The wife and kids got home, and joined me in front of the TV. They hadn’t heard about the plane. The kids wanted to know what was going on, so we explained it to them as best we could. After a few minutes, it became clear that they were going to attempt a landing.
My wife looked at me. “Uhh…is this something we want them to watch?”
This was an excellent question. There was certainly the potential for carnage. Massive explosions, burnt and broken bodies strewn across the tarmac. My children could be scarred for life, or at least they could make the boarding process very entertaining for the forseeable future.
Since my daughter was very small, she has reacted badly to stress and violence in film. Time after time we would watch something that I considered pretty harmless, only to end up being yanked awake in the middle of the night by a traumatized daughter who had had a nightmare. That’s if she could even get to sleep at all, which was another problem. And it wasn’t restricted to scary movies. When the police were looking for a ‘person of interest’ in our neighborhood once, she was freaked out all night, and the next morning. She was freaked out enough that my wife called the police department to find out if they had caught him (they hadn’t, but they could confirm that he had left the area).
As a result, we have sheltered our kids from anything that might possibly result in sleepless nights for us. We usually make sure they are watching ‘G’-rated films, sometimes ‘PG’. We nearly always pre-view anything before letting them watch it. They don’t get to see a lot of the ‘cool’ movies that their friends get to watch, but we get more sleep. It seemed like a good deal. An acceptable trade-off.
That is, until recently. Until our children’s recent adventures in breaking boundaries. I couldn’t understand how a child so sensitive to the real and imagined dangers of the big wide world could be so blithe about putting herself and others at risk. It seemed to me that perhaps we have sheltered them too much. After all, scary stories have always taught children useful lessons: the woods are dangerous, don’t talk to strangers, listen to your parents. Have you ever read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales? They’re pretty gruesome.
So what my wife was asking was whether we should take the chance that the kids could see something that could scar them for life, or at least disrupt our sleep for a while. And I decided to let them. Odds were, it would work out just fine. It might be exciting, but probably no one would be hurt.
And so my kids got to see a perfectly executed emergency landing, with the crew of the plane performing beautifully, the plane performing beautifully, and the emergency crews performing beautifully. Everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to happen, and the passengers got to leave the plane via a stairway, clutching their carry-on bags, instead of down a slide or, God forbid, in burning pieces.
The lesson I hope the kids learned was that air travel can be exciting, but that everyone involved works very hard to make sure it is as safe as possible. And that even when things go wrong, it can all turn out OK in the end. We let them see that trained professionals are constantly working to keep everyone safe. That’s the lesson I hope they learned.
Was it the right decision? Who knows? This was just another parenting pop quiz, sprung without warning. And there are no absolute Right and Wrong answers. Only consequences.