Although we are not media-free, I’ve avoided full-length feature films and had not considered taking my son to a movie before the age of six, at least. It just seems like way too much stimulation, not to mention the whole Waldorf thing about media stifling kids’ imaginations.
But when I saw the trailer for the movie Babies after a friend suggested we moms go as a night out, I felt like it would be a good thing for my husband and me to see together to jazz up our anticipation of baby #2 (as opposed to just wondering how the hell we’re going to handle such a drastic change). Then, thinking about paying for childcare to see the movie, I considered that maybe our four-year-old would enjoy it. And heck, it was only going to be 79 minutes!
So today, knowing another pregnant friend and her husband were taking their two daughters, we went as a family, arriving about 90 seconds before the lights went down so as not to have to waste any preschooler patience (and just because we are never early to anything).
It was great. Well, the last 20 minutes, the boy managed to tip over a chair (this was a drafthouse theater) and try out sitting in at least three others, a redheaded Goldilocks. But other than that, he saw lots of cool things. There were tons of animals and four amazingly different locales and ways of life. And four babies just being babies.
I love that his first experience of a movie was of one without narration or fast-paced cartoon images. I love that he just watched and for the most part appreciated — life just going on. He laughed, he said, “Aw” a lot, he asked a bunch of questions. He saw a whole lot of breastfeeding and tender mother-child moments, which I think is great considering he’s getting a sister in some four weeks.
As for his parents, we were struck (as many almost-upper-middle-class white parents in the Western world might be) about how silly are our notions about doing things solely for our kids and spending so much time reading to them and reading about parenting. Not that I’m never going back to a Music Together class, but how can you not remark on the juxtaposition of those white folks in a San Francisco rec room singing that Native American chant “The earth is our mother, we must take care of her” against images of the boy in Namibia (who needs no instruction other than simple living to understand that concept) gleefully dancing to his mother’s clapping.
I don’t mean to essentialize as though rural folks are all inherently good and simple and us selfish and complicated American consumers are just burdens on the world. That’s not a very nuanced analysis. But I do agree with my husband’s assessment of the film shortly after we got home: “Kind of makes you feel stupid for wanting anything.” Yes, and sort of embarrassed for letting the entertainment or edification of a child become so darn much its own thing instead of letting the child learn by observing and participating in its community.
There’s more to process, but I’m glad my husband and I saw the film together as partners expecting a child. We’ve already referenced the film several times, including in a childbirth prep class. And I’m glad we took my son to help him see the idea of having children as something people do everywhere, and also to see that people live in a lot of different places and ways.
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