TO WATCH OR
NOT TO WATCH

    The mother was walking to her car with her 11 year old son, talking about the R-rated movie they had just seen. Another woman, a stranger about the same age, came up from behind.
    "I canít believe you brought your child to that movie," she exclaimed. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
    The movie had the usual collection of foul language, a rape scene and a little partial nudity. Nothing her son hadnít seen or heard countless times before.
    "How did you respond?" I asked when she told me the story. "Did you tell her that you were perfectly capable of raising your own child and to go get her own life?"
    "I froze. I was shocked," she said. "I felt like the worst parent in the world."
    I know the feeling. Like this mother, whose son is one of my sonís best friends, I am a Parental Hussy. I let my kids watch R-rated movies. And the woman who instigated this confrontation is obviously a member of the Parental Prudes.
    Iíve been parenting a long time, and my thoroughly inconclusive research proves that of all the parents I have come in contact with, about 50% are Prudes and 50% are Hussies. And there is little room for anything in between.
    This is a topic that just begs for strong feelings, and gets them. Everyone is on one side or the other, and they come from every walk of life. Politics, ethnicity, economic class, profession, religion---it means nothing. Youíre either a Prude or a Hussy when it comes to allowing children to see and hear what adults see or hear.
    Obviously, there are lines that are drawn. Iím talking about R-rated movies, and nothing more explicit. And, of course, age is a factor. I remember taking my five-year old to see "The Rock," starring Sean Connery, thinking an action film about Alcatraz might be fun.
    And it was, except that every time someone on the screen said the "F-word," (and I counted about 225 times) every head in the theater turned towards me (or so it seemed), asking which Child Welfare Agency they should call.
    He was a little young for that one, but I get the same looks today from people who are adamant that children should be protected from R-rated movies until they turn 17. That is the age someone determined was old enough to handle foul language, violence and nudity in a degree that is slightly higher than the kids see on television, the news or PG-13 movies.
    As a Parental Hussy for the last 19 years, Iím used to the scornful looks from the Parental Prudes. I only wish they would come to the same conclusion I have about whether it is right to allow children to see an R-rated movie.
    And my conclusion is that it really doesnít matter. Both ways work. And both ways donít work. It depends on so much more.
    Whether a child hears some swear words, or sees a naked body on the screen, or tries to figure out the meaning of the sexually explicit conversation, or whether the child spends his or her teen years watching nothing except Saturday morning cartoons means very little. What matters is the parents and how they handle the ramifications of either decision.
    There is no right or wrong way. That woman who chastised the mother of my sonís friend as she walked out of the R-rated movie should find another avenue for her venom. My sonís friend is a great, great kid, with great values. He just doesnít think twice about watching an R-rated movie.
    So if youíre a Parental Prude, or aspire to be one, good for you. Protect your children from seeing or hearing certain scenes or words for as long as you can. Thereís certainly nothing wrong with that.
    But leave us Parental Hussies alone. If we think our kid can handle an R-rated film, thatís our decision, and ours alone.
    Prudes and Hussies---canít we all just get along?
 

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