Monday, October 19, 2015


Maya and I sometimes watch old movies on Friday evenings. Tricia even joins us every now and then. She and Maya lay blankets down on the carpet in front of the TV, as if we were at the beach, and we eat our dinners with the lights off. We've watched The Wizard of Oz, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's A Wonderful Life, You Can't Take it With You, and a few others.

Last Friday, I googled 'good movies to see with kids' and settled on Goonies, the semi-classic coming of age story about a group of friends searching for a 350-year old treasure to save their neighborhood. It's rated PG, and even though the Richard Donner-directed film is thirty years old, Maya was scared in parts.

"I'm not sure this is appropriate for me," she said as we watched.

"Should we find something else?"

"No," she said, "I like it."

So we watched it and she curled her body closer to mine. We had the lights off (her choice). By the time she ready for bed she said, "Dad, could you sleep in here tonight?"

So I did.

The next morning she said, "That was a scary movie."

"Maybe we should have watched something else," I said.

I am usually very good about what media I allow Maya to be exposed to. She usually gets to view one movie a week, on Saturdays, and then it is no TV during the week.

Verna and I didn't even let Miguel watch TV, except for sports (my choice), when he was a kid. He didn't see his first movie until he was eight. A few months after Verna was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, she said, "I want to see a movie with Miguel in a theater because I don't know how long I'll be around."

So we took Miguel and my niece and went to see Cars. I remember how loud the movie was, Lightning McQueen and the other race cars whizzing by on the oval track. The sound was actually deafening. But Miguel loved the movie, and wasn't negatively affected in any perceptible way.

We were apprehensive before Cars because of the Disney World episode five years earlier. When Miguel turned three, my father and stepmother treated him and us to two days at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

One of the rides was Jurassic Park, which I felt would be OK, even though Miguel had never watched any TV or movies. Verna cautioned the ride might be a bad idea. As we hurtled into space and a huge dinosaur roared at us, Miguel turned white and his eyes popped out. He appeared to be in shock because he made no sounds.

But because he hadn't screamed or cried, I figured my call to ride Jurassic Park had been a good one. Until the next day when we all sat down in darkness for the live-action Lion King performance. As soon as Raffiki appeared, Miguel started wailing in an uncontrollable burst of existential anxiety and terror. He was beyond scared; he was imploding. An usher broke the rule about allowing anyone to exit once the show had begun and mercifully let us take the shivering tangle of fear and panic out into daylight.

I thought about that moment in time today as I drove to the movie theater with Maya and a friend to see the new Goosebumps movie, about how all the frightening characters in R.L. Stine's books come alive and attack him and those closest to him. The trailer looked positively scary. But Maya said she wanted to see it on her day off from school (it was conference and teacher work day).

The movie was good, and the girls munched on Whole Foods candy corn and drank vitamin waters (their choice). When it was over they both said how much they liked it. Maya added, "Goonies was scarier than Goosebumps, Dad."

But tonight, after I read to her, from the School for Good and Evil, and after I stayed there for 25 minutes with a reading light and finished the front section of yesterday's New York Times, she said to me, "Dad, would you sleep here tonight?"

And so I will.

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