I now have no idea how many times I’ve seen The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. You see, it’s streaming on Neftlix, and I have a two-year-old. As established, we don’t really limit his screen time very much, and he gets a certain amount of choice in what we watch. I’ve seen the entire series of Courage the Cowardly Dog through about eight or nine times in the last month or so, but there’s four seasons of that. I don’t really care for Pooh at the best of times, but the recent direct-to-DVD movies are considerably worse than the old one, so I suffer through watching it again. And again. And again.
Why do little kids do this? And it is pretty much all of them. Don’t let your kid have screen time? Okay; they’ll ask to hear the same book over and over. As in, you finish it, and your kid is likely to ask you to start the same book over from the beginning. There are books of Simon’s that I have memorized. And more to the point, how can you as an adult deal with it?
Start by asking yourself what movies you’ve seen so often that you don’t know how many times you’ve seen them. Go on. When I was in high school, I watched Pump Up the Volume so many times that I eventually wore out my copy. I saw Heathers a lot, too. Even now, there are some movies I’ve seen so often that I can recite along with them.
So how is it that we’re both petrified of spoilers and willing to watch movies dozens of times? And why do children watch things even more often than that? You give my son a choice between a new book and hearing “Should I Share My Ice Cream?” again, I can tell you which way he’s probably going to choose.
It’s true that not everyone cares about spoilers. I do. But my best friend doesn’t. I like going into a work fresh and letting it unfold before me. She doesn’t. She would actually rather know lots of details, so she can concentrate on the actual workmanship of the film. And I suppose that’s an aspect to rewatching; you have reached a point where you can concentrate on a specific aspect. When I watched The Parent Trap the other day, I spent any scene with the mom just looking at how great Maureen O’Hara was.
This is not what my son is doing. He points out Courage to me a lot. He has started saying, “Oh, my!” when something happens to which Muriel says, “Oh, my!” And he does let me know just before Tigger is about to put in his first appearance. Interestingly, he’s started showing real interest in the behaviour of the letters when he watches Winnie the Pooh. This is because I think he’s starting to understand that letters are more than just shapes.
But he’s learning that because of a pattern of familiarity, and I think that’s what he’s getting out of seeing the same episodes of Good Eats (what can I say—my kid is weird) over and over again. He’s learning that the same thing is always going to happen, that the words will always be the same, that it’s something he can rely on. This is something of why I watch things repeatedly, too; the familiarity is comfortable. I may not laugh as much as I did the first time, but there’s a comfort to knowing that the jokes in LA Story are still there.
I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist, just a well-read amateur. Likewise my experience with early childhood development. I’ve got a kid, and I’ve read a lot about developmental stages. But by and large, this is what I’ve pieced together. It’s familiar, and familiar is comforting because the unexpected can be scary. When you are two, “not scary” definitely has its place.