might have to fall on your sword this time. (Or better make that a foam light sabre, since we’re aiming to take violence out of the equation in this case.) Give it another go and make a call.

It’s unlikely that she’s so mad that she won’t pick up, so when you get her on the phone start right off by saying: “I’m so sorry that I upset you and Frank and I’d like to be able to do something to assure you that we won’t have any mix-ups like that again. Most of the time I don’t put much stock in ratings only because I’ve had friends who didn’t approve of some G-rated movies because of anti-religious undertones so I always ask a parent before they watch any TV or movies. In this case, Frank seemed to know so much about the movie that I assumed he had been allowed to see it previously. Of course, I should not have assumed. I just hope that we can find a way to make this work for their sake.”

And now the ball is in her court once again. She’ll either have had time to rethink the situation and understand that you didn’t intend to overstep her and allow the boys to resume their friendship.

Or she won’t. In which case you made your best effort.

Like Amanda said, a child’s parent always has the last word — even if it does come across as overreacting to anyone else involved. After all, she’s the one who probably had to sleep on the last inch of bed if Frank awoke at 2 a.m. after being at your house. And that explains a lot.

In either case, you will know you made your best effort and never intended to be hurtful in the first place. Be sure to update your son and maybe come up with a few other “safe” viewing choices for the next time a friend comes over.

*********************************************

What’s your view on kids watching movies out of their age range? Was Unrated wrong?

If you’ve got a question that needs two opinions (or just want to know what movies we’re watching these days), send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

2 Responses to “Our Two Cents: The Not-So-Scary Movie That Scared a Friend Away”

  1. diane says:

    yikes! I agree with making a call and trying to smooth things over once again. All you can do is try. If the other mom still chooses to be … uh, less than willing to accept you apology, then what can you do?

    I personally censor nothing my children watch, hear or read. I have been mad-dogged by other adults while standing in line at the theater to see the Rush Hour movies with my kids (the two youngest were well under 10 at the time and all they wanted was to see Jackie Chan do his “tricks”) and I have been asked to watch my music in the car. I am very aware when other people’s children are in my care and the rule is, only public music stations (no ipod), no movies with questionable material, TV stations (Nickelodeon and Disney) are checked out with parents before hand, and I swear NOT to dye their child’s hair (yes, this topic has really come up). Fortunately, my kids and their friends prefer to kick the ball around outside, ride scooters or swim – problem solved, but I have had situations come up that I just couldn’t plan for or just fubar’d. Like you, I apologize, I explain the circumstances, and I try my best to be more aware the next time.

    Parenting is difficult with your own kids under your own rules and values – working with someone else (trying to guess what they are) borders on impossible.

    good luck and I hope it works out

    • amanda says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful response Diane. I especially like the part about how parenting your own kids is hard enough, trying to stay with someone else’s is incredibly difficult. It sounds like you’ve come up with good solutions — although I’m curious about the hair dye story!!! ; )

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