Tag Archives: parenting

Why I Cry at Kids’ Movies


I was watching the latest episode of This is Us with my wife the other night (why I continue to watch this show is beyond me; it’s genetically designed to pull at its viewers’ heartstrings at the expense of anything like a compelling narrative). And as Mandy Moore sat there munching on a candy bar as she received the news her husband had died, I glanced over at my wife. Tears streamed silently down her face, her brow knit up like a Christmas scarf your mother made when you were six. And I turned back to the show and just watched, not crying. Not that I felt nothing, but I wasn’t impacted so deeply by what I was seeing.

Maybe it’s because I know the show’s goal, like the Greek tragedies of old, is to get under my skin and tap into the emotions I’m not supposed to express in my walking-around life. The entire raison d’etre for This is Us is to make its viewers bust a tear every week, to give us a blubbering, tear-streaked catharsis. I know that, and I have feelings about that goal (I think it’s cheap, but more on that another day), and my viewing of the show is as a result inescapably cynical.

It made me think: what was the last movie I really cried at? Adult movies (yeah, what I meant there was movies for grown-ups) don’t really do it to me anymore. My wife swears I cried the first time she made me watch The Notebook, but I remember it differently. And I can still get a little misty towards the end of Titanic, a movie about which I’m as cynical as it comes.

But no; what makes me cry these days are kids’ movies.

bingbong

Pretty sure this purple jerk Disney/Pixar cooked up is responsible for more adult tears than an ocean full of Titanics.

Show me The Lion King and I will weep manly tears as Simba noses at Mufasa’s body, trying in vain to wake him up. Inside Out gets me every time when Bing Bong throws himself off the wagon so that Joy can escape the black hole of memory. Shoot, I cried the first time I saw Frozen when Anna sacrificed herself to save a weeping Elsa, and Elsa threw her arms around her sister’s frozen statue. Don’t even get me started on A Dog’s Purpose. I had to leave the room. (I haven’t seen Up. I don’t plan to. I’ve heard stories.)

They didn’t always do this to me. In fact, I would have laughed at a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies, before I became a version of myself who cried at kids’ movies. (Actually, that’s not true. I still totally laugh at myself for crying at kids’ movies.)

And I think I know why I cry at kids’ movies.

It’s because I’m a parent now. And being a parent changes your perspective.

Time was when I could watch a kids’ movie and just, y’know, watch it. As a movie. Here’s a protagonist, here are their struggles, here’s how they deal with them. Strife happens, as strife happens to all, but a resolution is reached. Bing bang boom, kids’ movie over, no tears.

Now, no longer. Now, a kids’ movie comes on and I can’t help viewing it as a parent. Not in that is-this-thing-appropriate-for-my-kid-to-watch-or-should-I-be-calling-my-congressman-about-it kind of way. Rather, I watch it, and either subconsciously (or other times, entirely deliberately) project my kid onto it.

The Lion King: I’m not crying because Mufasa has died. I’m crying because Simba’s father has died, because the center of Simba’s world is gone, and now Simba has to navigate the world without his role model and mentor. And it hits me. WHAM. What would it be like for my kid if he had to go through life without me?

Inside Out: I’m not crying because Bing Bong disappears forever. I’m crying because something that makes Riley young and adorable and sweet just kind of fades out, never to be recovered. Not only does Bing Bong die (and man it’s hard to take ANY sort of post about anything serious seriously [yeah, that’s grammatically correct] when you’re repeatedly typing out “Bing Bong”), he gives himself up knowing full well what it means: that a little part of Riley’s imagination dies with him. WHAM. What will my kid become when she stops obsessing over Minnie Mouse and My Little Ponies?

Frozen: I’m not crying because Anna dies for her sister. I’m crying because for a heartbreaking moment, Elsa knows that she has lost her other half, the sister who’s been her only family for most of her life. WHAM. What will my kids be to each other when my wife and I are gone?

And there’s only so much of this WHAMming that a parent can take before we start to leak from the eyes at the merest hint of strife befalling our kids — or the kids we subconsciously project onto the kids in these movies.

