Our kids don’t like bad guys. Neither of them. They tolerate none at all. Our movie viewing choices have been severely limited since S. first learned to speak enough to tell us this. They both, at separate times, freaked out during The Incredibles, yet—oddly—they’re fine with Dumbo.
I think it’s at least partly because they have vivid imaginations. We recently coaxed/tricked them into watching The Princess Bride and then had to have a full-on, in-depth, detailed discussion of how exactly the real people pretended to do all the stuff in the movie, particularly the holocaust cloak and the R.O.U.S. that Westley kills.
And, especially in the case of Little A., I don’t think they’re crazy about suspense. In a couple of movies, he has run out of the room when things got tense. This includes the fire swamp scene in The Princess Bride. He ran out yelling, “This is the stupidest movie EVER!” And came back ten seconds later.
He just needed a little breather from all the emotion.
I love books; both the kids love books. Big A. and I still read to the kids every night—the boys just finished reading E.B. White’s classics together; S. and I are working our way through my collection of Diana Wynne Jones. And, given all the hype, I knew S. would be interested in Harry Potter.
Now, I love Harry Potter. I want my family to read it; I want to share that magic with them. (Book magic and wizarding magic!) But…
Harry Potter kind of has the mother of all bad guys.
So I didn’t encourage or discourage S. when it came to HP. This summer, though, she and Big A. ran out of chapter books to read and, since Big A. had been wanting to read HP, they dove in together. I did warn Big A. that it got “dark” in the later books.
Well, inevitably, S. wanted to read the books faster than a chapter every other night. About halfway through Goblet of Fire, she asked to go solo. I gave in, fairly certain that she’d WANT her dad to read with her by the end of the book. She got through the book by herself, but she definitely seemed a bit shaken—and perfectly willing to wait for her dad to catch up before tackling book five!
I have such mixed feelings about this. I don’t want her to know how horrible it is possible to be. Kind of like Jimmy Buffett, I hope that “some of the things I’ve seen, maybe she won’t have to see.” But I do want her to be empathetic. I do want her to know that you never know anyone’s whole story, that the people she meets maybe fighting dragons far scarier than He Who Must Not Be Named.
In the end, I fall back on my parenting “things I know for sure.” I know that if she’s old enough to ask the question (or read the book), she’s old enough to hear the answer. And I know that I’d rather she face these things for the first time when her dad and I are here to help her out. She has to do the actual learning, but we can support her.
I’m not sure she’s really figured out what she wants to ask about evil and death yet, but I do know that there is a bad guy in the picture now.
As with everything, I’m in awe of the growing person she is, but also wistful for the innocent baby she was.