The Odd Life of Parents Who Laugh at Their Children
The viral video of the two boys emoting after seeing The Odd Life of Timothy Green made my blood boil. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aFV1r45sAQ In the video two boys, perhaps 7 and 9 years old, are crying as they try to discuss the movie they had just seen, and the parents, filming the scene, can be heard laughing.
I saw the film last week. My husband and I might have been the only adults in the theater unaccompanied by children. No matter to me. Is this really a kids’ movie? I wondered. Seated right next to us were a dad and his son, maybe 6 years old. The boy’s questions were nonstop. Half way through, they left. When the lights came on, my shirt was soaked. I had come to the theater without tissues, unprepared for the poignant, sad story. I thought to myself, I sure hope all these parents are prepared to have the “death discussion.” I doubted they were.
The following day the tears for Timothy video went viral. I am not sure which part of the video bothers me more—the incredible disrespect the parents showed for their young boys, that the whole country found humor in boys’ genuine expression of emotion, or that the parents missed such a perfect opportunity for a meaningful discussion about many different questions raised by the film, death included.
How our boy children are raised in today’s culture continues to be a hot topic. Countless books on the subject point to the importance of helping boys to tune into their feelings and learn to express them honestly and unselfconsciously. After all, for years boys have borne the burden of having to “be brave,” to “buck up” and hide their feelings. Boys don’t cry, though a cliché, is still believed, I’m afraid. If we want to raise our boys to be sensitive, thoughtful, caring men, laughing at their expressions of feelings isn’t a very good start.
Taking a child to see an (age appropriate) movie, one that tackles real issues (like death) and raises questions, comes with responsibilities, like actually talking to your kids. Children count on their parents to help them navigate life’s big questions (What is death? What is sex? What is God? What is war?—to name just a few biggies) whenever they come up. The answers to those questions can render a parent tongue tied. The ostrich school of parenting—head buried in the sand, throwing off phrases like We’ll talk about that later or That’s for when you’re older— doesn’t work. (One of the reasons that I wrote Just Tell Me What to Say, was to give parents the help they need in addressing these important questions.) And laughing at your child who asks, “Why did Timothy have to die?” through his tears and captured in the video, is just plain outrageous.
One more thing. What about the responsibility of knowing if a movie is age appropriate? I am not so sure young children should have even seen this movie. It was heavy. Does the whole world not know about Common Sense Media (www.comonsensemedia.org) wherein you can find movie reviews for age appropriateness for almost all releases? Just because Disney says it’s a kids’ movie, doesn’t make it so!
But above all, it was the parents’ laughter throughout the video that infuriated me. Those little boys were genuinely distraught and unbearably sad. There wasn’t a thing that was funny about that; it was heart wrenching to watch. And children only like to be laughed at when they are intending to make you laugh. Otherwise, they hate it. Yet, not only did the parents laugh and laugh, but they chose to make a spectacle of their boys’ expression of feelings by filming it and putting it on You Tube. Now it’s my turn to weep. I weep for those boys for having such thoughtless, uninformed and disrespectful parents.