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.

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Television on Playdates

When I have a spare minute, either by myself, with my husband or with my friends, I do any number of things, depending on who is in attendance and what I’m in the mood for. I go to a movie. I play a game. I read a book. I cook. I exercise (ha!). I go for a walk. And sometimes I watch television. I like watching tv with other people, particularly if it’s a show we both like and can talk about later (or during).

My point is, that watching television isn’t necessarily a solitary activity. It’s something that can be done with someone else and can be quite enjoyable. (Seinfeld series finale party anyone?) (I know, it’s a dated reference but I just never got into Lost, sorry.)

Fisher-Price Two Tune Television

Fisher-Price Two Tune Television

Now when my kids have friends over to play, I expect them to do just that. We are a well-equipped, child-friendly house, with tons of toys, games and other assorted fun things, including a large swingset, bikes, bubbles, Barbies, Legos, hula hoops and the like.

But sometimes all of those things are not enough. Maybe the kids get sick of one another and are squabbling, maybe it’s raining, maybe it’s very hot outside, maybe they are (shudder) “bored.” ¬†Sometimes I find, letting them watch television — just for a little while — is enough to shake them out of their rut.

I do have some rules.

  • The program has to be something that our guest is a) allowed to watch at home and b) likes.
  • Generally, I limit them to a half-hour or one show, unless the playdate was scheduled with a specific viewing purpose in mind — to watch a movie or a sporting event for instance.
  • The visiting child’s parents need to be OK with television on playdates too. (Usually when a kids is dropped off, I do a quick rundown of what is allowed and what isn’t.)
  • If it’s a sleepover, slightly more television watching is allowed — that’s generally when we do a movie.

Still, the role of the television on a playdate isn’t necessarily to save it. Sometimes it’s the whole point — or at least a part of the afternoon.

While I want my son and daughter to socialize with their friends when they come over, I would argue that television is a common ground for kids to interact with one another. One of my elder son’s favorite shows in the whole word is Star Wars: The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network. All week long he and his friends are either: talking about the episode that aired on Friday or, talking about the episode that is going to air on Friday. They speculate and theorize and imagine, happy to have someone to bounce ideas off of and share their “Did you see that?” moments. And when he and his friends can watch it together, they are all so excited, happy to be sharing something they all love.

And the way my kids watch television with their friends (my son in particular), I can promise you no one is sitting on the couch slack-jawed. They are up off of the couch, shouting and laughing with one another, having fun. And isn’t that the ultimate goal?

What about you? Are your kids allowed to watch television on a playdate?

When we go to Suzanne’s house, the television is off, but I can promise you, we are never bored.

Leaving TV Out of the Playdate

Chris Chidsey/stock.xchng

When my husband and I were dating, we rarely went to the movies. As in less than five times in the first three years we knew each other.

Now before you go and assume that either he was cheap or I was a cheap date, I’ll tell you why. Neither of us wanted to spend the time we had together sitting in silence focused on something else. (Ah, young love. What I wouldn’t give now to sit silently in a movie theatre — with him or by myself.)

Instead, we opted to go on dates that were more active and gave us a chance to talk without fear of being shushed. Ice skating, wine tasting, dinner with friends, hockey games, even walks around the mall were all more participatory than a night at the movies.

So I guess it’s no surprise that we encourage our children to do the same — at least as far as playdates are concerned. (My three-year-old happens to be practicing for her wedding in the next room, much to her daddy’s chagrin, but I’m hoping we still have time before the real dates commence.)

By leaving TV out of their playdates, I’m hoping my children get more quality time with their friends. I don’t have to worry about other parents’ philosophies on screen time either, since I won’t be stepping on any toes by insisting they don’t watch TV on a playdate (anything’s possible, but I haven’t heard of anyone who thinks their child watches too little TV).

In some cases, I don’t mind if they play video games for part of the playdate. At least in that case, they are playing together. Sort of. I usually cut them off after 20 minutes and suggest they go outside or play a board game. Even chasing each other around the house with Nerf guns is better than sitting in front of the screen with their mouths open.

I can think of a few times when I wanted to break this self-imposed rule after hearing cries of boredom because two preschoolers couldn’t agree on what to play. But even then, I think I just broke out the Play-Doh.

Despite all the interference I cause on my turf, when my son goes to a friend’s house I have no limitations. The one time a mom actually asked if I minded if they played video games while he visited (because her son had just received a new game for his birthday and was excited to try it out with a friend). I told her that I had no problem with that at all. And I meant it. If that’s how his friend wants to spend their playdate, it’s fine.

Just not in my house.

Despite my opposition to TV on playdates, I can’t say I mind when I glance over at the five children sitting quietly watching a movie in Amanda’s living room while we have uninterrupted adult conversation in the kitchen.