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Rated E for Everyone Else

Two hours of violence, sex and language that’s not allowed in our house may not be a big deal to some people, but it is to me.  As they get older, their bad decisions have bigger consequences. So until they develop their own mature decision-making capabilities, they’ll have to use mine.


The little green envelope stood out amid the bills in the mailbox. My son’s name was clumsily scrawled on the front and neat, motherly script had completed the street name, town and zip code.


Lewis tore it open: “It’s from Alex! He’s inviting me to his birthday!”


He read the party details aloud: pizza at the house, a movie at the local multiplex and a sleepover. Sounded simple. Sounded fun. There was just one problem. I was pretty sure that the movie was rated R and my kid is definitely rated PG. He’s 11 and so is the birthday boy.


What were the parents thinking?


I checked the newspaper listings. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was a PG-13. “Two thumbs way up!” said Ebert and Roeper. “Hilarious!” said Rolling Stone. “Rated R,” said the small print on the bottom of the full-page ad. Visions of Barbarella cavorted across my mind.


“Lots of kids have seen it,” my son said. “It’s funny!”


“It’s rated R,” I countered, “and you’re 11.”


“But everyone else is going!”


“You’re not everybody else,” I repeated a now familiar maternal mantra that I once swore I would never utter.


It’s what I said when my teenage daughter wanted to get her eyebrow pierced. It’s what I said when my oldest son wanted to drive around town with a friend who only had a learner’s permit.


“It’s not fair!” Lewis howled and joined his older siblings in the We Think Mom is Mean Club. “I’ll be the only one who can’t go.”


By now, my kids should know that what everyone else is doing doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if they are popular, or if they like me, or even if they are happy every minute of every day. I just want them to survive their first 18 years and, in the process, learn to make good decisions. But kids can be depended on to make terrible decisions. Like microwaving Malibu Barbie® or selling their little brother at a yard sale or keeping a dead hamster in a shoebox under the bed for a year. As they get older, their bad decisions have bigger consequences. So until they develop their own mature decision-making capabilities, they’ll have to use mine.


“Mom, it’s just a movie,” argued Lewis. “It’s no big deal.”


Two hours of violence, sex and language that’s not allowed in our house may not be a big deal to some people, but it is to me. I envisioned his childhood innocence eroding as the opening credits rolled.




“I just don’t think that this movie is appropriate,” I said.


“I’ll shut my eyes!” wailed Lewis. “I’ll plug my ears!”


Now, I’m willing to believe that I might be wrong. It’s possible that the movie is a cinematic triumph. Perhaps it’s a masterpiece that, despite its R rating, will enlighten the ignorant, uplift the downtrodden and transform my young son’s life. So I went on line to read the reviews: “Extreme profanity, abundant and graphic sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, product placement, flimsy plot.” Nope, he’s not going.


“You can go eat pizza and meet them after the movie,” I reasoned. “You won’t miss any of the fun, just the movie.”


“That’s dumb!” he replied hotly. “Everybody else gets to go! Nobody else’s parents care!”


I looked at the invitation. There was a telephone number to RSVP. So I called.


“Ummm … Hi, this is Carol, Lew’s mom,” I stammered.  “I’m calling about the party … and the movie.”


“You and everyone else!” Alex’s mom said. “You’re the third parent to call and tell me that the movie is rated R. I had no idea,” she sounded sheepish. “Don’t worry, we’re going bowling instead.”


“Great!” I breathed a sigh of relief. “That sounds like fun.”


And it was.


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