I am not a parent, but I can still acknowledge that parents don’t always get to go places alone, even when they might want some adult time. As a result I sometimes see children in restaurants and events that seem way above their age level (I still question the number of under 10 children I saw a huge shelter fundraiser last weekend though…that sort of gala is usually really boring for kids!). One of the most awkward places to run across young children who can’t stay still is a movie theater simply because they can injure themselves or others if they try to move around in the dark, or their desperate conversation to try to be entertained distracts other people from the movie. I’m not talking about toddlers and infants that will fall asleep the second the lights go down (heck, I know my parents hauled my infant self to many adult films when I was still tiny enough to sleep through a film); I mean children that are old enough to know where they are and what’s happening but don’t understand the movie or just don’t have the ability to sit still for two hours yet (no, I don’t believe a three or four year old that can’t stay in a seat that long is suffering from ADHD. I think that’s a child.) Obviously, I give little ones a pass in films marketed to children. If I started complaining about seeing kids at daytime showings of Disney or Pixar films I am just an asshole…even if it was disconcerting to have my hair repeatedly touched by the little girl behind me during Brave…(I dye my hair red, so I suspect her fascination was that my hair was similar to Merida’s). However, I do start to get twitchy when I see older children at films that are PG-13 or R rated because the material is often either boring or disturbing for youngsters (hell, it’s sometimes boring or disturbing to me, and I’m in the target age group!). If parents want to share mature topics with their children in an environment where they can pause and discuss them as they are presented, that’s their choice, but dragging your kids to an adult film in a theater just because you don’t want to find a sitter isn’t fair to anyone.
Imagine my shock then when I saw at least two children in the four to six age range at The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 this afternoon. While the movies are based on a YA series I feel that the material, especially from the final book, is definitely meant for HS readers, and YA doesn’t include younger elementary grades! The focus is the cost of war and how even choices that have positive outcomes carry deep emotional prices. It’s weighty stuff for older teens and adults, and I can guarantee the little boy a few seats down from me wasn’t following the nuances at all. His biggest issue was just staying still for the full movie, and I tried not to get too irritated when he began playing with his Slurpee straw and lid during the last half hour. His parents tried to keep him from fidgeting and being too noisy, but there is only so much to be done for a bored little boy…still I wanted to tell him to be quiet when he loudly asked “WHY DID THAT LADY FALL?” during a key scene!
It looked like the movie was a family outing, but maybe they should have chosen something more appropriate for the youngest member instead of what everyone else wanted to see (I think The Good Dinosaur is out now, and it might have kept a youngster’s attention better than Mockingjay and created fewer nightmares). The other youngster I saw was a little girl who was seated much further up in the seats than I was, so I have no idea how she handled the film. She did need a potty break midway through the movie, but if I have a soda I usually have to get up, too!
I’m all for family togetherness, but I think recognizing what activities fit your kids’ personalities, current developmental capabilities, and interests are a much better choice than shoehorning them into what the parents want to do!