An EW librarian considers his reactions to those scary moments when his 2-year-old daughter comes across a book or movie or song she might not be ready for
Credit: Lynn McAfee/Retna

Too much too soon at 2?

Somewhere between the drowning and the beheading, my wife asked me what my 2-year-old daughter and I were doing. In fact, we were reading the classic kids’ book The Five Chinese Brothers, but it suddenly occurred to me that I might as well have been giving her a tutorial on The Sopranos. One parent’s folk tale about five siblings who use their special powers to save one of their own from execution, is another parent’s primer on violence and murder. Newly enlightened, I tried to make the book more toddler-friendly — but editing sentences like ”Everybody was very angry, and they all decided that he should be burned” proved too much of a challenge. (Let’s not even get into the extremely un-PC line about all the brothers looking exactly alike.)

Oprah has always talked about her life-defining ”A-ha!” moments. As a parent, I have my ”Uh-oh” moments — those times when I’ve realized my child has been exposed to age-inappropriate entertainment that just might scar her for life. And these moments have a nasty habit of sneaking up on me. As in, Uh-oh, I didn’t know you were watching Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace with your 8-year-old cousin. Or, Uh-oh, what kind of life lessons is that klepto fox, Swiper, teaching my child? Or, Uh-oh, I forgot Nemo’s mommy and his hundreds of brothers and sisters get gobbled up at the beginning of Finding Nemo!

I know I’m not the first parent who had to make that mad dash for the remote control at the beginning of that fish-in-the-water tale. I guess it should be assumed when watching a Disney movie that it might contain mommycide, but why can’t there be a little label? It could even be a cute warning — a picture of Bambi and the words ”Mommy Dies” is all the heads-up I would need. (Or how about offering an edited version of these movies — accessible on the DVD menu — for folks like me who’d like to delay the ”circle of life” discussion until their child is at least four years old?) Still, I’m happy I reached that remote in time before I had to have an awkward discussion that might’ve started with, ”No, honey, Mommy isn’t going to get devoured by a barracuda on the way to work.”

Of course, one never knows how an ”Uh-oh” moment will turn out. Saturday mornings, my daughter and I look for pictures of babies in People magazine; it’s fun to find shots of little Shilo, Suri, or David. This is how Ava learned about Madonna — and now our baby-finding sessions go something like this:

”Daddy, is that Madonna?”

”No honey, that’s Beyoncé. She’s like Madonna.”

”Daddy, is that Madonna?”

”No, her name is Gwen Stefani. She’s also like Madonna.”

When we’d occasionally hear Madonna’s music on the street or in the car, I’d point it out to her. I brought home a copy of The Immaculate Collection and started playing it for her. I felt an imminent ”Uh-oh” when ”Like a Virgin” came on, but it was ”Material Girl” that became her favorite song. Okay, it’s not the greatest message of female empowerment, but the child is two, and ”Material Girl” sounds pretty innocent in this post-”My Humps” era we live in. One day, we were having a Madonna dance party in the living room. Somewhere between ”Borderline” and ”Material Girl,” I looked over at Ava — only to see that she had proceeded to remove all her clothes. Another cherished ”Uh-oh” moment for the books.

How about you? Ever close the book on Hansel and Gretel wishing it had a PG-13 rating on the front page? Ever have to drag your 5-year-old out of a Spider-Man screening with promises of ice cream and a nice Arthur DVD waiting at home? Let’s hear about your ”Uh-oh” moments on the message board below.