My daughter’s latest obsession is the My Little Pony movie. It’s hard to live in our house for more than a few days and not come away quoting the flavor-of-the-month they’re watching (and the list is long: Cars, Wreck-it Ralph, Curious George, Boss Baby, Finding Dory, The Little Mermaid, Ice Age, Moana, Lego Batman, The Secret Life of Pets, Zootopia, stop judging me this list is not exhaustive), but I’m managing it so far with this one. Not only because something in my soul still manages to HATE My Little Pony since the days when my sisters loved it, but mostly because I don’t want to have to explain to my wife why a handful of animated magical horses have moved me to tears when a perfectly good show for grown-ups doesn’t.

But the day is not far off.

I only hope I’m already chopping onions when I inadvertently catch the emotional moment.

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No Mo’ Snow


After three unexpected snow days last week, we’re back to the grind for a full work week this week. As has been pointed out by many of my teaching colleagues here in the environs outside Atlanta, the last full week of school we had was in November.

The lack of routine was definitely evident getting the kids out the door this morning. Sprout #1 spent the last thirty-six hours insisting that school still might get canceled today, and Sprout #2 threw a fit that lasted from a few minutes after she was awake until the moment I pulled into the daycare parking lot, at which point she changed her tune entirely and became a pitiful, clingy mess. And when I took my leave the tantrum started up again.

And friends and family wonder why my wife and I are such sticklers about getting these two little monsters to bed on time every night, even on weekends and vacations. It’s for the same reason that I spent the entire evening last night, from two on until I fell asleep, in a scowling, muttering, slamming-the-kitchen-cabinets and passive-aggressively-dragging-my-feet sulk. Routines matter! When kids — well, ANYBODY — know what to expect, they’re almost infinitely more likely to go along with it. And even if they don’t go along with it, they’re likely to protest less. And even if the plan changes, well just being prepared for the original plan leaves them somehow better equipped to deal with the adjustments.

Needless to say, when, following a three-day weekend, you go back to school for a single day and then get three surprise days off, followed by another weekend, your routine might as well have never existed in the first place.

I hope Mother Nature keeps this in mind the next time she brews up snow for the South. We are seriously not equipped for it.

Still, I got seven hundred words written today. So there’s that.


Sprout Tells Me a Story


“Dad, I have to tell you about this guy.”

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“Oh, yeah?”

“His name is Rocker Baddo.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool.”

“Um, it’s cool, but he’s not a nice guy.”

“No?”

“Well, he’s a mean guy with powers. He catches people with his magics and his powers are being mean to animals, and he makes mean animals like dragons catch him. And he makes dragons catch other people, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You’re putting this on Facebook?”

“Maybe. I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay, well, you should show someone. Put their name on the website, too.”

“Maybe I’ll do that. What else can you tell me about the guy?”

“Well, he smacks people with bombs. And he sneaks up on people to catch them. And he — you remember what I said about him that he says, when he sneaks up to scare you? He says BRRRRRRAAAARRRRRRR.”

“Wow!”

“Spell that word, too. And do you need me to tell you more?”

“If you like.”

“Okay, well, the worstest part that he does is when his stomach blows up with the little blower, it goes all over the city until everybody gets dooms right in the tower. (It’s just too long for me to sit, daddy.)”

(He gets up and starts monster-stomping around.)

“That’s okay, bud. Anything else?”

“I think there’s a lot more to tell you. Guess what? The other part is when the goats come out. After he does, he gets a lot of mean animals to come out, and after the animals come out, the animals are critters and they walk around like mean monster walkers but they’re robots. And when they blast people, people fall down. And when that happens, they put fire on you and your eyes, and then you don’t wake up anymore.”

(Jesus.)

“That sounds pretty scary.”

“Yeah, very scary.”

(At this point — he was stomping around like a mean monster walker robot, and unplugged the laptop, which distracted him enough to derail the story entirely.)

Oh, to have that amount of creativity, and the total indifference to whether it makes a damned bit of sense.


I’ll Get Him Sooner or Later


Earlier today, we got my son a Star Wars book for early readers that makes sound effects from the movies as you read through the story. I’ve been trying and trying to get him into it — my own fandom is desperate for my progeny to love this thing that I love — but nothing has really caught fire yet, so when he pointed to it in the store and said “what’s that, Daddy,” naturally I rushed to it. “Here it is look it’s the story of the whole movie and that’s Luke and that’s Obi-Wan and in this picture they’ve got their lightsabers and if you push that button you can hear Darth Vader and isn’t that cool???”

Maybe I laid it on a little too thick, but this time it didn’t scare him off. He thought that was pretty cool, so I couldn’t get to the checkout line fast enough. (Here, please take my money for this thing, and also for anything else that my son might want while he’s giving me this shred of dadservice!)

