Friday, September 17, 2010

Harper Valley PTA, Not Really....

Well, it was inevitable in the grand progression of things. Since becoming a mother, I've watched my children achieve milestones in their development. But, I've achieved milestones of my own as well. I became a Soccer Mom; I became a Disney Mom, I sent my oldest son off on his first day of school; and now, I have reached yet another milestone: I have attended my first Parent-Teacher night at Dante's Montessori Academy.

I have to say that while everyone was really nice, I couldn't help hearing this song in the back of my head as I mingled and grazed over the hors d'oueuvre table.

Sure, it's not like I didn't expect to "stand out" from the other parents, I guess, but what caught me off guard the most was the fact that I did not feel as though I was a parent. In my mind, I was the kid. In my mind, I am still sixteen years old. In my mind, I was not the mother of two children. In my mind, one of the moms I met was forty years old and I thought she was "old" until I realized that I am 36 years old and closer to forty than to sixteen. I felt so strange because I forget that I am a grown-up. I really do. Don't get me wrong, I don't neglect my children and go out clubbing and have this delusion that I am really twenty years old. But, I tend to forget that I am a grown-up. I just think I'm sixteen and still "cool" and relevant. Something which slaps me in the face about how wrong I am when I see a group of alterna-teenagers looking at me funny as I try to "relate' with them about hair dye, tattoos, and The Smiths. Who the hell is My Morning Jacket, by the way and how come none of these kids know who The Misfits are?

True, I don't exactly look like someone who makes rice crispies treats and sends their kid to Montessori school and (soon) piano lessons, but we all knew that was going to be the case. Although secretly, I would have been thrilled beyond belief if, walking into the PTA meeting, I would have come face-to-face with a chunky 30-something alterna-mom who was stuck in the 80's and obsessed with VH-1 Classics. She wasn't there, but I did meet a very nice mom whose son and Dante seem to have "clicked".

It was fun being a parent at a PTA meeting. I got to ask about my child's progress, about his behavior, about him as a student. The most humbling slap back to reality was seeing Dante's "work folder" in which all of his art and writing projects are kept until they are sent home at the end of the month. Inside, I was greeted with the budding personality of my son, independent from me as his mom. I got to be "the parent", asking questions about what activity they were doing when this was made, that was made, and so on and so forth. And I got to be that parent who set aside a box here at home to put away the special art work my child produces throughout the years, so that when he is in his 30's I'll be able to give it to him to look at.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I get it now, mom. I get it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Advice About Movie Ratings: Ignore Them!

Now before you jump down my throat and say, "How dare you ignore movie ratings", hear me out! They make no sense! The MPAA are a bunch of people who are telling YOU what is right for your children based on their own personal opinions and beliefs, which may not always coincide with yours! Do you really want someone else telling you what is "appropriate" for your children and what isn't?

I recently watched this amazing documentary about the MPAA called, "This Film is Not Yet Rated" in which the secretive world of the ratings business is exposed through the use of a private investigator and Hollywood directors themselves. Some shocking revelations in the film include: the discovery that many ratings board members either have children 18 and over or have no children at all (typically, the MPAA has suggested it hires only parents with children between the ages of 5 and 17); that the board seems to treat homosexual material much more harshly than heterosexual material; that the board's raters receive no training and are deliberately chosen because of their lack of expertise in media literacy or child development; and much more.

This isn't new to us, though, so we usually tend to "prescreen" movies before deciding whether or not to let Dante watch them. Of course if the movie is "Caillou Smells A Flower and then Whines ABout it for 20 minutes" , we're not really going to go nutso and prescreen it. Although, Caillou's whining should get an NC-17 rating simply for the fact that it elicits murderous rage inside me when he does it. But we do do it for movies like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Iron Man, Transformers, and other types of "grown-up" movies.

Let me tell you, most of the times the ratings are screwed up. The MPAA is so concerned (as well as our society) that our children see a breast, or a nude body, or two people making love (especially if those people are of the same sex!!) that they disregard completely the violence and realistic "scaryness" of the movie itself. For example, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a movie based on The Olympians book series by Rick Riordan. Before seeing the movie, Randy and I decided to read the book so we went out and bought it. The books can be found in the "young reader" section so we knew they were appropriate for kids. The book version of The Lightning Thief was wonderful. It dealt with Greek Gods and their mythology, battles with ancient monsters, and the quest of a boy named Perseus "Percy" Jackson to realize his duty of being a demi-god. All in all, it was a great book for kids and we read it to Dante at night. He loved it as well. The monsters were ferocious and fierce but not terryfying, the main protagonists were young kids about 7 or 8 years old, and the language and themes were appropriate.

Cut to the movie. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Randy and I rented it and watched it before deciding to let Dante watch it. The movie is rated PG, for "action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language". Um, no. The movie should have been rated R in my opinion because it was extremely violent. "Some scary images" my foot! What was a whimsical journey through Greek mythology in the book became this violent, horror-type, ghastly idiotic movie with the protagonists as teenagers. The movie took a great book and turned it into an adult CGI infested load of crap that would not be appropriate for a kid who loved the books. And it was rated PG!!!

