Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
Carmen Herbert's son dressed up as Yoda from Star Wars for Halloween.

My husband asked if he could get a home theater for his birthday this year, mostly going with the excuse that then we would be able to make awesome memories with our boys during our weekly Friday Family Movie Nights. I told him, “Sure, if that’s what you want,” and two days later we had seven boxes filled with speakers, a projector, a screen and a “woofer” as my boys call it, sitting on our front porch.

I didn’t realize he was that serious and he didn’t realize I wasn’t.

After several trips to Lowe’s and one husband-less Saturday later, we had a fun room in the basement all set up thanks to our Handy Daddy and good friend Kevin. It was a hard choice to decide which movie would make its debut in the Herbert Home theater, but ultimately we decided on what we thought was a “safe” bet that was rated PG.

Let’s rewind a bit. First off, Friday Family Movie Night was temporarily moved to Monday because we had some difficulties getting speakers to work and such. At dinner that night, my boys told us they had a great assembly for White Ribbon Week on internet safety where they were told they had the power to turn off or walk away from bad or confusing images on screens.

During this conversation, 7-year-old Beckham decided to re-enact a magic trick he saw during the show, and ran into the bathroom to stuff a wad of toilet paper in his mouth, telling us that in a couple of seconds it would turn into a colorful ribbon. As he pushed his dinner aside to eat the toilet paper, I tried to explain that what he saw was a trick, but he was adamant that he knew what to do. He was so convincing that I thought, well, maybe he does!

We were all watching in disgust as the wad slowly began to disintegrate and I was genuinely worried the toilet paper would cause him to choke or possibly clog his intestines when he finally spit it out and stared at the soggy ball, totally confused as to why it didn’t change.

This led to a great discussion on reality verses illusion, which also applies to the cyber and entertainment world.

After dinner and dishes were done, and with that discussion fresh on our minds, we headed downstairs and popped in the movie. After about 10 minutes, my husband leaned over to me and asked about scene in the movie.

I noticed my 4-year-old, who was sitting next to me, covering his eyes and when I asked him if it was scary, he said, “That girl is immodest.”

So what did we do? We turned it off. My older boys moaned and groaned and complained that we NEVER finish movies. It’s sort of true — we have turned off or changed the channel on quite a few “family-friendly” films. But how could I sit there and let them watch that after we had just discussed not looking at images that make them uncomfortable?

“Tell a trusted adult,” my son told me of what they were to do when they felt uncomfortable. I am that trusted adult, along with my husband, and if my boys are covering their eyes, I’m going to keep that trust by shutting the image down.

We do like to watch Disney films, mostly the animated ones, because those are pretty much always clean and safe. But this one made me mad. The memorabilia for it is everywhere, encouraging kids to get excited about the story.

At school, my 9-year-old son said his teacher asked the kids in their third grade class how many were going to see the new Star Wars film, and every single kid raised their hand except Boston. He said, “It was embarrassing because I was the only one who said I wasn’t going.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

“I said, ‘I'm not allowed to see PG-13 movies unless my parents have seen it first.’”

I told Boston there would be many more times in the future when he might be the only one not doing something because of our family rules. And our rules work for our family — each family can decide what is best for them, and it doesn’t make them bad people! But for us, we've found that even PG movies can sometimes have content that make my boys uncomfortable.

4 comments on this story

I’m not going to pretend like I think I can shelter them forever from every bad image out there, but I sure can filter them out of our home. More than anything I want them to know we are here to talk to them and help them sort through confusing emotions that media can sometimes stir up, and that they can open up to us about anything. Which is why I feel so strongly about responding to their feelings immediately when they tell me they don’t like what they’re seeing.

I understand some may think we’re a little extreme, and that’s OK. Right now I’m feeling disappointed in the media that’s available for my young kids and the “well, you can’t keep them protected forever!” mentality. Maybe I can’t “out there,” but I can and will “in here.”

What guidelines do you use for picking shows for the family?

Plus, any suggestions for good, clean, memory-making movies that we don't have to turn off or fast-forward would be appreciated.