When you become a mom, you acquire the mom filter. It changes how you see and hear almost everything.
Every mom calibrates her own filter. What worries one momma may not faze another, and what troubles you today seemingly didn’t exist yesterday.
The mom filter accentuates sharp corners on coffee tables and uncovered electrical outlets — until one day you realize that you no longer have toddlers and that furniture is no longer hazardous. The mom filter might hone in on nutritional value. (How can one tiny container of yogurt harbor so many grams of sugar?) The mom filter might ruin any chances that you will ever again buy a single article of white clothing.
And the mom filter might change forever how you watch your favorite old movies.
Take, for example, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which, incredibly, was released 30 years ago. I have no idea how many times I’ve watched the John Hughes classic, but I can sing or hum along with every song from the film and recite almost all of the dialogue.
You would think that with my countless viewings and strong memory of the script, I would have recalled that the movie is rated PG-13 for a reason.
We watched the movie at home last weekend — me, my 14-year-old son and my 10-year-old daughter. I warned Katie that there might be just a little offensive language, but we could ignore it and focus on the fun plot.
Good gracious, my mom filter was on high alert about two minutes in. I lost track of how often Cooper turned to look at me with raised eyebrows, as if to say, “I can’t believe you’re letting me watch this, much less my little sister.”
Some of it went over her head. Other phrases made her raise her own eyebrows. Every now and then I’d interject with an “Oh, boy, he’s not speaking nicely” or “Wow, that’s not appropriate.”
Certainly, no permanent damage was done. When we talked about the movie later, she focused on the angry principal, the parade scene and the girl with the gummy bear. Katie didn’t utter a single curse word.
Just a couple of nights later, I couldn’t resist the pull of Grease: Live on television. The 1978 movie was a staple in my growing-up years, mostly for the song and dance numbers. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I scrutinized the plot or understood the mature content.
Again, my mom filter was working nonstop. Cooper caught most of the double entendres (again with the raised eyebrows), while Katie was mostly mesmerized by the quick costume changes, elaborate choreography and massive sets. (“I can’t believe this is live!” she kept gushing.)
We were all ready for the end of the show — it was a school night, and we’re not conditioned for almost three hours of television — when Sandy sauntered out in skin-tight black clothes, overdone hair and heavy makeup.
Katie was convinced that another actress was playing this Sandy, the Sandy who sheds her innocent image to secure the boy she loves.
“I like old Sandy better,” Katie said. “She doesn’t look like herself.”
Cooper was even more critical.
“It’s a terrible message,” Cooper said. “Does Sandy even like her new self?”
My mom filter picked right up on that insightful question, and in that moment I was reminded that my children don’t have to be protected all the time, that they usually make good decisions, and that they are going to be all right.
Still, I’m keeping the mom filter — I’ll just continue to recalibrate as necessary.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at tyradamm.com.