The Night I Did My Darnedest To Give My Child Nightmares

Suffocating temperatures showed us mercy today, allowing some breathing room and glorious fresh air. Zachary’s cement block of a cast causes itchy discomfort at the slightest drop of perspiration so we have been held captive in our home as July’s hostages.

But at last, a perfect 82 degree day offered endless possibilities for curing a stifling cabin fever.  A full day of Zoo-ing, strolling, outdoor reading and crafting made for a guilt-free post-bath Netflix cartoon viewing.  I scrolled through the kids section on my TV screen and got excited to see Babar on the list.  We have a 1970’s hand-me-down Babar book to which Zachary took a special liking at age one.

“Look, Zachary! They have a Babar movie!  What about that one?”

Happily agreeing with my suggestion, he lay on his tummy, pillows positioned just so, in his current couch station, (one of three current spica cast stations in our home) while Isabelle and I cozied ourselves into the glider next to him.

My daughter and I were busy giggling over sloppy zerberts and weren’t really paying attention to the movie. Ten minutes in, my son was silent. Transfixed.  I looked up at the screen to see the barrel of a gun pointing at a herd of baby elephants frolicking gaily in a pool of water.

I will give you a play-by-play of what followed, knowing full well that it’s more than slightly odd that I didn’t jump up and turn it off immediately. Bear with me, if you can.  But I have yet to come up with a defense that even I can buy.

“What’s that, Mommy?”

“Um….its a hunter.”

“What’s a hunter?”

“I….Uh….I’m not sure this is the best movie”

(But not yet making a move for the remote)

“Why’s not the best movie?”

“Well….”

The Mama elephant shouts,

“Save the herd!” as she charges at the gun, allowing for her family to escape unharmed. The gun goes off into an explosion of smoke and her baby starts screaming “Mama? Mama!”

The next thing we see is a herd of elephants circling their fallen member and a baby climbing on top of his unconscious heap of a mother, sobbing,

No! Mamaaaaaaaaa! Noooooo!”

I sat there waiting, thinking surely Mama Elephant would open her eyes and allow the herd’s doctor to bandage her superficial flesh would. This is a children’s movie for heaven’s sake!

Zachary stared at the screen, equally confused.

“Why’s his Mama not waking up?”

“I don’t know…..”

In my head, I finished with,

“….how to explain this or at what age I should introduce the death topic.  Surely not at just shy of three?”

As I finally came to my senses and reached for the remote, he slowly whispered,

“I watch another movie”

“Yes. I think that’s a good idea.”

Settling on the old, familiar stand-by, Blues Clues, I quickly checked the episode synopsis to make sure this was not the one where Steve, (the host) holds a rifle to blue’s head, violently threatening for a clue. Once fully convinced, I slipped away to put Isabelle to bed.

Twenty minutes later, Zachary and I were choosing his bedtime story from a new stack of golden books I bought at a garage sale.

Disney’s Hercules

Not well-versed in Disney movies that came out later than 1990, I was unaware of the content of this “children’s” tale.

By page three, I had introduced my toddler to the concepts of Hades, the underworld, demons, baby-napping and  poisoning. Announcing before page four  that I did not like this book and we were to choose another triggered a blazing siren of fits, and one that could NOT be waited out due to:

A.) a sleeping 18 month old sharing his bedroom wall

B.)A lack of energy and desire at this point in the day to commit to a fierce and stubborn teaching moment.

Retrieving the book from the floor (and solidifying my son’s understanding that throwing a screaming tantrum gets him his way) I continued to read in the most monotone, flat, uninspired voice I could muster, leaving out words like “monster with many heads” and “giant cyclops”.  Of course however, I was unable to turn the pages quickly enough for him to miss the detailed drawings of these lovely creatures.

Strike two.

Off to bed now, shall we?

“Nighty Night! Sweet dreams!”

Surprisingly, he did go right to sleep with little fuss about an hour ago, but forgive me for any errors in this post. I can no longer dissect it for editing purposes.   His baby monitor, sitting next to my laptop is now glowing red and screeching,

“Mammmmaaaaaa!”

