Where the Wild Things Are, the beloved children’s book by Maurice Sendak, has been made into a movie. When I first heard about it, I was excited…then worried. An article in this morning’s Los Angeles Times about the movie fueled my worries. Granted, I haven’t seen the movie, but I am still worried. I just know that hundreds of cool, thirty-something parents are going to line up to take their young children to see it. Is this really a movie for young children?
In today’s world, children are being exposed to many things, the going-to-the-movies experience being just one of them, often before it is best for them. In their zeal to share a fondly remembered experience, they rush, often prematurely, and expose the child to something with which he cannot connect. Worse, it may be something that is actually detrimental to the child and his sense of well being. The problem is, the parent isn’t remembering what it was like as a two or three or four year old. Most people’s memories are from older ages–six or seven or eight years old. As a result, children are having experiences (movies included) beyond their ability to process in a healthy way.
I remember when I was teaching nursery school over 30 years ago, a parent excitedly announced that she was taking her three year old to see The Wizard of Oz, sharing how much she had loved that movie as a child. I suggested that maybe her daughter was a little young, reminding her of all the scary parts (those flying monkeys and that witchiest of all witches–“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog Toto, too.”) “Oh no. She’s going to love it!” she proclaimed with total confidence. A few weeks later that same mommy came to me to get help; her daughter was having terrible nightmares about flying monkeys and was refusing to go to sleep.
Where the Wild Things Are was a controversial book when it was first published. Not bad at all, just controversial. And it still is. Some children can handle it; for others, it is too scary if read at too young an age. Movies, bigger than life, can be even more so. Those wild things in the movie trailer looked pretty real to me.
Before you hand pick your perfect seats for the first showing, stop and think about whose needs are being met. Is your child ready to see those larger than life wild things? Can he, should he even sit still in a dark movie house for an hour and a half? You can always get it on DVD next year when he is?