A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (have I begun a post like this before? Probably), at the beginning of what was probably Grade 3, our class did an exercise. Our teacher had us fill out a Time Capsule, which listed our favorite movies, TV shows, books, music, colors, etc., explaining that when we were finished, she would file them and then at the end of the year, we were to fill them out again, not sneaking looks at our previous answers, to see how we had grown and changed.
In the “movies” space, I distinctly remember writing “Beverly Hills Cop”. I’m not sure whether or not my teacher read them after hours, in the privacy of her classroom sans students, and if she did, how she reacted. I’d be willing to bet that if I’d been born 25 years later, however, that an answer like that might’ve resulted in a phone call to the parents (“did you know your child had watched”–(gasp!)”–“a Rated R movie? Did you supervise that play-date??”
And my mother would likely have responded with a “First of all, ‘play-date‘? Are you kidding?”, followed up with immediately by, “duh. Sure, no harm in that.”
And she would’ve been right. I’m not anti-social or maladjusted. (Crude, yes, but at least I reel it in amidst mixed company.)
And I realized by the time I was 10, that I’d seen plenty of Rated-R movies: the aforementioned Beverly Hills Cop, Terms of Endearment, Teachers, Flashdance, and many, many more.
They didn’t scar me.
They didn’t traumatize me.
They didn’t contaminate me.
They didn’t doom me for life.
They didn’t shatter some pure, fantasy-conjured outlook on the world.
Instead, I grew up with a semi-realistic view of the world (at least, as “real” as Hollywood can deliver”. I learned about drugs, drug deals, undercover cops, guns, and that businesses could double as fronts for illegal activity from Beverly Hills Cop. I learned about adultery and cancer from Terms of Endearment.
As a result, I learned to cuss–and when not to. I saw the dangerous side of the drug trade. I saw what cheating could do to a marriage. I also never went through any “sex talk”, known as “the birds and the bees” back then. Nor did my parents have to have the “Just Say No” (drug) conversation with me. Nobody had to explain these things to me. I just sort of always knew. (My mom did draw the line at rape, though; she had to explain that to me, as gently as she could, probably during the same year.)
Not that my mother’s idea of a babysitter was the state-of-the-art 2-head VCR, mind you. No, I’m sure that the first time I saw these movies, she watched them with me. I vaguely remember her explaining certain aspects, pointing out the differences between movies and real life, notifying me that there are certain words we don’t use in public and of course, covering my eyes or fast-forwarding through the raciest or most violent of parts, and letting me watch the rest, even if the majority of other parents out there would’ve raised an eyebrow at her for doing so. And after a few times of watching the movie with me, she’d let me watch it on my own, whenever I wanted.
Fast-forward to my teen years: I was a good kid. I didn’t share that teenage-rite-of-passage mantra, “Parents just don’t understand” with my peers. I didn’t feel the need to attend the weekend keggers and get blitzed out of my mind. I didn’t feel the need to sneak around, leading a completely separate life from that which I displayed to oblivious parents. Nope, my mother and I had pretty open communication and most importantly, I was developing into a young adult that would view the world around me with a realistic lens. As I rounded the final lap of high school, my mom was probably pretty confident that I’d be able to face the world out there, survive and thrive in it, all without getting steamrolled by it.
Imagine the shock that today’s special snowflakes, having been coddled and handcuffed by 21st-century helicopter parenting tactics, when they hit the exhilarating–but unforgiving–pavement of today’s vast, complicated world. I pity them. And I admit, having to live amongst them, in a world where no human action occurs in a vacuum and the actions of one can profoundly affect the actions of many others, I’m a little nervous.
So let your kids watch a few movies with “adult situations”, “language”, some light “nudity”, or even a little “violence”. Do draw the line somewhere; your kid may groan at having their eyes covered through a particularly-racy 2-minute scene, but they’ll learn a very important concept: boundaries and limitations. They’ll learn that as contemporary and laid-back as you are, you’re still a parent, and there are limits to freedom.
Surprising things will happen. They’ll learn how to use the freedom and trust that you’ve given them responsibly. They’ll learn not to cross the invisible lines or break that trust. They’ll learn to appreciate the leeway they have. They’ll learn what the real world is like, long before they have to face it themselves. This removes a lot of fear–or, conversely, future rude awakenings.
You’re not supposed to be your child’s friend. You are supposed to be their parent. Part of parenting is indeed protecting your children while they are still young and vulnerable. But the other half of parenting–the half my helicopter-parenting generation too-often so conveniently forgets–is indeed preparing your children. You can’t shapeshift the world around you to accommodate your growing child, but you certainly can impart the wisdom and skills they’ll need to withstand it and succeed in it.
As an adult? I’m gainfully employed. I’m happily and faithfully married. I’m clean and sober. I’m well-adjusted.
Despite having watched Rated-R movies when very young. (And never having had a scheduled “play-date”.)
So whatever happened to that Grade 3 Time Capsule? Yeah, my new “favorite” movie by the end of the year was “Good Morning Vietnam”.
(Insert trademark Eddie Murphy Laugh here.)