Is That APPROPRIATE? by Bozemama

May 31, 2012

Posted By: Shaunescy


Definition of APPROPRIATE

:  especially suitable or  compatible   :   fitting  appropriateresponse> appropriate to the occasion>

—  ap·pro·pri·ate·ly   adverb

—  ap·pro·pri·ate·ness   noun

Have you all noticed how frequently the word “appropriate” gets bandied about by we 21st century parents? Does anyone remember their own parents using the “A” word like this? I sure don’t recall my mom telling my brothers that “Saturday Night Live” was inappropriate for their eight-year-old sister. We just watched it, peed our pants and went on with our twisted lives. (As my 12-year-old Hermione would say, “But look how you turned out.” Exactly.)

But these days, helicopter mom that I am, I just toss the word around as a kind of antidote to anything that might possibly harm or traumatize my kids – or make me look like a really bad mom. Charlie peeing on the playground? Inappropriate. Hermione watching Glee? Inappropriate. Me drooling over Zac Efron in 17 Again ? Not really appropriate.

The hackneyed overuse of this word was pointed out to me by my 70-year-old father-in-law, a former hippie-cum-philosophy professor. Keen to share the classic 1952 naval combat documentary Victory at Sea with his eager six-year-old grandson, poor Gramps hit a roadblock when Charlie’s father and I questioned the movie’s “appropriateness.” Exasperated, he blustered, “Holy c*#p! What the hell does that even mean? Inappropriate how? And appropriate for who?”

And that, my friends, is the question that I seem to grapple with most frequently these days. Having an adolescent daughter reading at a college level and an eight-year-old son infatuated with warriors, weapons and destruction has led to some awkward missteps. (Oops, I forgot that Nicole Kidman’s character is beaten up by her creepy patron in Moulin Rouge . Man, those Orcs in Lord of the Rings are a helluva lot scarier than I remember.)

And then there are the sleepovers. It may sound obvious, but what may be OK for one kid to read or watch isn’t necessarily going to work for another kid of the same age. Some parents might object to violence and guns while others may take issue with sexuality – each family has its own value system and internal radar of “appropriateness.” And, in my experience, we also each have our justifications: the movie was based on a fabulous book; it was filmed in Montana; it stars Zac Efron; whatever works.

In order to help me navigate the treacherous waters of appropriate viewing and reading, I often turn to Common Sense Media , which tags various media with an appropriate age range. And so it was there that I turned last weekend as I carefully selected a few movie options for Hermione’s sleepover.

Tangent: I used to be a film critic; and, as with so many of us slightly deranged folks who sacrificed career for parenthood, I find myself channeling my frustrated ambitions into my children. And as much as I love a Pixar picture (if you haven’t seen Up , you must rent it immediately) it’s always been important to me that Hermione and Charlie’s film education reaches beyond the Disney oeuvre. And so I pride myself on programming small selections of thematically related movies for us to delve into and discuss – a kind of Mama Film Fest, if you will. We’ve done Documentaries ( Buck , Babies , Spellbound ); Musicals ( My Fair Lady , Oklahoma ); Anime ( Ponyo , Spirited Away ); BBC adaptations ( Oliver Twist , Emma ). But sometimes the little people put their collective foot down and say no more haute cinema, let us watch crap.

And this is what happened during Hermione’s sleepover. After much deliberation, I had selected the most recent adaptation of Jane Eyre for these bright young lasses. A brilliant adaptation of a classic novel – perfect, right? Wrong. Put off by its depressing Gothic aura, they want something lighter. We choose the 1999 Drew Barrymore high school comedy Never Been Kissed (which is deemed OK for kids 12 and older by Common Sense Media). I had actually reviewed this film and remembered it as having a positive message about being true to yourself.

We’re flopped on the couch happily cringing and giggling with Drew when suddenly Molly Shannon pops into the movie, talking about “losing it to a guy in a van,” and teaching the kids to roll a condom onto a banana. Red Alert. Red Alert. A quick glance at the girls tells me that they’re OK, if a little embarrassed. What should I do? I don’t think this is appropriate, but I don’t want to overreact and make the girls think there’s anything wrong with safe sex. (Turns out overthinking will get you nowhere.) Help! If only I could peek into their brains and see the message they are receiving . . . Now I’m blushing and sweating a little. I hate this. Why do I have to be the responsible one? Finally, after a massive internal tussle, I decide not to turn off the movie because they’ve already seen the raciest part – and, if I stop it now, they’ll miss the positive message at the end, which was the whole stupid point in the first place . . . plus, Michael Vartan really is so cute, whatever happened to him?

Anyway, the next morning I call my bestie Lucy and tell her about my ordeal. What does she say, “You should have turned it off. That sounds totally inappropriate.” Oh no! There’s that word. I am so busted. Tell me, dear readers, what would you have done? How do you determine what’s appropriate for your kids?

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