Once in a while, I had even experimented with movies like Shaun of the Dead and Fido, which tend to me more light-hearted, with only isolated bits of graphic stuff that can be easily fast-forwarded through. But that's about as adventurous as I got.
Then one day, as he and I were sitting on the couch, he suddenly hopped down, trotted over to the DVD tower, and pulled down The Return of the Living Dead. It had to be the glow-in-the-dark font on the special edition that got his attention--that and the zombies.
"Daddy, can we watch this?"
"Uh...no, no we can't watch that one. That's a grown-up movie. That's too scary."
What followed was a slowly escalating temper tantrum, of the kind that's usually reserved for bedtime or the denial of candy. Screaming, crying, jumping up and down, insisting. Now, I'm not one of these parents that simply gives in to their kids' every demand, creating spoiled brats in the process. But what I am is a pragmatist. We could go on like this for a couple of hours, I thought, or I could use this as an opportunity to teach the boy a valuable lesson. Cruel? I think that's putting it a little too strongly. I knew there was no way he'd get very far. And I was right.
As he sat on my lap, the opening scene in the medical supply warehouse held him transfixed. All those skeletons, split dogs and stuff--right up his alley. But then Frank and Freddy headed down to the basement. At the sight of the Tarman sealed up inside the trioxin cannister, he let out a little gasp. His eyes widened. Then stupid Frank smacked the cannister, letting out the gas. The Tarman's eyes opened, and we're off to the races.
Leaping off my lap for the first time, the little guy sprinted out of the living room, through the dining room and into the kitchen. A few seconds later, as the opening credits rolled, he crept back in, standing next to the TV.
"Daddy, I was just looking for a snack."
"I know, kid. Do you want me to stop the movie? Is it too scary?"
"No, I wanna see more. I'm not scared."
He climbed back up on my lap. We watched a little more. He laughed at the split dog yelping on the warehouse floor. But his reaction to the cadaver in the refrigerated locker was a little different. Once it started banging on the door and screaming to get out, he immediately jumped down off my lap again and bolted back into the dining room. Again, after a few seconds, he was back, this time a little slower.
"Daddy, I was just checking too see if the flowers on the table were OK."
I'm gonna need to teach the boy how to make up better excuses, some time before he starts dating.
"Are you sure that's all it was?"
"Can I ask you something?"
"Be honest, now."
"Is this movie scaring you?"
"Do you want me to take it off?"
"Yes. Let's put on one the movies that aren't scary."
Relieved, I happily picked up the remote and ended the brief experiment. Just like I expected, he made it less than 15 minutes in before his stubborn little will gave out. As I put the DVD back on the shelf and took down Monsters Inc., I watched him sheepishly seat himself on the couch, a shy grin crossing his face.
"You know, it's OK to get scared sometimes. Everybody does. I told you there are some movies that are just a little too scary for you right now."
"That was the only movie that was scary."
"I know, boy. I know."