Today the leading news story was the tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre – killing twelve and injuring scores more. One of the most shocking details was the injury sustained by a three-month-old. Now the debate is on whether that baby should have been there in the first place versus the idea that there should be no victim blaming.
I get both sides of the argument, but my gut can’t help but scream that these parents were way out of line. This child was unfortunately caught in the crossfire while the parents were exposed doing something most parents would choose not to do. Was your infant awake at midnight? Wasn’t it difficult enough to keep your baby calm and comfortable while breastfeeding or bottle feeding in a quiet atmosphere? And how do you come down on parents who show such a lack of judgment?
When my daughter was born, my husband and I were hopelessly entangled in the plotlines of Battlestar Galactica. We didn’t have a tv so we would do one show after another on DVD over the weekend. By time the little one came along, the two of us had my mom and our daughter propped up on the futon too. The volume was negligible and we used the subtitles. It was ridiculous, but I understand how the long hours of infant slumber could lead someone to think that they could hold on to some of the same prenatal activities they enjoyed.
On the flip side I have met a number of youth who, in my opinion, have been exposed to too much violence too young. I need go no further than my local library branch. I have been sitting there reading books to my daughter when another child takes an interest in the story or our presence and sits down. After a simple conversation, it has moved on to either “Have you seen The Lorax?” to “There’s this part of District Nine where the alien gets his arm blown off like this – bam! bam! bam!”
It breaks my heart. One, these kids are in a library and are having a much easier time relating to a movie than a book. Two, in each instance this has happened the child has proved to me in record time that he/she is craving attention. Yes, movies are fun but they are simply not nearly as interactive as playing together or reading a book together. Three, movies are marketed to seem appropriate to all ages when it can become clear mighty quick that certain scenes are just too charged for one reason or another. I was about to rent Rango at a Redbox machine when I came upon another mom; she said it ended up being way over her child’s head and she had a few years on my daughter.
To me, taking young children to the movies asks them to normalize a high degree of noise, action, and possibly violent, sexual, or lewd content. I get that there is only so long that you can hold these things back from children, so why not let them revel in that innocence for a few years?
I think it also comes down to marking whether you’ve made a shift as a parent yet or not. Will your child fit into your pre-existing lifestyle or will you allow yourself to be changed by the act of parenting? I struggled with this for a long time – mourning the loss of the free agency and movement about town that I had before my kids were born. I liked being selfish in a few ways that served me best. But my infant was so new, so vulnerable, and so dependent on me for nourishment and protection. No one else was going to watch out for her like my husband and I were going to – so we might as well get good at it.
My kids have watched movies – including scenes that have scared them – but I can’t understand why I would ever voluntarily show them images that are beyond their emotional maturity to process or desensitize them to a level of violence. At this point, we are happy to stick with Youtubes of newborn tiger cubs and talking dogs.