They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior, all the while expecting a different outcome. Argh. When will I learn?
My youngest son, Eli, who is now 7, had a serious cinematic phobia until about a year ago. We had finally conquered his fear of flicks on TV and the mini-dvd player. As long as he could run out of the room during the opening credits, he could usually manage to sit through a whole movie. Of course the film itself had to be entirely happy and without a shred of violence, fighting or insurmountable obstacles for the hero of the story. But walk him into a Harkins or United Artist’s and he went berserk. The last movie I tried taking him to was Toy Story 3 over a year ago. As soon as it started to look bleak for Woody, he freaked and we were out of there in a flash. So my 10 year old son, Levi, is totally into Harry Potter. He read all the books and has seen all the movies. Eli has also watched most of the movies at home with his dad and brother.
So when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” came out last week, we made a family date to go to the Cine Capri and watch the film. Both boys were super excited. I tried to prime Eli that it might be scary, hoping that maybe he’d opt out before I had to plink down 7 bucks and swelter alfresco in a long line of muggles outside the theatre. But he was insistent. He was a big boy and he wanted to go.
Once we finally got into the theatre, settled into our reclining seats, and dove into our healthy fruit salads that I’d smuggled past the ticket-taking teen in the lobby, the previews began. Now I have issues with previews to begin with. They tell the whole story and ruin the movie. They last too long. They’re often violent and inappropriate for kids, even in G an PG rated movies. They’re too friggin’ loud. I could go on. But it’s sort of beside the point. Anyway, we made it through a slew of gory “coming soons” and Eli, who was snuggled into his daddy, looked like he might be losing his resolve.
“We don’t have to stay, sweetie,” I said secretly hoping he’d “man-up” and tough this one out. OK, I admit it. I wanted to see the silly picture. “I’m not leaving,” he said with a slightly annoyed lilt. Then he sunk back into his dad’s shoulder, half covering his eyes with his still small hand that reminded me, bravado aside, he was still just a sweet, scared little boy.
The movie started, the music roared, and the dark energy enveloped us. “I do want to leave!” He screamed grabbing my hand and yanking me out of my chair. “Please! Take me home! I don’t want to see this, mommy!”
I gathered our stuff and we exited in one fluid movement within milliseconds. Safely ensconsed in the lobby, I suggested we stop and see if there was another movie he might enjoy watching while we waited two and a half hours for his dad and brother to come out. He adamantly refused. “Shit,” I thought, “The phobia is back with a vengeance.” I persuaded him though, and we paused at guest services where they happily exchanged our tickets for tickets to the new Winnie the Pooh movie.
Eli reluctantly agreed to watch Winnie with me. But once inside the theatre, Eli’s entire persona shifted. He was joyful, open and giggling at each and every cartoon preview. He gleefully watched Piglet, Rabbit and Pooh as they formed a posse to locate Christopher Robin who’d been stolen by a treacherous “Backson.” Watching his eyes sparkle and his wide grin filled me with happiness. “He loves this,” I thought to myself. Why did I even suggest Harry Potter as a family outing? This is who he is. This is what he loves. He’s still unbelievably sweet, gentle and naive, even though he tries incredibly hard to seem otherwise. Why do I keep forgetting this?
So we watched a delightful little film, with no real villains, no dangerous chase scenes, and no dead family members. And it was really, really nice. Just me and my little boy. Oh Eli, I don’t need you to grow up so quickly. I’m sorry that I keep being fooled by your big boy facade. You’re still my little man and I will try harder to remember that.
The “Backson” btw, was Pooh’s misunderstanding of Christopher Robin’s note that he’d be “back soon.” Oh, I’m so sorry. I just totally spoiled the ending for you.
Damm… I’ve been waiting soooo long to see the new Winnie the Pooh film and now you spoiled it. … Did I just say that out loud??
A good reminder that we need to let our kids “be” and not project onto them our ideas of what we think all the other kids are doing.
(We used to smuggle in homemade popcorn using a pillow/pillowcase as a “bag.” My husband would just say he needed it for his bad back and they wouldn’t question him any further. Try it!)