He kept his nose buried in the book the rest of the way through the store, the whole drive home, and for his entire afternoon “quiet time” (which used to be called “naptime” but due to negative connotations with sprout #2, has been re-branded).

Currently, it’s an hour past bedtime and I can still hear the sounds of laser blasters and lightsaber clashes coming from his bedroom.

I should be angry — he’s supposed to be asleep and all.

But I think I’ll let it slide tonight.


Toddler Life, ch. 68: (Lack of) Sleep Chronicles


My daughter has never been much of a sleeper.

I mean, she’ll do it, in much the same way I eat my vegetables. (I know it’s a thing I have to do, and if I don’t do it for long enough, I start to feel really funky.) But it’s not a thing she’s ever chosen to do, or done willingly. I think it’s safe to say she expends more tears in a week of bedtimes than the average pregnant woman does over the course of her nine-month term.

And that’s at home, where all the routines are firmly ensconced and the deviations from said routines are rare.

But this week, we’re on vacation. Which means: strange beds, strange rooms, strange barometric pressure, the total absence of anything like routine, and her absolute favorite person in the world (grandma!) hanging around to dote on her at any time. Which by extension means that if sleep is usually a struggle, this week it’s more like healthcare (who knew it could be so complicated?)

Tried her pack & play (for the uninitiated, that’s a fancy word for a “quick set up” crib that doubles as a playpen, which has accommodated both of my kids — in either task — for maybe three hours TOTAL) in a couple of quiet rooms in the condo. Nothing doing. Tried the air mattress we packed in case the pack & play didn’t work. Not a chance. So on night one, she slept in my bed with my wife while I slept on the air mattress (which I’m pretty sure is Greek for, oh, you’ve never had back problems in your life? Well, surprise, now you do).

Surprise surprise, the baby who doesn’t sleep very soundly by herself sleeps even less soundly while sharing a bed with an adult. My wife hardly slept a wink with the little princess kicking her, tossing and turning next to her, waking up to scream and falling immediately back to sleep.

So I slept with the baby last night, while my wife — who actually has legitimate back problems — opted willingly to dance the dance of death with the air mattress instead. This doesn’t seem like a terrible call. I’m a sound sleeper in exactly the way my daughter isn’t, so theoretically, we should balance each other out.

Should.

I woke up five times that I can remember in the night.

Every successive wake-up I found myself closer to the edge of the queen bed. Somehow, the little girl 20% of my size and body weight managed to completely box me out of the bed until I was, quite literally, dangling an arm and a leg onto the floor, somehow managing to hold onto my place either by biting the pillow or clinging on with my toes.

When we went to sleep, she was arrayed on the mattress like a normal human. Head on pillow, feet pointed downward toward the edge of the bed.

First wakeup: she’s angled herself away from me slightly, head pointed away and feet pushing firmly against my hip.

Second wakeup: She’s aligned herself like a torpedo aimed at my shoulder blades, the top of her skull driving into my spine and forcing me towards the edge.

Third wakeup: The toddler torpedo has reversed itself and is now pushing its feet into the small of my back while she lays flat on her face, arms at her side, like one of those planking videos from five years ago, except that in a truly remarkable abuse of the laws of physics, she’s leveraging me — 150 pounds her better — off the side of the mattress. At this point, I actually get out of the bed, redistribute her like an actual human in the bed, and reclaim y rightful half.

Fourth wakeup: she’s curled up in the fetal position against the small of my back, which is kind of adorable, except she’s pressing the dagger points of her toenails into the soft tissue behind my knees. I concede an extra quarter of the mattress again to make the pain stop.

Fifth wakeup: it’s now six AM, the time when she ordinarily begins to stir when we’re at home. I open my eyes to find her face inches from mine, eyes wide open and gleeful, teeth bared in what I guess is a smile but what appears to my newly-awakened brain to be the grin of the very angel of death itself. She giggles and swats me with frankly astonishing strength in the ear. This is a fantastic move if you’re ever in a fight as it discombobulates your opponent and bollockses their hearing. It’s a real jerk move to pull on your father who was, moments ago, asleep, as it discombobulates the hell out of him and bollockses his hearing.

In slow motion, I slither out of the bed and collapse to the floor and attempt to sleep just five more minutes while my beautiful, delightful daughter — the apple of my eye, the joy of my life — continues to rain blows upon me.


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