Compared to the world’s standards, Katie is living a sheltered life. She isn’t allowed to watch much TV. The TV she does watch is usually an animated cartoon on PBS or maybe on the Disney Channel. Her grandparents let her watch things I wouldn’t allow, but that’s a grandparents’ prerogative (and they aren’t awful things to watch anyway, or else I’m sure Dan and I would intervene). We have friends whose kids – at Katie’s age and younger – have watched movies like Twilight and some with adult storylines about cancer and death.
But Katie is, in a word, innocent. For example, she has watched Scooby Doo episodes at Grandma and Poppy’s, and has had nightmares from them in the past. I think her imagination just runs wild after seeing cartoon zombies and mummies. We requested the grandparents not show Scooby Doo, and they honored our request. Recently, she was allowed to watch another episode and it freaked her out again, but just minimal freakage.
The freakage wasn’t too bad. Also, I’m pretty sure we are on the cusp of new territory. She is starting to care how her hair looks and what clothes she wears (even though she is still okay with wearing her favorite patchwork skirt with crazy color combinations AND polka dot mismatched socks). I keep thinking we need to give her more freedom and allow her to read “older” books and watch “older” shows.
I was lulled into the idea that Katie is ready to learn more about the world. I was at the library and saw the movie E.T. and fondly remembered how much I loved it when I was Katie’s age. I decided to check it out and bring it home for a family movie night. I recalled a few scary scenes in the movie, so I prefaced our movie night by telling the kids the movie ends FINE and everyone is happy and Mommy and Daddy would never show them a movie that doesn’t have a good ending.
When the kids first saw E.T., their eyes were huge and full of wonder. Dan and I shared a misty-eyed glance with each other, so excited to witness another chapter in our kids’ induction into ‘80s pop culture. And then…
AND THEN. E.T. turns white and starts dying. And Katie’s anxiety ratchets up a few notches. In the scene where E.T. is found in the creek bed, literally on death’s doorstep, Katie turned her face from the TV and covered her ears. I held her hand, calmed her, and reminded her that it all turns out okay. (Darn it. I should have turned the TV off right then!) The movie progressed with a little more anxiety from Katie, but I thought all was well when she cheered and hollered as the boys on bikes escaped the alien hunters and took off in flight. Katie was all smiles from then on. E.T. said goodbye to Elliot, the kids were sad to see him leave, and it was over.
NOT SO FAST, you darn extra terrestrial. An hour and a half after bedtime, Katie came to me and Dan with her hair sweated to her scalp, body trembling, and panic in her eyes. She said she kept seeing E.T. dying in the creek bed. I calmed her down, walked her back to bed, and tucked her in with reminders that E.T. isn’t real. Thirty minutes later, Katie was up and crying again. I knelt by her bed, trying to find patience in my soul so I could calm her down again. And that’s when Jackson woke up, screaming from his own night terrors. Oh, for the love! I told Dan, “That’s IT! Our kids will never watch anything higher than a G rated movie until they turn 14!” Sorry, E.T. and the related ‘80s kitsch. You’ll have to wait a few more years to claim our kids.
In a sidebar to this story, Jackson tried on an inflatable alien head and hands that we got at Cracker Barrel as part of his Halloween costume. He ran around the yard, then without prompting, held up his hands and blurted out: “E.T. phone home!” Glad to see he has good memories after all.