When he was about eight, my son went to see The Two Towers with his dad. Some people thought we were completely nuts to let a child so young see it. He'd surely get nightmares, they said. It was way too intense for a third grader. But we knew our son.
Some time before, we'd gotten The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD. As I left for a commitment that night, my husband started watching it. I was a bit concerned about the scariness level for the kids, but he promised that he'd turn it off if our son showed any signs of anxiety. The girls weren't interested anyway, so they wouldn't be watching.
When I returned that night, I discovered that not only had my little guy not been terrified by the Orcs (creatures that quite frankly freaked me out in the theater), but that he had watched the movie on his feet, jumping off the couch and pretending to slash Orcs right along with Aragon. I should have known; ever since he could hold anything relatively narrow and long, he'd been pretending to sword fight. The drive must be on the Y chromosome or something.
(Toy store store employees were horrified when we tried buying him a toy sword. What kind of psycho parents were we?! I'm sorry, but a hollow, plastic light saber doesn't do as much damage as a metal butter knife.)
He loved the movie. What about nightmares? None. At all.
A few weeks later, our 3-year-old daughter got a Disney Nintendo game starring Mickey Mouse. The game, intended for preschoolers, had cheery music a cute graphics. Typical Disney. The player was to go through the magical world and gather up the pieces of a broken mirror and put it back together again, because a ghost had broken it. That's about as much as I remember about it. All of the kids played the game, including our son as he helped his younger sisters figure it out.
Within days, he began having regular nightmares . . . about the Disney ghost in his closet.
Somehow the animated ghost terrified him and seemed real, whereas the bloodied Orcs remained firmly in his fantasy imagination. Go figure.
He wasn't allowed to play the Mickey Mouse game anymore, but he was allowed to see The Two Towers. Again, no nightmares.
The only person who got a start was my husband, who, on the way home from the theater, heard our son whisper from the backseat in a perfect imitation: "My precious . . ." who then laughed his head off when Dad jumped.
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