ssssshhhh serenade

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.

Fun.

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Comments

heather's picture

I just remember the mother that brought a two year old to Traffic. The poor kid was bored and kept screaming. A friend of mine had a wise saying - "Don't have kids until you can afford the babysitter."
Ellen's picture

I whole-heartedly agree. Somewhere in some parenting book it must say that there are certain things you can't expect kids to do...among them is sit through adult movies and go shopping for hours and hours. Yesterday, I had to take my teen aged daughter to buy a gown for 8th grade formal. (Yes, I deserve a medal of some sort for accomplishing this task without bloodshed) I counted several small children being dragged through stores to look at clothes for mommy....no wonder they were whining and screaming!
gfmorris's picture

I'm just groaning that M:R has turned into a predestination/free-will discussion. I can't get away from this. AAAAAAAAAAAAH! Oh ... and stupid parents. ;)
jeffie's picture

Geof, Despite my rantings on geek-chick about overanalysis of the first movie, there's not really any question that the Wachowski brothers intended the dichotomy of predestination/free will as a major theme in the movies. I really don't think it "turned into" that discussion as much as it was such a discussion. They pretty much come right out and say it in the script (see the discussion in M:R between Neo and the Oracle). Does that mean I'm going to try to apply the movie directly to my own spiritual beliefs? Nah. Nevertheless, the theme is there.
gfmorris's picture

I guess it doesn't help that I get to hang out with a lot of Calvinists in the one community I help run ... me being a nice little Methodist boy and all, I get kinda frustrated.
gfmorris's picture

And still ... I mean, if it's anything like the bits and pieces of the first one I've seen, it's a crapload of graphic violence.
heather's picture

Addendum: I was cursing the parents today who brought TODDLERS to the showing of M:R we saw. Guh.
petrilli's picture

It's amazing, but when I went to see M:R Saturday with friends, there were 3 screaming children in the theatre. I just don't understand this. If it's generally not suitable for children under 17, how can it possibly be suitable for a 3 year old? Arguably a few 16 year olds might be capable of "getting it," and I didn't see anything too terrible in the violence (compared to other things), the R being more due to "nudity and sexual situations" I suspect, but a 3 year old isn't appropriate. I really do wish I understood what goes through a parent's mind when they think this is a "good idea."
kat's picture

After hearing about other people's issues with their viewings of M:R, I am currently really glad that we chose to go to the Wednesday late night preview showing. There were no screaming children or even loudly whispering children. Instead, it was a theatre full of people similar to the group that I was with that respectfully watched the movie. I think that's a first in a long, long time to me.
will's picture

I also saw a late show, and it was sans kidlings. which is nice. however, when we saw star Wars 2, some unthoughtful parental units brought their kidlings with them and sat behind us. I am not subtle - i _politely_ glared, then politely asked them to keep it down, then less politely informed them That if they couldn't discipline said kidlets, i would. They left shortly therafter when the kids started acting up again. *shrug* sorry, but, its a 3 hour movie. and im sure its great and all for a kid to see it, but thats why they have matinees. if you arent going to go to a matinee, then make your kid have a nap and are fed, bathroomed etc, beforehand. And please, please, ensure that your offspring are capable of being presented to the world at large and behaving appropriately. its the "Kids should be seen and not heard, and preferably not seen" rule. there is a time and place for kids, and they will be showered with praise and attention when they are well behaved. But if they cannot behave in a controlled and rational manner, i would prefer that you keep them at home.
angel's picture

In England, you can't get into the cinema at all (even with your parents) unless you're at or above the recommended age. So if something is rated 12, and you're 10, it's tough titties for you. I remember when I went to watch Zorro and there was this kid who was about 6 behind me who was very loud and distracting. I gave him a "shh." once, very calmly. After the film, his mother laid into me about how I had behaved inappropriately. After taking some verbal abuse, I told her in no uncertain terms that I felt sorry for her kid because it wasn't her kid's fault, it was her fault, and he really didn't have a chance with a mother like her. I also remember getting much childish pleasure out of kicking the shit out of a kid's seat in front of me when he was being disruptive. He was about 10 and should have known better. Every loud comment or similar got about 15 hard kicks. He shut the hell up after a while. Little bastard probably has kids of his own now . . .
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