What’s Going On: Choosing movies with a 10-year-old

I once read parenting is like walking into a pitch-black room with the task of finding a singular coin without any light.

While you blindly try to feel your way around, there will be fear, frustration, anger, anxiety and a couple cusswords.

That’s a fairly accurate description of parenting. You know what you want to do. You want to raise a responsible, caring, considerate and successful individual from an infant to an adult … you just aren’t sure how.

You know what would help? A handbook. That would be great for all the scenarios you encounter as a parent. What do you do when they won’t go to sleep? What do you do when they won’t eat their dinner? What’s the secret to potty training? What do you do when they scream like banshees in public? What age can they be left alone, or ride their bike in the neighborhood, or deliver their newspaper route on their own?

But, alas, there is no manual. There is no handbook, because there can’t be a handbook because all children are unique and thus, react differently to all situations.

Including King Kong.

Last week, my wife and two daughters left town for five days leaving my 10-year-old son Jackson to stay behind and have some “guy time” with dad. It was a rite of passage for him as he got to stay home by himself while I was at work through the week … a privilege/responsibility his much more cautious mother was wanting to grant.

So appropriately, after he spent the day “taking care of himself” I thought I’d expand his frontiers a bit more in terms of movies during the evening.

We have always been somewhat cautious of the media our children are exposed to, even more so when at a young age I found Jackson with a rubber hammer hitting a stuffed animal in the head soon after he saw the same thing on a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Consequently, they haven’t seen a lot beyond the standard family films, with the exception of some of the Star Wars films.

However, over the course of the last year or so, Jackson has been allowed to watch a few more “adult” themed movies on Saturday nights when his younger sisters have gone to bed.

So, with the girls gone for five consecutive days, we lined up some movies, mixing newer ones with classics from my generation.

We watched Kong: Skull Island first, which was actually the third King Kong movie Jackson has seen. I wisely started him with the 1933 version a couple years ago when he was 8 and he loved it, followed by the 2005 remake a month or so ago. Not surprisingly, he loved the recent spin-off as well.

Conversely, we recently watched the 2016 version of Godzilla in anticipation of the newest version, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. However, after watching the 2014 version, I showed Jackson the trailer for the original of that franchise and he was not interested. Apparently, its not acceptable to go from 21st century special effects to a guy in a lizard costume.

After something new, the next night we watched a classic: Planet of the Apes. Jackson wasn’t impressed by the trailer and didn’t want to watch it initially (“I don’t like the idea of apes being in charge,” he claimed) but when the movie ended and he let out a gasp at the shocking final scene, he said he couldn’t wait to watch the next one.

The next night, we ventured into the DC Comics realm by watching Shazam. I’m not a comic book guy so I haven’t seen most of the superhero movies, or Avengers, or whatever else so maybe this was my own ignorance at work, but I thought a movie about a 12-year-old getting super powers would be appropriate for a 10-year-old to watch. After watching the movie, I’m not so sure.

We went back to my childhood the next night, though, with Rocky, one of my childhood favorites and another classic that launched a franchise. Jackson wasn’t impressed as he said flatly “it doesn’t appeal to me.” I think it was too much romance.

Finally, we ended our 5-day movie extravaganza with Iron Man 2, which much like Shazam, pushes the boundaries in terms of language.

Navigating what your child can watch, and not watch, is not simple because again, every child is different. Like most children, Jackson has always loved dinosaurs and was chomping at the bit to watch Jurassic Park. Literally after years of begging, we relented about a year ago. He has no desire to watch Jurassic Park 2 or any others as the first one scared the bejeezers out of him … especially the scene where the raptor was stalking the children.

The lesson there is violence against children: not cool. King Kong ripping a dinosaur’s jaws apart? That’s fine.

But don’t judge me. I didn’t have a handbook.

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Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.

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