Chef Ezra's Shu Mai (aka Reasons To Have Children #159,045,730)
At Least It Wasn't Me, For Once

Pennywise and Poundfoolish

My children, historically speaking (and spoken with all the love and genuine affection in the world), are giant chickens. They've bailed on Disney movies. They run from TV commercials with dramatic music. The mere presence of my Walking Dead comic compendiums on our bookshelf continues to upset them to this day, and they've never even peeked at the pages inside. 

Every movie or TV show this side of Nick Jr. is met with the same running commentary: Is it scary? Who's the bad guy? Does anyone die? Is there a monster? Who is that? Does something bad happen? You have to tell me before something bad happens, okay?

Some of this is entirely our fault, of course, We've made a few bad calls along the way (most notably Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, That One Scene In Force Awakens You Know The One I'm Talking About, etc.) and they don't necessarily trust our assurances that no, really, this movie isn't scary, it's just exciting

But still. Guys. It's Coco! It's Pixar! The only people here who will be sobbing, emotionally traumatized messes by the end will be the adults AND WE ALL KNOW IT. 

(They enjoyed Coco a lot, in the end. Though they did practically slither to the floor into three little agony puddles during that trickstery 22-minute Frozen "short," yelling NO MORE STOP OMG at the screen every time a character broke out into yet another song.) 

Noah is pretty obsessed with all those jump-scare "horror" games The Kids Today Are Into, but he also still refuses to acknowledge any installment of Harry Potter after Azkaban and has skipped both Rogue One and Last Jedi because we couldn't promise him happy endings. Ezra won't play anything with higher stakes than Diner Dash and Ike still secretly prefers a few hours alone with PBS Kids. They are all super-prudish about curse words. (Which is super ironic, given how much bad-role-model shit I've fucking gotten over the years for my trash-ass language here),

So it was a bit strange when all three of them collectively became 100% obsessed with It

They saw a trailer for the new movie and had nightmares for a solid week, yet emerged newly emboldened and fascinated rather than permanently terrified. The movie appears to be something of a badge of honor at the elementary school, since it was something no one was officially supposed to see, and yet a couple kids managed to, thanks to either incredibly permissive parents or incredibly sneaky older siblings.

(And then more than a few kids claimed to have seen it, but given the super wobbly plot descriptions they passed along, I'm guessing they either gleaned their knowledge off YouTube fan videos or spent most of the movie hidden behind the couch.)

I was about Noah's age when the old miniseries came out, and remember It holding the exact same draw over me and my peers. I was 100% absolutely NOT allowed to watch, areyouevenkiddingmeyounglady, but have vivid memories of listening to my much cooler classmates hold court about demonic killer clowns in the sewers while scaring the living daylights out of the rest of us. 

(I was allowed to read a series of Christian books about demon possession and Satan taking over the earth that completely fucked my shit up for a good decade, though. Discuss!) 

I have since read the book and seen both the old miniseries and the new movie (because I am a grown-ass adult who owns the right to fuck my own shit up), so I attempted to de-mystify the whole It phenomenon for them, in measured, age-appropriate doses. But Noah decided he really wanted to see one of the movies. I offered up Stranger Things instead, as a bit of a gateway-to-semi-scary-things. (This is a kid who made us walk out of The Lion King not that long ago, after all.) 

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We really, REALLY enjoyed re-watching Stranger Things with him -- Ezra would have no part of it but liked hearing episode recaps, while Ike occasionally would join us, or at least watch from the hallway landing while requesting a running head start for anything "too" scary. I bought Noah a couple cool/funny demogorgon shirts and he even made some new friends at school by finally extending his circle of conversation topics beyond his favorite video games. 

But then he did not really have a good time with season 2, and some nightmares and sleeping trouble cropped up, so I told him no, I don't think he's ready to watch It yet. 

I thought that was the end of it (and the end of It), until he came home from an outing with his father, with a new bargain. And a new book

If he reads the book, the entire book, he can watch one of the movie versions. Or maybe even both of them.

(For the record, I was NOT consulted on this AT ALL, and I immediately reminded Jason that the book contains a certain controversial scene that no one from either movie production would touch with a 10-foot pole, so really? REALLY?)

(He was like, oh right. I forgot about that part. Whoops. But look! He's reading!) 

