One of my biggest regrets as a parent so far is taking my three-year-old son to see “The Avengers.”
In my defense, he loves all costumed crusaders, and he arrived at the screening in full Captain America regalia. I had been waiting for an “Avengers” movie my entire life, and having my son sitting beside me at the screening seemed too perfect to pass up. It was still too loud, too ominous, too inappropriate for a young child.
The next day I put Elijah back on a steady diet of “Caillou,” “Barney” and “Curious George” to assuage my guilt.
That was a little less than a year ago. Since then, Elijah has caught snippets of more sophisticated movies and TV shows, from a “Transformers” cartoon to generic action scenes glimpsed after wandering into the movie room unannounced. He didn’t show the slightest sign of discomfort.
That led me to our most recent movie screening, the creepy animated movie “9.” He plucked it off the shelf Saturday night and I spent 15 minutes trying to tell him it’s too scary and he won’t enjoy it. He held firm, and as I popped the DVD into the player I told him he can stop the movie at any time and we’ll try something else.
We sat there, together, watching this creepy, action-packed movie, and every 10 minutes I asked if he was frightened or if he wanted to turn it off. He didn’t. I also watched his face and body language. Was he wincing or flinching or showing any signs of discomfort? Not a one.
Shortly after the movie was over, Elijah turned to me and said, “Daddy, that was scary, and I didn’t like it.”
I decided to check in with two fellow parents – my best friend and my older brother – to get a fresh perspective on the problem. My friend shared my anxiety over what material his youngest child can watch, but he said juggling TV time with the lad’s two older sisters complicates matters considerably.
My brother has two pre-teens, and I expected him to have a more relaxed stance regarding movies. Nope. He said I should keep challenging material away from Elijah for as long as possible. Keep him innocent and don’t allow him to become desensitized too soon,” he wrote in an email.
It’s back to kiddie fare for Elijah, and the next time he so much as suggests we watch material that sets off my Spidey Senses I will stand firm. A little brother knows when to listen to his big brother.
Christian Toto is a Denver-based journalist, proprietor of Daddylibrium.com and father of two wonderful boys. I’m a New York native who bounced from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. but have no plans on bouncing out of the Mile High City. I’m an occasional guest on “The Dennis Miller Show” and can be found on Twitter @daddylibrium