I must run off to assure my son I have not been shot and then catch some Z’s myself.  Tomorrow we are rushing to Target bright and early to fetch Bambi and Finding Nemo.  While I’m there, I may as well grab a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.   Let’s see how far I can take this, shall we?

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7 responses to “The Night I Did My Darnedest To Give My Child Nightmares

  1. Of course, there’s always “The Wizard of Oz” and its wonderful flying monkeys, and “The Lion King” (which I think actually is Disney) isn’t much better. The old nursery rhymes were very inappropriate and there are fairy tales I wouldn’t read to this day. Witches, poison apples and children getting left in the woods to find their way to gingerbread houses furnished with barred cages and child baking ovens aren’t my favorite images either. I guess people go crazy when they write – hope that doesn’t happen to you!
    Mom

  2. Oh dear, Em! What a horrific evening! Key me pick out the movies and books! If there’s one thing I know, it’s children’s books about character, or harmless clean humor! The Pigeon books are up Z’s humor alley, knuffle bunny now has 3 different ones, elephant and piggie have about 10, and I’ll come up with a list of others for you!!! I never read golden books. Jon Muth hAs great books but they’ll be a little abstract for him right now. What if the zebras lost their stripes, by John reitano is fabulous! And, I turned it into a song for my students so they could memorize it and read it independently… I’ll send a copy! Love ya!

  3. I laughed when I read your Mom’s comment about the Wizard of Oz – I was frightened of those freakish flying monkeys when I was little. Yet, when my 5 and 7 year old watched it for the first time not too long ago, they thought they were funny. My younger ones have been exposed to things earlier than my older ones were, and I often feel guilty about it. For example, we visited California’s Universal Studios last summer and went through the House of Horrors with all 5 kids (the youngest was 4 at the time). Atrocious parenting decision, right? Upon exiting, my youngest told me, “Chucky was kind of scary looking. I like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World more. You can have a ghost sit on your lap.” Then she was off and running to the next thing. It seems I suffered more ill aftereffects than she. Hope Zachary didn’t truly suffer from any nightmares.

  4. Nothing but Kipper. Nothing but Kipper. Nothing but Kipper.

    I hate Babar. Always have. Hate Disney, too. My son had nightmares for three months because someone showed him half an hour of the Lion King Part Something. I am not exaggerating.

    I have always heavily edited the words of stories as I read, but the pictures will kill you. So only agree to read what you’re previewed. Get all excited at the library right before nap, then during nap quickly flip through. Anything that is scary gets “lost” in the trunk until it’s time to return the books.

    Nothing but Kipper. Nothing but Kipper. Nothing but Kipper.

  5. Haha Todd can’t reach Nemo still cracks me up.

  6. This is all SO TRUE!! and, the Disney films seem to be the worst! I’m so tired of movies being marketed directly to kids (with the associated toddler bedding, action figures, legos, etc.) when in reality they’ve inserted parts that are very obviously meant for an older audience ending up with a film that is NOT meant for young children. Cars 2 is one of those examples!! I very strongly feel, as a parent, that we are deliberately misled by corporations that something is “good” for our kids when in reality it is not. Not only those marketing “kids movies”, but also the crappy junk foods that are marketed to us as “healthy”. I guess all we can do is be extra vigilent as parents and make sure we pay attention…screening the movie ahead of time…actually looking at nutrition labels before pouring something into our kids mouths.

    Pardon my passion about this topic! But, I can’t tell you how many times my (just turned 5 y.o.) son has had nightmares from a “kids movie” that he’s seen at his school. I guess we can’t alway protect them, because they aren’t always with us. We can only do our best!

    I HIGHLY recommend that you get on http://www.commonsensemedia.org and look at the awesome rating system that they have for all things media: movies, video games, books, computer/phone apps, etc. (just for grins, you should look and see what parents who went to see Cars 2 are saying…p***ed off, is how I would summarize it. Soooo glad we screened that one first!)

    • Debbie, Thank you for this link! I will refer to it often. It really is frustrating that so much of what is out there is “junk” and has become the norm. And, don’t these people who make these movies have small children?

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