I think I’m going to need to start a whole new category for the myriad ways I am scarring my children for life. I can title it, “This is why it’s good I did not choose a career path involving children.”
I’m not the cool parent. I’m not even the nerdy parent where it’s ok because they know they are the nerdy parent and it’s almost kind of geek-chic. I’m the nerdy parent who thinks they are cool, and that is about as bad as you can get, because I clearly lack judgment about this whole kid thing.
The skies have finally cleared a bit and the poor kids are going stir-crazy, so I packed them up for an outing. We went to the Natural History Museum, to which we have yearly passes because it’s inexpensive, there are dinosaur bones involved, and to be perfectly honest, I selfishly like science museums the best.
“Would you like tickets to the 3-D movie?” the person asked.
“What’s the movie?” I replied.
“We have two,” he said. “Turtle Reef”- which despite sounding nice concerned me as to how interesting that would be to a 4 year old- “and Waking the T-Rex: The Story of Sue.”
T-Rex? Now we’re cooking with gas! “Three, please,” I said, and off we went.
I heard the ticket taker mumble something into the microphone about ‘9 and up.’
“Did he say you have to be 9 to get in?” I asked the pleasant older lady next to us.
“Oh, it’s just loud,” she said, patting my son on the head. I looked around, and every other seat was occupied by a kid under the age of 5. How bad could it be? “Go right into the middle,” I told the kids. “We won’t need to leave. It’s only 20 minutes long.”
The first 5 minutes were fine, flanked by my 6 year old and my 4 year old. We watched the palaeontologist explain how they found the bones of Sue, dusting them off painstakingly under the desert sun. My son yawned.
Then the dinosaur came to life and roared.
“The T-Rex has 56 sharp teeth, some exceeding 12 inches,” intoned the narrator ominously.
“Behold the hadrosaur walking plaintively across the jungle floor. His mouth is full of pansy plant-eating teeth. He’s no match for SUE the THUNDER LIZARD!”
This is when I started to get a little concerned.
Now, I remember being this age, transfixed by dinosaurs and their meat-eating ways. I was always sensitive to gratuitous violence- to this day, I still can’t stomach the Road Runner or Tom and Jerry, which my kids don’t seem to mind- but nature is nature, and animals in search of food, well, that’s life.
Then again, I never had to see it “in roaring, bone-crunching, in-your-face 3D!” Had I only gone to the website. Alas. I guess even museum-produced documentary films have to go all Jurassic Park to compete these days.
The hadrosaur demise didn’t go over too well. It wasn’t that graphic, though the malevolent Rex raising his/her/its blood-smeared snout in a satisfied grin was perhaps a bit over the top.
I was concerned when the scene panned to a T-Rex egg clutch, being investigated by a hungry lizard. The kids started to sweat. The T-Rex’s head popped out of the corner behind the lizard. The lizard screamed. The kids screamed. The lizard was spared. OK, I thought. 15 minutes down, only 5 left. We can do this.
The kids collected themselves for the intermezzo, when we returned to our laboring palaentology team in the museum as they whisked millions of years of mud off of Sue’s backbone. She had arthritis, they said. See? How scary can an old, arthritic T-Rex staggering across the plains really be?
Cut to the triceratops. Cue the ominous oboe instrumental. Uh oh.
“I don’t want to see this, mommy,” said my daughter.
“I don’t like these kinds of dinosaurs,” said my son. “I only like Dino Dan.”
“Come on guys,” I stage whispered desperately. “It’s almost over. See? You can cover your eyes.”
Sue attacked. My daughter shrieked and whipped off her 3-D glasses, which did nothing to assuage her cortisol levels due to the, ah, roaring and bone-crunching sound effects going on, underscored by a shrieking cello. The triceratops gored Sue and they both fell over, which I tried to point out but at this point my daughter was d.o.n.e and wailing “I NEED TO GO NOW, MOMMY” in that voice that meant, Nice work, V, you really screwed her up this time. Start saving for therapy now.
The 10 people we had to crawl over to get out were very understanding, as was the guy at the entrance, who I’m sure sees this at least once a show. Little kids with red puffy eyes who will never look at Barney the same (not that I mind that.)
As we left, I took one last glance at the audience, 50 toddlers unconcernedly chomping away on goldfish while Sue ripped a bloody glob of Tri-cer-tip off a dead lizard’s haunch. Then back to my kids, left a blubbering mess by this display. Maybe we were the odd ones out, but you know what, I’m glad their empathy runs so deep. Even if it ruined everyone’s afternoon.
My daughter came downstairs tonight in tears, unable to fall asleep, haunted by the image of Sue grabbing the unfortunate lunchmeat by the neck. “She wasn’t trying to be mean about it,” I said unhelpfully. “That’s just what dinosaurs do.”
She sniffed unhappily.
“It was really fast,” I said, digging myself into a nice hole. “She broke his neck so fast the dinosaur didn’t hurt at all. Just- pop! and that was it.”
I quickly realized I wasn’t helping, like, at all, so I did all I could think of and dispatch Kekoa upstairs to cuddle, keep watch out for bad dino-dreams, and give my daughter the comfort I was so clearly not managing to provide. Thank God for dogs and their ability to keep their trap shut.
I have no one to blame but myself for this debacle, both in genetic disposition and in my choice of films. Next time, Turtle Reef. Lord help me if there’s a shark involved.