White Knuckle Parenting: Bad Children's Movies and the Sacrifice of Parenthood

It's so fun to go to the movies with my kids. Right up until it isn't.


There are times, as parents, when we must jump on metaphorical grenades for our children. Last weekend, that grenade for my family was going to see Chipwrecked, the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. I guarantee you that I will not make a bigger parenting sacrifice this winter.

My husband and I were prepared to roll our eyes at Chipwrecked, but I don't think either of us were prepared for how truly offensively bad it was going to be. As I sat there in the packed theater, I got angrier and angrier at the movie's mere existence.

Honestly, I am personally offended that David Cross spent the entire movie in a pelican suit and managed to still not be funny. I didn't know that was possible.

I hate to admit it, but I also lost a little bit of respect for my children because they liked the movie. 

Normally, I see kids' movies as one of the perks of having children. It seems somehow more legitimate to go see Kung Fu Panda on opening weekend if you have some kids with you. But for every E.T., there is a Yogi Bear. For every Finding Nemo, there is that movie with the rats that got flushed down the toilet. For every Madagascar, there is a Madagascar 2.

There was a long time when I had to talk my kids into going to movies. They loved the movies once they saw them, but they tend to fear the unknown, which made first-time viewing of movies particularly difficult.

This might have something to do with the fact that movie makers seem to think that there absolutely must be at least one completely terrifying scene in every single children's movie—preferably when the kids are going to least expect it. Remember that terrifying tractor in Cars? Yeah. Like that.

Because of this, one of my kids spent a substantial number of his younger years freaking out every time he saw a large, windowless building. Whenever we would drive by what is now the Sears Outlet at Wheaton Plaza, he would yell, "I don't wanna go to a movie! I don't wanna go to a movie!"

Now, however, they ask to go to movies. Plus, they are aware enough that they know what movies are coming out and when. Every once in a while, a commercial for what looks like a terrible children's movie will come on TV. My husband and I will lock eyes from across the room, sigh, and say, "You know we're going to have to go see that."

Add to the insult of sitting through a bad movie, the injury of having to pay $30-50 to do so, depending on whether the thing is 3D or not and whether either my husband or I managed to get out of movie duty. Then there is the snack bar cost. Although theaters would make a ton of money if they were willing to sell beer to help parents get through a screening of The Smurfs on a giant screen.

Speaking of 3D, those movies are kind of a nightmare. I tend to spend about half of the movie reminding my kids that they have to wear the glasses or the blurry movie will hurt their eyes. Then, they will continually touch the lenses of the glasses with their popcorn-buttery fingers, resulting in filthy glasses that they can't see through and that are nearly impossible to clean. After complaining about them loudly and refusing to wear them, then I have to trade my clean glasses for their gooey ones. 

It's a HUGE problem.

Don't get me started on 4D. Trust me, the thing that is missing from children's movies is NOT offensive odors on a scratch and sniff piece of paper.

There will come a day when my kids no longer want to see children's movies and I will look fondly back on the days of sitting in a theater with a kid on my lap as we watch a decent actor make a fool of himself onscreen for what I hope is a really good paycheck. Until then, I will sit through the bad movies and laugh through the good, and be thankful for the phase we are in.

Because you know what I fear is worse than children's movies? Teen movies.

Jean, a.k.a. Stimey, writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey.

Sue January 11, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Ahhh, see for teen movies, you can drop them off and position yourself somewhere nearby to make sure the police haven't been called in, but you don't usually have to actually watch the movie. (Which is how I got out of seeing Vampires Suck and other great flicks!)
Jean Winegardner January 13, 2012 at 03:13 AM
This is a tip that I will file away in my "Keepers" file.


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