I’m angry. Why?! BECAUSE OUR KIDS ARE GETTING HURT AND ARE DYING! They’re killing themselves, killing each other, getting pregnant, getting raped and overdosing on drugs and alcohol! Sheltering them from the bad, instead of showing it, and it’s consequences, will not save them.
After hearing about a bill in the Virginia Senate earlier this week, I decided to explain why we let B watch some rated-R movies. I’ve received looks and comments from parents who disagree, disapprove, or were just plain shocked into silence, but the horrified look on their face told me exactly how they felt. I get it. There are plenty of things other parents allow/disallow their children to do that I don’t agree with and you have a right to disagree with me, as well. However, we feel we have damn good reasons. And since I don’t feel the need to get into a debate, nor defend myself, to the person who just stares in horror at me, I do have a platform right here.
First, let’s start with what inspired me to write this post. There is a bill, already passed by the Virginia State Senate and now waiting to be voted upon in the House, requiring “…K-to-12 teachers to notify parents of classroom materials with “sexually explicit content.” Parents could then “opt out” their children and request that the teacher provide an alternative assignment.” You can read the details, and find out how this bill came to be, in this Washington Post article. That got me thinking, again, about how some parents disapprove that the hubs and I do not shelter our son and sensor what he’s exposed to as much as they do. Then I found out this week that the 14 yr old daughter of an acquaintance killed herself and a 17 yr old OD’d on heroin.
If our children are blessed to live long, healthy lives, we will only have them under our roof and under our influence for the first quarter of that time. Our job is to ensure our son has the education and tools to take care of and protect himself when he leaves home. One of my personal goals has always been to make sure B won’t become a college freshmen brain-damaged or dead from alcohol poisoning. My son will know his mother was raped, will know all the different scenarios of rape and will be taught to intervene on behalf of ladies who are not giving, or cannot give, consent. The storytelling in movies can be great tools for learning about life. If we waited until B was the legal age to watch rated-R movies, 17, we’d have less a year to utilize these particular tools.
We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that by not allowing B to watch or read certain things, and only letting him visit the homes of friends who aren’t allow to watch or read certain things, that he would never be exposed to them. He’s bombarded by them all the time, in (phone/computer) and out (friends and strangers) of our house. I don’t want other kids “educating” our son based on something they saw, overhead, misinterpreted or made up to impress their friends.
Here’s a scenario that won’t happen in our home. B is forbidden to watch rated-R movies. While hanging with a friend, the friend tells B that last Saturday he couldn’t sleep, snuck down to the basement TV and watched a late-night, “soft-porn” show on cable. Or maybe this friend was searching the web for something harmless and a typo led him to something completely inappropriate and he told be, in detail, what he saw. Something that the friend described was confusing to B or he didn’t understand what a word meant, but he doesn’t want to look stupid to his friend, so he doesn’t ask questions. But he has questions. If he’s forbidden to see such things, and the friend hasn’t told his parents what he saw for a reason, what’s the likelihood that B’s going to come home and feel safe bringing his concerns to us? He doesn’t want to get in trouble. He doesn’t want me to tell his friend’s parents and get him in trouble, either. And he probably believes he’d get the standard answer of, “That’s not an appropriate discussion to have at your age.”
We talk, we discuss, we share real-life examples from our own experiences, we read biographies and we show him with TV and movies.
Movies are rated-R for several different reasons. Language – I’m a cusser. B has been raised hearing cuss words so they have no shock-and-awe value to him. I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain and neither does my son. But kids he hangs out with cuss. Kids your kid hangs out with cuss. And your and my kids cuss when they are not around us. My son knows what cuss and slang words mean and their context. He knows which ones are degrading and insults and are not to be used in joking conversations with friends nor talking about others. Now, do I wish my son didn’t cuss at all? Sure. But you need to know that your child is hearing and using bad language when he or she is not around you. Don’t you want your child educated on what those words actually mean? Don’t you think they’d be horrified to find out they or a friend was using a word casually to describe another person? It’s happened with my son. The difference is that my son feels safe and comfortable coming to his father and me to ask questions and ask for clarity. Does yours?
B knows how babies are made. However, we don’t show him movies that have people having sex in them. If we come upon a sex scene by surprise, we skip the scene. If B asks why, we calmly, nonchalantly tell him he doesn’t need to see that and continue on with the movie. We don’t freak out, turn off the TV, eject the DVD and get it back to the store ASAP. He’s involved in the storyline! We all want to know what happens next, how it ends. Skip the scene and move on and he’s so engrossed in the story and quickly forgets the skipped scene.
It’s easy to send the wrong message when labeling something “inappropriate” and I don’t want my child to feel he is inappropriate for thinking about/being curious about things. Sex is not inappropriate. God created our bodies to have sex, to receive pleasure from sex and to create life. My 13 yr old watching a couple having sex, or he himself having sex, is inappropriate. Alcohol is not inappropriate. Cooking with it and having a couple of drinks at the end of a hard day or with Christmas dinner is not inappropriate. A teenager getting drunk at a sleepover or an adult drinking and driving is inappropriate. Taking my prescription properly for a condition or disease is not inappropriate. My son taking my prescription and selling it on the playground, is. These are important distinctions that needs to be made to our children.
My son will not learn what he needs to know about alcohol if his only exposure to it is adults having a glass or two of wine with dinner. His first view of, or experience with, a drunk person or a party full of drunk people cannot be when he’s hundreds or thousands of miles away from us in college, because he won’t just run back to his dorm room, lock the door and call home or open his Bible. He needs to know what drunk looks like, acts like. And although there are movies that can scare him with the worse case scenarios, that still won’t empower him to deal with college. Why not start out with something a little lighter, a comedy movie about college, sororities, or fraternities. Just like we do with all movies we watch (because we’re homeschoolers) the remote would be in my hand to PAUSE the movie and ask him questions about what’s going on in this scene. What’s his take? How does he feel about it? Any characters acting how he would? Any characters acting how he would not? Why, or why not? Lectures telling him alcohol is bad, illegal at his age, tastes terrible and will make him feel like shit the next day won’t mean a thing to him when he walks into a college party with underage drinkers who certainly look like their having a lot of fun.
And then there are the rated-R movies that are just plain enjoyable to watch and we’re OK with B watching them with us. The Wedding Ringer, Spy, The Heat, MI-5, Kingsmen, to name a few. Friends, family and complete strangers always compliment us on B’s behavior, maturity and inclusivity. He doesn’t go around cussing, making crude gestures nor hiding things from us. He has not been corrupted, ruined nor driven towards drugs, sex and alcohol merely by watching movies with his parents and having open, non-judgemental discussion about them.
The world is a big, scary place, people, if you aren’t completely informed about it. I was sheltered as a child and inexperienced & unprepared for college life. I was told and talked to about the bad things in this world. But I was never shown. The words used to describe the evils and pitfalls of this world were not enough to help me recognize them in person. Telling me what and who was bad did nothing to teach me what to do when I encountered them. I learned, the hard way, about the bad things that can go on at colleges and I suffered for years because of it.
My son will enter battle fully trained and fully armed. Will yours?