While I'm still not entirely on-board with any of this, I admit making a similar deal with my parents at his age. In my case, I read the entire unabridged version of Les Miserables in exchange for tickets to the musical on Broadway.

And before you think I agreed because I was just that into high-minded historical French fiction about war and romance and oppression, let me be honest and admit that one of my friends saw the show and told me there was a whole song about prostitutes, so. Yeah. 

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Comments

Chris

Oh my gosh, this brought up memories of my eighth grade Bible teacher telling my whole class about the period of his life where he "LITERALLY had a demon on his back." I couldn't sleep for weeks or have the lights off in my room. It was SO irresponsible. I don't touch horror ANYTHING with a 10 ft pole. I read plot summaries on Wiki though, so I can keep up with the cool kids and new movies.

Chi

Damn, man. I'm 44, I've ready plenty Stephen King books, and even *I* don't want to pick up a copy of It. :D

Claire

I read It at the same time as I was reading Pride and Prejudice for my GCSEs (so 15/16ish). Man I had some weird dreams while I was doing that.

I'm intrigued by the new film, I've seen the old one, but my husband is terrified of clowns so I probably won't ever see it. Which is fair, it's not like the guy is trying to get me to watch arachnophobia or anything!

Susan B

I was about 30 pages into IT when I took it as reading material for Jury Duty. The lady sitting next to me told me how she had read it and ever since couldn't sleep with her closet door closed. I left my copy in the jury pool room.

Kerry Clifford

I grew up with a Mormon family who loved fantasy books. The mom would read and redact all the R bits with a sharpie in advance. There's probably still time with that one scene in It, if you act fast.

(She read and redacted Game of Thrones for them. Which means she read it unredacted. Which is an interesting thing to know about her.)

Abesha1

Omg I totally hear the disconnect between scary and worldly stuff vs those Peretti books! My childhood, too! Also, Madonna was evil but "Under the Boardwalk" was fine because.... wait, why? Hahaha

MK

I read IT at 12 (started it at church camp because of course there was a copy hanging around) and I’m a grown-up now and not too messed up!

Elf

So I haven't read IT and don't know the scene you're referencing, so may be talking out of my ass, BUT:

I read The Color Purple when I was nine, and I'm pretty sure it has most things beat on violence/sexual violence/horrible shit people do to each other for horrible reasons. I was totally fine, and think it was a completely appropriate age for me to read the book. (Yes, I've read things since that had more graphic violence or sex, but in terms of Whole Package Plus Racism, The Color Purple is really intense).

I don't know Noah, but I also don't believe in content-based censorship. Kids shouldn't have stuff shoved down their throats, but I'm pretty firmly in the "If they're interested, they're old enough" camp.

Katie H.

One of King's BEST works. Except for the end. Good Lord the END. Whadya, just get up to get a beer Stephen and forget the ending? Sigh. Anyway, my little one (12) was always scared by certain movies. Even the grasshoppers in A Bug's Life upset her! But we've seen both Guardians of the Galaxy and she didn't even balk! And then she asked to see Black Panther. I have a feeling the super scary movie thing just won't be her bag. And don't EVEN get me started at how much JAWS fucked up my 10-year old shit way back when. I was seriously traumatized! BAD PARENTS for letting me go! :)

Cara

I have to disagree with Elf on the don't censor for content position, depending on your kid. If you've got a kid who can handle scary/difficult and bounce back, then sure. I wouldn't censor arbitrarily (i.e. Sex is bad, so no.) or by some outside standard. But, interest can come from many sources, including peer pressure or just exposure to the parts that sound interesting without a grasp of the rest of it. I know my kid. I'm the one who sat by her bed at night helping her calm down from nightmares we finally realized were caused by a scary book - a book we read after a friend raved about it and peaked her interest. Most kids her age would have been able to read it fine, especially since it was one we read together. After two weeks of nightmares, you can bet I screened our next bedtime book more carefully.

Dani T

OH MAN those Frank Peretti books. One of the first books (and only, since I avoid books like that) that scared the crap out of me. I remember there was one with a dragon-esque monster that would attack people with a dark mark on their chest? I think? (it's been like 20+ years). I literally shoved that book in the back of my closet for a few weeks, it scared me so bad.

