I woke up Saturday morning in a foul mood. My husband, Big G, woke up in a worse one. I snapped at him. He snapped at me. We glared at each other. Considering the children were at a sleepover at Grandma's the night before, we should have been elated. We weren't. I was in a terrible mood and I had no idea why. Even my morning walk through the woods with my friend Red did very little to get me out of my funk. It wasn't until later in the day, in my karate class, when I accidentally kicked through two boards and right into a chagrined classmate's stomach that I realized I needed to reign in my bad mood.
I stomped home and huffed over to my husband who was pouting in the other room as the kids played checker-chess on the floor.
"What's wrong with you?!" I demanded, which I think is, to date, the worst thing you can ever say to anyone as an opening to reconciliation.
"Nothing! What's wrong with you?" he snarled.
"Honestly, I don't know." I was puzzled. Why was I in such a bad mood? "I had a lot of bad dreams last night. I didn't sleep well."
"Me neither," he admitted as the tension broke. "Do you think it was the movie we watched last night? Because I think it was. It's putting us both in a bad mood."
I stopped and thought about that. Generally I don't see violent movies. Anything with graphic violence, torture scenes, and gory horror films I avoid like the plague. Some people can watch it and let it roll off them, but that kind of stuff tends to stay with me, the grotesque or disturbing images running on a loop in my head, hence the bad dreams. I'm either extremely sensitive or I'm just a big wus.
"I've been thinking about it," Big G continued. "The part where the guys feet were cut off--"
"STOP!" I held up both of my hands. "I don't want to revisit it!"
"And then it got me to thinking about all the other terrible things in the world." my husband continued. "And it put me in a bad mood."
Could it be? Could seeing an extremely violent movie color our mood for the next 24 hours? And if this was the case, what impact could seeing violent movies/ video games have on our children's less developed psyches?
It reminded me of something that happened about a month ago when our 6 year old, Big A stopped sleeping for a few days. He finally broke down and admitted to us that he saw a friend on the bus playing a handheld video game called "Five Nights At Freddy's" He was crying and begging us to please "take the scary pictures out of his head." Which we couldn't do. Big A saw something he was clearly not ready to understand and now he couldn't un-see it. We reassured him as best we could that video games aren't real but it broke my heart how his mind was affected by seeing something so disturbing. It took a lot of time and reassurance before Big A believed that the scary characters from the Freddy's video game weren't actually real and were not going to attack him the dead of night.
( I looked up "Five Nights At Freddy's" by the way. It's TERRIFYING! Bloody animatronic animals jumping out at you...creepy. This macabre "horror" type videogame is for ages 13 and up but I was freaked out by it. I was deeply saddened that Big A was exposed to something so frightening on the school bus that had impacted him so negatively.)
However, some kids and some adults can see bad stuff, cringe and let it go. Our family has a rich history of internalizing.
When my hub and I realized that our moods were in fact being impacted by the disturbing and depressing subject matter of the movie the night before, we snapped out of it and had a lovely evening with the kids, one involving going out for milkshakes and, ironically, the board game Sorry! But it made me ever more aware of the effect that movies and other media can have on ourselves and especially our children.
So we won't be lining up to see the next Quentin Tarantino movie any time soon. Or letting our 6 year old play "5 Nights At Freddy's"...no matter how cool his classmates say it is. Obviously, he can't handle it. And considering how much we enjoy sleep and good times in this house, neither can we.