Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Monkey Business

When my 4-year old picked out a movie to watch last night to help him feel better, I didn’t think much of his choice of Curious George. He loves the cartoon on PBSKids (due, in large part I’m sure, to the fact it’s on at 7 a.m. when he’s getting ready for preschool) and while it was clearly a commercial venture designed to make money, I’d rather he watch that than some Disney movie with its 27 products associated with the movie.

I was only paying slight attention to the movie, opting instead to catch up on some articles I’d seen online over the past few days online that I hadn’t had a chance to read.  Besides, my kid seemed to be enjoying George and it was taking his mind off of being sick.

I’ve often wondered just how much he understands when it comes to movies and television shows and how much of the plot he’s picking up on. Sure, there’s a monkey and he does crazy things due to his curiosity, but is my son following along the narrative of the story, especially one that’s 90 minutes long and with him being sick.

My answer came with about 15 minutes left in the movie (Spoiler Alert ahead, though I doubt anyone reading this really is worried about a spoiler of Curious George), George gets captured and is going to be taken away from the Man in the Yellow Hat. All of a sudden, while I’m minding my own business, my son breaks out into uncontrollable crying. Obviously concerned, I look at him and say “What’s wrong buddy?”

“I don’t like this movie anymore,” he said between sobs.

For the next 10 minutes, my wife and I reassuring him that the movie isn’t over yet and we have to see if the Man in the Yellow Hat is going to be able to rescue George. (He does.) It was a helpful reminder that events and stories that I don’t think twice about have a profound impact in the life of a 4-year old.

Even though I know I’m not supposed to, I sometimes find myself trying to minimize my son’s feelings instead of validating them as important and justified. To me and (presumably) you, the danger a fictional monkey finds himself in over the course of a movie is, at best, slightly entertaining. But to my son, it’s a very real situation with very real feelings that are both genuine and important.

Having said all that, it’s still not ok for adults to cry at anything that happens on The Bachelor.

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