Well, I got almost 40 years into my life before I yelled at someone in a movie theater.
We’ve talked a lot about the experiences that shape us the last few weeks. Last week in particular, we talked about the things that can happen to us that shape us even though we may not realize it’s happening.
I hesitate to use the word society because, as you’ll soon see, this is, in fact, going to be about me yelling at someone in a movie theater. But, as I hope you’ll agree, there was a lot going on in this story that, I believe, makes it one of the thousand proverbial cuts by which something can die.
So, let’s not say it’s society getting the cut in this story, let’s say it’s parenting as that is more specifically what this story is about.
But, isn’t society, in the end, built on parenting?
Let’s get two things out of the way right now. First, I am not a parent. Second, the movie in question is “Frozen,” which I’m sure we’ll all agree is, on the surface at least, a kid’s movie.
Let’s get one more thing out of the way, I don’t think either of those things matter.
I’m not going to mention the theater in which this happened because I don’t hold it at all responsible. Here’s what you need to know:
My wife and I are on the aisle, right side of the row. Three small children, a girl and two boys, occupy the next three seats to my wife’s left. The two kids closest to my wife are about five or six. The one farthest away is about three, if that. In the fourth seat away is the kids’ mother.
The movie starts and the kids start talking. Nothing major, no big deal. We’ll call it “kid quiet.” Plus, “Frozen” was in 3D, so there was a lot of early talking and oooing and grabbing at the screen associated with that.
Again, not annoying. The grabbing is adorable, if anything.
And also kind of tragic in a way, but I digress.
The other reason I know the older kids’ talking didn’t bother me at all was, early on, the little girl correctly identified the Northern Lights on screen. I was impressed by that.
It’s downhill from here.
The three-year-old three seats away became an issue pretty quickly. Talking loudly about basically whatever. Just kind of shouting out here and there. At one point he proclaimed his desire to go potty to all of us. When his mother took him out to go, I thought, well, maybe she’ll have a word with him while they’re out there and things will be different when they come back.
Once the little boy was back in his seat, or standing in it, as the case often was, things escalated until, at a particularly quiet point in the movie, he shouted a stream of nonsense words.
“Hey, you need to do a better job down there, huh?” That’s what I yelled. Didn’t think about it. Didn’t plan it out. I just snapped and that’s what I yelled.
Made it almost 40 years.
The mother got up and took the little boy back out of the theater.
I’ll be honest with you, I expected applause. The place was pretty full. Nothing.
When they came back, the kid didn’t really have much else to say. The movie ended and we all went our separate ways.
Sounds pretty bad, right? I hope you think so; otherwise I don’t look good here.
Here’s the thing though, it’s actually worse.
What I didn’t know, what my wife told me later, was the little boy’s mother wasn’t the only adult in the party. She had a friend with her who sat on the other side of her, with whom she talked and generally cavorted for most of “Frozen’s” running time.
Like I said above, I’m not a parent, but parents, what’s the first rule of bringing kids to the movies, especially when they outnumber you?
If you said, “seat them between you,” I like you already.
And there’s your problem, folks. That mother was more concerned with hanging out with her friend than she was being a parent. By far. It was “Frozen’s” job to keep an eye on her kids for those 90 minutes and, failing that, I guess it was up to the rest of us in the theater.
I think that’s unfair.
I also think it’s unfair to her other children, who were both old enough to be in the theater and were very much into the movie, the little girl especially. I don’t have any regret about yelling at her mother but, if I allowed myself any, it would be that the little girl had to hear it too.
But then, she seemed pretty annoyed at her brother, so maybe I did her a favor.
As a parent, you have a tremendous responsibility. You’re not just in charge of shaping your children as individuals, you’re responsible for shaping the percentage, however small, of society they occupy.
And we’re back to society.
Yes, in the end, it’s up to the world’s parents to ensure our society, at a bare minimum, gets the necessary guidance it needs to be self-sustaining, productive, considerate and kind. Sitting in a movie theater with your friend, to one side of your kids allowing the one who’s too young to be there run riot while you do what you like is a failure on all those fronts and, if that theater can be seen as a microcosm, all of society suffers.
“Frozen” was excellent, by the way. But I think we’re going to have to see it again.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas