Friday evening, the kids, my husband, and I all settled down on the sofa with blankets, snacks, and a movie. Tired of cartoons and with recent successful viewings of Dolphin Tale, Wizard of Oz, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I perused the Netflix “Family” section and settled on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
At first, the kids were fascinated with the concept and kept asking, “When are they going to shrink? When are they going to shrink?” They were in awe of the possibility of a cookie bigger than themselves and found the idea of being smaller than a Lego hilarious.
Besides slight boredom during the worried parent scenes, our movie night was quite successful … until a vicious scorpion ruthlessly attacked an ant.
I had mistakenly thought my son would be all about this scene in the movie. He loves those Who Would Win? books by Jerry Pallotta. These books match one animal against another, list all sorts of interesting facts about each, and then describe a fictional battle between the two to see who would win.
In fact, one of his favorites is Tarantula vs. Scorpion. And not to ruin the end of the book for you, but let’s just say the tarantula does not fare so well.
So, when that scorpion entered the scene in the film, and the music got a bit more frantic as the ant geared up for battle, my son knew exactly what was going to happen.
However, this movie scene was different than the battle books he loves so much. He had watched the characters in the movie ride the aunt around the yard, saw them feed the ant a cookie, and noticed how the little boy treated the ant like a pet. My son, too, was becoming attached to the ant.
When he realized what was happening on the television screen, his face scrunched up into a picture of horror, and he quickly buried his head in his blanket with a frantic gasp, “Oh, no! What’s happening!?
He peeked out of the covers just in time to witness the scorpion deliver a fatal blow to the ant. My son immediately bolted up with hands waving wildly and sobs pouring out of his mouth. He turned to me and scolded, “Why would you make us watch a movie like this!? Before bed! Why!?”
Sensing her brother’s distress, my daughter joined the chaos by emitting her own sobs and wails. She flopped against the sofa, inconsolable.
I issued calming hugs and tried to sooth with statements like, “It’s okay. It’s all pretend.” But, it was 9:00, a full hour past bedtime, and they had just witnessed a gruesome scorpion murder an innocent ant.
My children had just encountered a situation in which every one, or every animal, does not have a happy ending. This is a hard lesson to learn.
Unsure of what to do, I gripped the remote. The happy ending for the characters in the film was only moments away – surely, watching this would help put the ant scene behind them?
However, my son was pulling on my arm and begging me to turn off the movie. He was still wailing, “Why?!” as if I had intentionally unleashed a scorpion on an innocent ant, and each time my daughter saw her brother cry, she disintegrated into a ball of sobs.
My husband, who had been enjoying a nice Friday evening nap on his recliner only to be abruptly jolted out of sleep by his children’s wails of distress, looked over at me and grimaced: “I guess that’s what we get for dabbling in PG movies.”
I turned off the movie.
I led my daughter upstairs where we returned to the soothing, familiar world of cartoons with an episode of Sophia the First. My husband remained downstairs to cuddle with my son and lull him to sleep with an episode of Barnwood Builders on the DIY Network.
An hour later, the house was calm.
No one has mentioned the movie since that evening, and I certainly am not going to bring it up. Instead, we will stick to cartoons for the foreseeable future. However, I still have a feeling we will be tiptoeing around a lot of ants this summer.
Any movies particularly traumatize your kids? I don’t remember any from when I was as young as my children, but I do remember watching Little Women with my mom when I was in middle school and sobbing hysterically. She had to turn off the movie to make sure I was okay!