The kid and I just got back from Where The Wild Things Are. I'd spent the weekend shuttling her around to birthday parties, pinging her to see if she was, in fact, equipped to handle the film. [I knew she'd want to see it; she likes the book, but not as much as In The Night Kitchen; we'd enjoyed the trailers online; and I could surely have hyped her into it, but I really resisted, especially without a better sense of how she'd do.]
Frankly, I miscalculated, and I feel bad about it. I'd focused on trying to prep and reassure her for scariness, and then the movie just drowned us--her--with its overwhelming sadness. Had I known it was such an existentialist, emo buzzkill, I'd have left her home.
The kid's extremely empathetic and attuned, susceptible to emotional distress. I know that, and I marvel at it. What she isn't, though, is a bewildered, angry refugee recoiling from the mothball-scented old relatives from the Old Country like the young Maurice Sendak; and she's not been abandoned by her emotionally distant, divorced parents, left to be raised by the staff of the local skateboard shop like the young Adam Spiegel. She's sensitive and astute, but she's also happy and optimistic, and she knows that she is safe and loved and supported by an extended circle of family and friends. We haven't banished anger or selfishness from our lives, but we try to deal with them as they come.
So it's still a conscious choice--mine, my wife's--when, how, and whether to introduce the kid to stories about sadness, loneliness, conflict, failure, fear, violence. We don't want her to live in some oblivious, happyland bubble. But neither do I find it helpful, positive, or even interesting to see her try to process a story whose emotional fulcrum is the looming death of the sun. Which is not happening for billions and billions of years, you preposterous doom-junkies!
Oh, look! Jim hated it, too! And for the same reasons, just more clearly put.
And a shoutout to Jim's CNN co-anchor, Jason from Dadcentric: Parents upset, bored by 'Where the Wild Things Are' [cnn]