Deathly Hallows II or Hundred Acres?

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.

Birthday blunder

Not at all the gift he'd imagined.

I really blew it tonight. It’s the eve of Levi’s birthday. Tomorrow he will be 10 years old. I wanted so much to make it the perfect birthday. But instead, I reverted to being a 10 year old myself and almost ruined everything.

This is hard to write about. Most of the time I’m okay belittling myself. I make mistakes. I allow my emotions to get the best of me. I act, in numerous occasions, less like a parent and more like a tantrum-tossing toddler. But I always admit the error of my ways. And I usually manage to learn a good, heart-felt lesson from my less than perfect parenting. But tonight takes the cake.

Levi isn’t your typical kid. He’s never been into stuff the way other kids are. He’d honestly rather build castles in his imagination than an entire aerospace propulsion system out of legos. If you ask him what he wants for his birthday, he’ll tell you he’d like to go out to lunch with you and just talk about what’s going on in your life. He’s definitely what many would label, “an old soul.”

But this year, he told me he wanted some Harry Potter action figures for his birthday. I was excited. Finally he was acting like a normal kid which gave me the opportunity to act like a normal parent. Maybe for once I could get him some stuff that would make him happy, even if it was only a fleeting happiness. I told everyone what he wanted. I not only told everyone, I went ahead and ordered more than $300 worth of hard to find, collectible, Harry Potter action figures from several obscure toy websites on the internet.

When the box came, I offered the various figures to different relatives (at cost of course) so that they too could finally feel victorious by for once giving my son something he really wanted. I had no trouble selling the figures to friends and family. I even wrapped them all individually and made the cards so that no one had to lift a finger to make my boy happy this year. It was my pleasure and I was thrilled to be able to do it.

But as luck would have it, tonight when my mother gave him the first pre-birthday pack of Harry Potter and Serious Black action figures, there was the same dull apathy that always greeted our birthday selections. I was beside myself. After all, there were still $250 worth of figures wrapped up in my closet waiting to be opened tomorrow on his actual birthday. How could I have gotten this wrong.

Levi, I said, I thought you wanted these action figures.

I did, mom. But I wanted the small ones. These are kind of like Barbie size. They’re too big.

But the small ones are just cheap pieces of plastic. I ordered the rare, collectible versions with the hand-painted faces that cost four times as much.

“Oh well,” he tossed it off,”no biggie.”

“What do you mean?” I shouted after him. “Levi, I went to a lot of trouble to find these for you. I mean, that’s all I have for you — from everyone. I thought that’s what you wanted.” I was beginning to sound pathetic.

“Stop it,” my husband chastised. “You’re making him feel bad.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” I snorted as I became increasingly unglued. “I guess I just can’t do anything right, can I?”

“You are acting like a child,” my husband chided. .

“Yeah, well, maybe if he acted like a child once in a while I wouldn’t have to.”

This was ridiculous. I was fully aware of my idiotic behavior. But it was like I couldn’t stop. I kept imagining my son the following day, opening present after present and feeling more and more disappointment with each gift. I really screwed this up. I wanted to cry. Why is it so hard to make a 10 year old boy’s dreams come true?

Meanwhile, Levi was in his room sulking. Every once in a while he’d say something like “Mom, really. They’re fine. I’ll just keep them.” and I’d counter that no, we were sending them back, all of them and getting the shitty little plastic ones. After all, he could probably afford a whole town of those mini Harry Potter people in exchange for the ones I’d bought.

“Will you please stop it and go talk to him. He feels awful,” my husband pleaded.

I went into Levi’s room. We both had tears in our eyes. I sat down on the floor and said, “Levi, I am so sorry to be acting like this. I’m really having a hard time being a grown up right now. Here’s the thing, I so wanted to make your birthday perfect. I searched high and low for some of these figures. That’s pretty much all your getting from everyone. And when I saw that they weren’t the figures you wanted, I felt so horrible that I acted really badly. I want you to understand that I think you’re the greatest and I just wanted you to know how much I and everyone else loves you and wants to make you happy. That’s what this is about. You didn’t do anything wrong. This one’s all me, buddy. I hope you can forgive me for acting like a jerk.”

“Mom, all I care about is that you wanted my birthday to be perfect. The fact that you and all my family and friends tried really hard to get me what you thought I wanted is way more important than whatever the present is. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.”

“No baby, you didn’t make me feel bad,” I countered almost instantaneously, “I made me feel bad. And I am ashamed of acting like that. Sometimes even mommies get overwhelmed with their emotions and do really dumb things. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Of course, mom,” he smiled and threw his arms around my neck. “But don’t worry about it. Nobody’s perfect. All we can do is try. Isn’t that what you always tell me?”

“Yeah, Leves, I guess it is,” I stammered, more amazed by him than ever. “I guess we both need to remember that lesson.”