Jill

Ah Frank Peretti books. With their evil new age compounds. Good times.

Stacy

My husband was in 5th grade when he first read It and he's loved horror ever since. I can't even watch Stranger Things. My daughter refused to watch Up, because of the thunderstorm scene, but she loves all Marvel movies and we watch Stargate: SG1. He's hoping she'll grow up to love horror, but I don't think she will (she didn't want to watch the first Harry Potter movie because she was afraid it would be too scary. She's Ezra's age. However, she did love it.). But, I'm all for kids reading, even if it's not necessarily age appropriate (except comic books, because that has pictures, which spells out all the stuff they might not have understood. I'm thinking of Saga here.). I grew up in a VERY Christian conservative house, but my mom allowed me to read to whatever I wanted. That made me proud, because to me, it meant she thought I was intelligent, but also wise enough to decide if something was too much.

Megan

It’s weird for me, but the television/movie adaptations of Stephen King I typically don’t find very stressful while the written versions are just horrific. I think it’s because with the books you actually “hear” the thoughts of the characters, and generally with King it’s some pretty depraved stuff. The movies & TV versions can’t really go that twisted!

d

There is That Scene, but there is also a scene near the beginning when Bev's abusive husband/boyfriend/something manipulates her, traumatizes her, and then they have what could only be described as graphic hate-sex. That isn't an endorsement or condemnation of the decision to let him read it; just another scene to be aware of in your conversations with him.

Lindsay

I love to read, my nana gave me a book with a very sexually explicit scene when I was 10. I knew that I shouldn’t be reading them because they made me uncomfortable. I self censored and skipped ahead. I’ve reread the book as an adult and I’m surprised she shared it, but happy that shared the book anyways. I think I’m some ways kids know how to self censor

Cheryl S.

You are brave. I'm 46 and I HATE horror movies. You couldn't pay me to watch IT. And I forbid my 12 year old from seeing it since she's a big scaredy cat like me!

Although, I tried to read the Amityville Horror at about that age. Couldn't get through it.

I wish Noah luck. And no nightmares!

Cristin

Didn’t you guys read Wait til Helen Comes? Scared the bejeezus out of me!
My husband won’t even watch Stranger Things with me.
I’d love to see It, but not alone!

yasmara

My oldest turns 13 this month (HOW COULD THIS POSSIBLY BE TRUE?) & I'm only just now comfortable letting him choose his own reading material with no supervisions. Which is ironic considering I read the entire Clan of the Cave Bear series at his age. #itwasthe80s

Rebecca

We JUST had this discussion in the car this morning abut whether or not my 12 year old could watch It. I told him I am not opposed on principle but want to save him nightmares and scary thoughts. He is lobbying hard for Deadpool to which I directed him to Ryan Reynolds' amazing PSA about how it is NOT a movie for kiddos. I need a bone to throw him quickly or he will be streaming It faster than you can say Pennywise.

Enna

My parents had a lot of books in all over a big house and no television, so we kids started delving into their grown up books very early. My sister read Carrie in the first grade (she told me "they all do IT with their boyfriends," which had never even occurred to me as a concept at 5 or 6 years old) and I read Clan of the Cave Bear and Valley of Horses by second grade. By fifth grade, we were almost exclusively reading books written for adults, and I think I read IT sometime around then.

The nice thing about reading prose by yourself - as opposed to being read to or watching movies or even reading something full of pictures, like horror comics, which terrified me as a kid - is that it is incredibly easy to self-censor. You hit a part that makes you feel scared or weird or squicky? You skip to the next page. I skipped all the sex scenes in the Clan of the Cave Bear series and most of the violence. I did read that scene in the sewers in IT and thought it was super stupid and made no sense. Mostly because it was super stupid and made no sense, like the whole end of the book. But if I got too scared, I could skip to the last page and reassure myself. Reading is a process that the reader has near total control over, because it can't happen passively. So I wouldn't worry too much.

caree

RE: Cursing...... my husband and I are practically Ned Flanders around our children in regards to cursing and YET our 6 yr old goes to school and gets in trouble for yelling DAMMIT repeatedly and supposedly said The F Word at his church after school daycare. Yeah, good times. So maybe you are totally doing it right after all.