Same with Iron Man! Now, mind you, we let Dante watch Transformers (the new remakes) because most of the movie is CGI robots blowing eachother up. It's fantasy and there is no realistic violence. Transformers aren't real, so the sight of seeing them fight with eachother doesn't feature gory blood scenes and human suffering. So when Dante started asking about Iron Man, since he and his friends liked the cartoon, Randy and I decided to screen this as well, thinking that it just would be "robot violence" and that it would be ok. The movie was rated PG-13 like the Transformers were, so we were expecting more of the same type of Sci-Fi effects.

WRONG! The first ten minutes of Iron Man take place in the Middle East in which a Humvee is blown up by an IED and blood and guts are everywhere! It's like, "Here Dante, let's go watch Full Metal Jacket and eat some popcorn!" The next scenes involve Tony Stark being tortured by what we are let to believe are an Arab terrorist group with guns pointed at his bloody head and body. Cut to about an hour into the film in which the new Iron Man goes to wreak havoc on his ex-captors and we are met with an "ethnic cleansing" type scene in a Mid-East village in which families are being carted out "Holocaust" style and executed in front of eachother. This is PG-13?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!? What the hell are the MPAA thinking? Does someone need to expose a breast for it to be bumped up to an R rating? Seriously?

Consequently, no Iron Man flicks for Dante yet, which is a shame because the Iron Man scenes are incredible. Too bad for the torture and blood and guts.

So, if you have children, ignore the ratings and judge for yourself. We don't want our children witnessing human sufferring and realistic graphic violence, but have no problem with nudity and affection and sex (not porno sex, mind you), but you may disagree. But seriously, don't look at the ratings of a movie and write it off. Screen the flick beforehand and decide if it is appropriate for your children based on YOUR values. Don't let this mysterious board of the "moral majority" dictate what is right or wrong for your kids.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy.....Sort Of

I have become that driver. You know the one I'm talking about: That driver. The one you get stuck behind when you have somewhere to go; the one who drives the speed limit, maybe even a little bit under; the one with a line of cars behind it on a single lane road; the one where all you see is the top of a head behind the wheel. Well, that's me now. I am coming clean. You can curse, yell, scream, shake your fist at me in my rear view mirror as much as you like, I'm not moving any faster.

What brought on this change? I mean, I used to be the girl who was so leaden on the accelerator pedal that I thought I was bionic in my right foot. I was the girl who could bust out the triple digits on the speedometer on I-95 and still sing all the words to "Hungry Like The Wolf" without missing a beat. Don't get me wrong, I can still never miss a beat to any Duran Duran tune, but these days I'm obeying the speed limit, using turn signals, and pissing off whoever is behind me, both with my bumper stickers and with my overly cautious driving.

So again, you may ask why. Not so obvious answer: I can't afford to pay a speeding ticket. Obvious answer: My kids are in the back seat. More obvious answer: Everyone else on the road is a jackass who could ram into us at any moment.

Seriously, every day I see an accident and they are all caused by an idiot being an asshat behind the wheel. My husband is one of these asshats. Now mind you, when he's got me and the kids in the car, he is a decent driver, but when he's alone he thinks he is Vin Diesel from "The Fast and the Furious" movies. Sure he's got the "Tuner Car" as those who soup up their cars to look and sound like spaceships say, but he doesn't have the Stunt Driver For the Movies experience needed to not kill yourself.

When he's late coming home from work (and his fingers are apparently broken since he hasn't called to let me know), my first thought is that his car has been reduced to pieces no bigger than a penny and he has gone to meet the Flying Spaghetti Monster in his noodly sauce laden ethereal palace.

So I've gone to the opposite extreme. I am sure the people passing my car expect to see an ancient driver who is a veteran of the Civil War, but much to their surprise, they are met with an aging red haired tattooed goth girl singing Duran Duran to her two kids in the back seat.

The fact of the matter is, I'm not going to drive like an idiot......anymore. Sure, I admit I used to, but I also used to go to bed at seven in the morning because I had been up all night partying at a club. Life is different now. I've got two extremely important pieces of cargo in the back seat who are worth more than any of Tutankhamen's priceless artifacts are worth. They're worth more than the Universe is infinite and if it takes me an extra five minutes to get down the road, then so be it.

So if you are stuck behind a black 2004 Toyota Corolla with an Obama sticker and Darwin fish on it, don't curse me out, shake your fist at me in the rearview, and ride up on my back bumper. Instead, pop in some "Hungry Like The Wolf", settle into the driver's seat, and relax. You'll get where you have to go, maybe five minutes later than you wanted to, but you'll get there safely and with Duran Duran in your head. You can't get any better than that.