I realize that it’s cheeky of me to rant and ramp about the parenting choices of other people when spouse and I do not have children ourselves, but there are some decisions that just strike me as incredibly wrong, even from a childless person’s standpoint.
Between rainstorms, spouse and I sneaked off to see Matrix: Reloaded tonight (although the only actual ‘sneaking’ content involved was in not telling the cats we were leaving). Now, I understand this whole cultural-phenomenon thing, and know firsthand from watching my friends with children that parents’ lives don’t just stop permanently after childbirth, but doesn’t there come a point where a parent has to ask the most dreaded question of all:
“Is this [insert activity/event name here] appropriate for my child?”
I realize that all children are different, and that activities or movies acceptable and comprehensible by one child are not necessarily right or correct for another child. Kids are a necessary part of life, and as such shouldn’t be banished from polite society. However, saying that does not mean that their presence is appropriate in every situation.
I defy someone to explain to me how children, aged approximately six and eight, have any business being in a rated-R movie. Specifically, Matrix: Reloaded. I’m just curious—what particular element specifically made the parents decide the movie was kid-appropriate: the heavily philosophical subject matter? the kung-fu violence? the more graphic violence? the not-quite-graphic sex? the over two-hour runtime?
While I have no doubt that the kids behind me were able to appreciate the lovely kung-fu eye candy that M:R offered, I have serious doubts about their capability to grasp the finer points of the predestination vs. free will argument presented throughout the film. Why? It couldn’t possibly be because every time the movie shifted away from action sequences to actual dialogue, I got the same back-channel dialogue repeated in Kid Surround Sound:
Kid: (stage-whisper) “Mommy!”
Mom: (stage-whisper) “What?”
Kid: (whisper) “Why they doin’ blah blah blah blah?”
Mom: (stage-whisper) “Ssssshhhh!”
Kid fidgets, rearranges self in chair, kicks chair in front of them (mine)
Wait five minutes. Repeat.
Repeat for two hours, with the additional options of unrelated child-to-child discussion.
By the end of the movie, I had no interest whatsoever in decking the blond tykes … okay, that’s a lie. Or perhaps not. I really didn’t want to hit them, I wanted to turn around and explain to them in excruciating detail that they were being obnoxious.
Then I would’ve turned a bit and slugged their mother. I had two reasons; one obvious and one not. I’m not going to trot out the “back in the old days, kids were better behaved” argument, because it is complete bullshit. However, I most certainly will trot out the “Do The Parenting” argument.
Reason #1, the “You’re The Parent” section:
Part of parenting is deciding what is appropriate for your children, and sticking with that decision. She lives with those children and is ostensibly raising them; what does that say about her parenting skills when the person sitting a row ahead of her can tell that she hasn’t bothered to perform a basic parenting duty?
Reason #2, the “So Act Like It” section:
I don’t know about the rest of you mortals, but when I was growing up, we got one “ssssshhhh” without consequences. It was a graceful way of saying “You’re a kid, and I understand that you forget these things, but this is your chance to straighten up before I inflict some consequences on you.” Continual admonishments without repercussion does nothing but teach the kid in question that “ssssshhhh” actually means “be quiet or I’ll just continue to tell you to say ‘ssssshhhh.’”
…and parents wonder why their children won’t mind them. It’s very difficult to say that “children need discipline” without sounding like a sadistic horror, but there’s a good amount of truth in the saying that ‘kids need limits,’ and that those limits need to be set by their parents. Children don’t come prepackaged with an innate understanding of the society they’re born into. They need guidance, instruction, and examples of how to live peaceably with their fellow humans (both children and adults)—the lessons we call politeness and manners. Taking turns. Sharing. Respecting others. Following instructions.
This instruction is the duty of the parent—these instructions and many more, both smaller and larger. This isn’t the Matrix, and the kids aren’t Neo—they can’t just download a complete set of rules for manners and politeness from a chip; they have to be taught, and the word taught implies a teacher.
So, let me go back and revisit part of #1—manners, honey, manners. As a parent, you’re the one that has to teach them to your kid. As a fellow (but unrelated and unfamiliar) member of society, I will not parent your child for you, but if forced, I will also have no compunction about publicly embarrassing you should your lack of willingness to act as a parent inflict upon the enjoyment of my life.
By all means, have kids, folks! Raise them however you like, but, for the love of all things holy, raise them to function in society. Teach them that talking, yelling, fidgeting, and running about is acceptable at play time, but that there are situations in life where you have to suck it up and behave. Then you—the parent!—have to learn to not put your kids in situations they aren’t able to handle just yet. If they can’t sit still for two hours, they don’t need to be in a two-hour movie; if they don’t understand heavy philosophical discussions, don’t take them to a movie that has heavy philosophical discussions as a major selling point.
Easy to say, difficult to implement. I know.
I wanted to turn around and say something to the mother on the way out of the theatre, but I found it far more interesting to talk with spouseling on the way out. On the way home, it hit me—we had to put up with the results of her bad parenting decisions for two hours, but she gets to put up with it for a lifetime.