My son recently turned 10 years old. And like most boys his age, he loves super-hero’s. The other night at our Student Ministry Costume Party, he came as Captain America.
He is definitely growing up at the right time for super-hero’s…the box-office is saturated with current and upcoming movies featuring super-hero’s. Marvel is on a role making big movies, and DC is about to jump onto the scene as well. The comics that many in my generation grew up reading are now being put into action on the movie screen…which I admit, I love. I am a super-hero nerd when it comes to movies (although, I do have some friends who can put me to shame with their nerd-ness).
As I’m working to figure out how to raise my son in today’s world, which has so much bad along with the good, I’m trying to know what I should be shielding him from…or when is a good time to stop shielding him from things. When it comes to TV and movies, my wife and I constantly have to think through what we allow him to watch and what we tell him he can’t watch, as well as when he can watch certain movies.
I have allowed him to see movies like Avengers and Thor, but honestly when we watch them we just skip to the scenes with all the action. So while he has seen them, he hasn’t watched all the plot lines that are a part of the movie…he is just watching the bad guys fight the good guys.
I had decided, however, to hold off letting him watch Captain America. Movies like Avengers and Thor are more fantasy than reality…aliens, other worlds, extremely far-fetched fighting scenes, etc. But…and this is how I personally thought through it…Captain America was a lot more realistic. The first movie takes place during World War II, which is a real event. Most of the fight scenes are more realistic than in the movies like Avengers because they use regular guns and are fought between regular men (yes, there are some futuristic weapons used, but those are the exception).
But, I decided a couple of weeks ago that he was old enough for me to let him watch Captain America. So we sat down and watched them; the first movie 2 weeks ago, and the second movie this past Friday. And we didn’t just skip to the actions scenes, but rather we watched the whole movie. I wanted to be able to use these movies to help my son, who I’m raising to be an adult, to learn how to think critically about what he is watching.
So, as we watched the movies, I paused it several times. I did so that I could make sure he understood what was happening, and to share with him important things we saw that either reinforced truth or was something I wanted him to identify as wrong. Watching the movies with my son like that also made me think through what I was allowing into my head and into my sons head.
The coolest thing from this happened when we were watching the second Captain America last Friday…
During the first movie I had paused so we could talk about why Captain America was going to crash the plane into the ice. My son and I talked about how he was willing to die to protect other people. That led us to talk about soldiers today, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and our country. I shared with my son that when he sees a soldier, he should thank them for being willing to serve our country in that way. And we also talked about how all men should protect others, even if we aren’t soldiers.
When we were watching the second movie, we came to the part toward the end where Captain America orders the “helicarriers” to be shot down before he gets out, and he actually stays on board one of them as it is going down in order to help his friend (the Winter Soldier). As this scene unfolds, my son looks at me as says “Captain America is willing to die to protect other people again.” Way to go buddy!
The reality is, our world is full of information…good and bad. Images, movies, music, ideas, etc. As my son gets older, I want him to be able to not just consume all he sees and hears, but actually be able to think critically about what he is being fed. As his parent, it is my job to raise him to be an adult, and learning to think critically is a huge part of that.
All of us as parents have that responsibility. Not everything our kids are exposed to is good, but at the same time we can’t shield them from everything. We must help them learn to think critically so they can identify right and wrong, good and bad in what they see around them in today’s world.