Showing a movie to any kid who isn't your own is starting to sound like a colossally bad idea. A "get a permission slip from that kid first" kind of bad idea.
Sure, it sounds like a bad case of lawsuit crazy helicopter parenting America, but I'm starting to feel the pull.
That's because a friend asked if it would be appropriate to allow her 11-year-old to have a movie birthday party. The film? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Which happens to be rated PG-13.
And 5 seconds after I scoffed, I realized she was wise to wonder.
The first time I saw Top Gun, I lied through my teeth. The neighbor kid wanted to watch it, and his mom asked me if I was allowed to see PG-13 films. "Yup," I said, settling down for a chance to see the one movie I was pretty sure every other kid in my class had seen. Although looking back, I bet half of them were lying through their teeth too.
The mom in question doesn't have a problem with the themes in the film. She's confident her kid can handle them. But she's torn between giving her kid the birthday party she wants -- especially hard to do when your kid has a birthday in the colder months -- and dealing with the wrath of other parents. It should be pretty simple. Tell the other parents what you're going to see, and let them opt in or out. Or so I thought.
But just throwing the party puts those parents on the defensive. They suddenly have to explain to their kids why Janey's mom says it's OK for her to see a PG-13 movie, and play the heavy in opting out on the invitation.
Who knew one movie could cause such drama among parents? Whatever happened to the sleepovers where you scared yourself silly watching Freddy Krueger, and your mom spent the next three days up with your nightmares in the middle of the night?
She didn't call the other mother. She lectured you on not watching scary movies just because the cool girls told you to.
This is a whole new ball game. So I'm starting to wonder, if it's raining during a playdate, do you have to get permission before you pop in a DVD to keep the kids occupied? I'm not turning Top Gun on for 5-year-olds, but I've seen the debates over cartoon violence in the Looney Tunes classics. They get fierce. And as my youthful indiscretions reveal: kids lie. Asking if they're allowed to see that movie isn't enough to clear you.
Not to mention, just last month parents in the Philadelphia area were protesting that teachers had shown their teenagers R-rated movies -- films like Schindler's List that had been deemed educational. They weren't even happy with permission slips, pushing for the movies to be banned completely.
So what's a parent to do? Put the kibosh on sleepover flicks and come out sounding like the meanest Mom ever? Or get the parental go-ahead before popping in a movie?
I'm going to come down on the side of caution. How about you?
Image via Melvin Schlubman/Flickr