My wife and I go particularly out of our way on two items, making sure that the kids feel comfortable enough to have their friends over regularly and also monitoring the electronics. While they seem different enough, last night was a case where they intersected and we had to decide whether the electronic control would damage the kids’ willingness to have friends over. Can we be so controlling that the kids will cease having the friends over?
The situation was a gathering last night after the town’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, when multiple families and kids descended on a friends home for real hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. Afterwards, five teenage boys – ages 14 through 18 – and a third grader came back to our house for multiple activities. The youngster was spending the night with Youngest while the boys wanted to watch a movie and eat like locusts. The typical chaos reigned as the group entered, settled in and began to pillage the pantry and refrigerator like Vikings at a nobleman’s castle. As we got the younger kids settled, the older ones switched on the television and went to the On-Demand section to peruse and make a selection. When I returned to the kitchen, they had already started The Expendables with Stallone, Willis, Schwarzenegger, etc. The opening sequence of the film was the shoot-’em-up violence of any PG-13 film and I moved on to other tasks, thinking nothing of it until my wife called my attention to a scene in which someone was being waterboarded, to my wife’s horror. One or two questions yielded the information that the film indeed had an R rating, earned for gratuitous violence.
We’ve not only monitored and controlled electronic usage, but we’ve always been strict with the movie rating system and have on any number of occasions shot down a movie request because of the proposed movie’s rating. My wife left the decision on handling it to me and after a short while to think, I left the movie run but joined the kids so that there was indeed parental supervision. The gist of the thought process was that this kind of movie would be seen by any of the others and the concern that if I were to embarass them, the willingness to bring others into the house would falter. It wasn’t a movie that I would’ve permitted them to attend and the boys did get one over on me. After the movie, I spoke to my kids and told them bluntly that any future movies would have to be cleared with me first or else I would end it at that moment, regardless of the embarasssment.
In retrospect, I wish that I had just ended the film then and there. While this wasn’t a situation that demanded immediate action – like drinking, partying or fighting – I should have made the boys toe the line so that they don’t begin to believe that I can be rolled. The kids will sometimes get one over me but it doesn’t mean that I have to accede to the con.