Dori P

I read IT when I was in Junior High and was then obsessed with reading all things Stephen King. Though, That Scene was rather confusing to me back then and now seems super problematic to me as a grown up.

However, now that I'm a grown up and a mom I don't know if I can go back and read the book or watch any of the movies ever again. Scary things involving children have a completely different impact in me than they ever used to.

Amanda

I have a 7 year old and 9 year old who both LOVE scary movies. I let them watch only the scary parts of IT, but felt that most of the overall themes, were too grown up for either of them. The movie has a large overtone of sexual abuse with one of the characters and I was not ready to explain to them why someones dad wanted to know if she was still his little girl while running his hand up her thigh.

That said, my kids think it is hilarious to say 'pop, pop, popcorn' to each other or break out in that that SUPER CREEPY run Pennywise does in the basement, so there is that.

JenVegas

I was reading Stephen King at his age and turned out MOSTLY OK. I'm sure he'll be fine.
"The song about prostitutes" is the best part of Le Miz IMHO.

RzDrms

I hardly EVER, EVER truly get scared while watching movies or TV shows (fiction movies/shows). So you can imagine my great surprise at actually being frightened at times for some reason during Season Two of “Stranger Things.”

Angie

I read It t a church retreat i eighth grade out in the woods, and I told myself I would just read until "this scary part ended."It didn't end. I was just waiting for a little break in the action, but no. I WAS into all kinds of VC Andrews books with their incest plots and tales of dysfunctional family drama from about fourth grade on, which was waaaay too young, I think. I also read Judy Blume's "Forever" in fifth grade, and that kind of blew my 10-year-old mind.

Heather Laura Clarke

Love this post! I was totally traumatized by reading and watching the original "It" and have yet to watch the new version because UGH CLOWNS WELP. Our oldest is almost eight, and he still won't even entertain the idea of keeping the Goosebumps books on his shelf where he can see the covers. He doesn't believe me that they're funny, not scary. (Also, yeah, both kids were upset by Coco at first and had to be convinced to keep watching -- "I don't wanna turn into a skeleton when I dieeeeeee!" -- but ended up loving it.)

Karen

I only got through the first Frank Peretti book because even in my warped evangelical mind back then I knew it was complete shit. Please tell me you watched the video series, Hell's Bells, about how all rock music was of Satan. Even Bananarama.

Valerie Clark

Wowza. I won't even read/watch IT and I'm 51. I tried to watch Christine when I was a teenager. Never watched a Steven King movie again.

Nicole

I'm prepared to have internet strangers think badly of me, but our 4 and 7 year olds have both seen the new IT. The little one loves scary stuff. I didn't think the older one would like it, and offered to do something else with her, but they both wanted to watch it again immediately. There's no one-size-fits-all rule. Good for Noah for testing his boundaries, and having supportive parents.
The four year old wants to be Georgie for Halloween, with his arm torn off. I'm sure he'll change his mind by October, but I kind of hope not.

Lori

Wait, I thought Stranger Things was worse than It!! (My 8 year old is an all in ST fan, the 11 and 13 year old NO THANK YOU)

Marianne

My oldest (10) just came to me with a bargain about watching IT also. I haven't seen the new movie, so I don't know how terrible it is, but he too is a "fraidy cat." I agreed to watch it (IT!) this weekend. We'll see how it goes.

Jenn

I read IT in 5th grade. I turned out alright, mostly. Heh.

Dottie

This is the best. Delightful.

Julie

I read It at church camp the summer between 7th and 8th grade and I ended up throwing my copy in the campfire one night. Honestly, I can't even remember what That Scene is or the unsatisfactory ending... but I still feel creeped out by clowns and I didn't even entertain watching the season of American Horror Story set in the circus. {Shudder}

Christy

I'm actually really surprised at the comments here...and not in a good way. What good can possibly come from showing disturbing adult content (whether violent or sexual in nature) to children? There's a reason why children aren't allowed to drive, vote, smoke, drink, etc... Let them enjoy their childhoods before all they have to deal with all the ugliness of the adult world. It's funny that parents will freak out over BPA in their child's bottles, but have no problem exposing them to graphic sex and violence. Which do you think can do the most damage?

Katy

My parents let me see Jaws when I was on vacation. At the beach. And seven years old.

We won't talk about how long it took for me to go into the water again.

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