There’s no such thing as a perfect parent.
This is a simple fact I have come to accept after years of trial and error. Just when you think you’re on the right track, you make a completely boneheaded decision that is so ridiculous, all you can do is look back on it at a later date and ask yourself: Why? Why did I do that?
Such was the case when I — in an attempt to make a meaningful connection with my son — ended up being a complete moron.
You see, my oldest son Ben goes through these phases where he becomes completely obsessed with things.
It started off with fish in general and then eventually veered over to penguins. Whales made an appearence, (apparently he likes to keep with the aquatic theme,) then lobsters, crabs — penguins again — and then back to fish.
During each of these obsessive points he watches movies (repeatedly) that correspond with his interests. He has spent hours viewing Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Happy Feet, March of the Penguins — whatever — all while lining up his little (matching) plastic figurines directly in front of the TV.
Whatever, it’s his thing, it makes him happy and honestly, I pick my battles. Don’t rock the boat. (Ha! “Boat.”)
But lately, his point of interest has changed and suddenly Ben is into sharks — and here is where I went wrong: Ben was asking me for a “shark” movie and only one came to mind: Jaws.
Did I mention my son is 5? Yeah, he’s five …
In my defense you have no idea how many times I’ve had to sit through Morgan Freeman narrating the lifespan of an emperor penguin or how often I’ve screamed at the TV for Nigel the pelican not to leave yet with Marlin (Nemo’s dad) because we all know that Nemo was only playing dead in that plastic bag.
Really, come back. Nemo’s fine.
Where was I? Ah. Sharks. Jaws. Terrible parenting …
So Ben, as usual, has me sitting on the couch with him to watch this movie — and he’s psyched. Because “Mommy said it was cool.” And you know what? I’m thinking it’s cool too. Because at this point, the only thing in my head is that it’s a movie about a shark (so Ben will be happy) that I can be entertained with (so I’ll be happy) and that Sam (the younger brother) is too little to really understand.
Seriously, I’m considering this whole thing a win-win.
From my recollection, Jaws wasn’t even showed that much in the movie — it was mostly upward underwater shots from the shark’s point of view and the occasional dorsal fin, accompanied by the eerie duh-nuh, duh-nuh score by John Williams. I remembered Chief Brody survived as did Richard Dreyfuss (Matt Hooper.)
In short, I really didn’t see the problem. But I had forgotten about one major player: Quint.
That grizzly-looking, Indianapolis-surviving, chalk board-scratching, fisherman had one of the most graphic on-screen deaths of the 1970’s — and I forgot all about it.
In fact, I didn’t remember it until Jaws eats off the back of their boat and Quint was sliding down the deck to his fate.
As the shark clamped down on his waist and blood spurted from his mouth, I realized I had screwed up. Royally. This movie was obviously not appropriate for a kid — no matter how into sharks he may be.
But … we were committed.
As Ben didn’t seem upset by Quint’s untimely death (he had been cheering for the shark the whole time and that’s a psychological issue I will apparently deal with at a later date) I thought there was really no point in stopping the movie now. After all, the only thing left was Chief Brody killing the man-eating shark.
For the most part, there is no swearing in Jaws — the language is surprisingly clean for an action/suspense film. But, everybody loves a one-liner and for the next two weeks Ben walked around with a broom stick, carefully taking aim at whatever was bothering him and muttering Brody’s famous last words before he ended Jaws’ reign of terror …
“Smile, you son of a *****.”
I’m gonna need a bigger boat.