How motherhood has changed me.

Micha, isn’t that what you’re whole blog is about? Okay. That’s fair.

Perhaps this post should simply be titled, “How motherhood has changed how I watch movies.”  Or, “What’s just not worth it anymore.” Or, “How my husband and I had a big fight last Friday night after I made him turn off our Netflix rental because I was sobbing (yes, seriously sobbing) in the kitchen.”

I’ll say this: I’ve always fancied myself a thinker, someone who reads books or watches movies because I believe they’ll teach me something or speak to me in some meaningful way, or simply because I will appreciate their “art.” I’ve never been a movie buff, but I love movies and in my former days, I would watch the newest artsy-fartsy thing out there simply because it was nominated for an Oscar. I’ve never been afraid of movies. Scary zombies make me laugh. I didn’t have nightmares even after the lovely Ryan Reynolds turned cold-blooded killer in The Amityville Horror. I watched Poltergeist when I was probably way too young and survived.

So, I wasn’t prepared for what happened to me after August was born. I should stop here and add that I’ve always been an emotional viewer. I’ve seen Little Women like, 42 times and every time I weep when Beth dies. (Sorry to ruin it for you, Person Who Should Have Watched That Movie (and read the book, come on!) 17 years ago like the rest of us.) When Chris and I were dating, we saw a German film about a family that moved to Kenya and I couldn’t leave my seat for 10 minutes following the credits. I wept and wept over my love for Kenya and the people I had met there a few years before and my longing to eventually live there. (That’s another post, by the way.) But, my then-boyfriend was a little overwhelmed with my earnest emotional involvement in films.

But, back then, I’d watch anything with Chris. Thriller? Check. Political satire? Check. RomCom? Absolutely. Foreign? Heck yes.

Three weeks after August was born, I left Chris with the baby for an evening and went out with a friend for Vietnamese food and a French mystery/thriller. Tell No One is still one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. But I had a surprising (and aching) experience: I couldn’t stop thinking about my baby. There were really no children in the film, but there was one conversation when an older man spoke of what a parent will do for a child. I had a moment of panic. I needed to see my baby and make sure he was ok. I needed to leave the theater. I needed to get home. Right then. I’d been so proud of myself for going out so early in August’s life. I’d convinced myself that I could be a mother who didn’t have to be crazy or live in fear or hover obsessively over that boy. Suddenly, my fingernails were gripping the armrests and I was taking deep, convincing breaths. My baby is all right. My baby is all right. I stayed.

Movie watching has never been the same. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable anymore. It’s not just when a movie refers to (or shows) suffering children. I simply don’t want to see suffering in general. I don’t like thrillers. I don’t like anything tense. I’m sure I would appreciate the art in Black Swan, but it will never be worth it for me to ache through it. I’m aware of suffering, of mental and emotional collapse, and I no longer have any desire to watch it.

So, when my husband (who has been incredibly busy with work lately and hasn’t had much time to relax) announced that Friday night he was going to take a break and spend some time with me, I was determined to watch whatever Netflix movie was in our envelope, for the sake of a happy date night. He mentioned Syriana, to which I cringed. I’ve never seen Syriana, but I knew it was about the Middle East and oil, and therefore, it would have suffering. I looked at him skeptically. He read me the sleeve, which seemed political enough. Nothing too scary.

I was wrong. Thirty minutes in, I watched, horrified, as a little boy we had been introduced to, was about to be a victim of an electrocution in a pool. I knew it was coming. I shouted, “No no no no no no no no!” while Chris said, “Just go to the kitchen!” so I could avoid seeing it happen. But eyes are not all you need to experience a movie. And our kitchen is not far enough away. I listened to the mother’s screams until Chris told me it was over.

There are some images you don’t need in your mind. My mind is packed with enough Crazy that adding something like that scene into my deepest fears is not only unhealthy, it’s insane. My husband said, “Micha, it’s just a movie. It’s not real.” But I can’t feel that way because movies are real; they are stories of reality. The characters may be created, but the darkness they display is real.

I brewed my tea without talking until I cried. I cried and cried for that little boy and his movie parents. I cried for August and my baby. I cried for the children around the world who are victims of our greed and corruption.

My husband turned the movie off. And our cozy date was over. We’re seven years into our marriage. Every once in a while each of us experiences the shock of the other’s change. We grieve for a while over who the other used to be, the things we once shared. Chris and I once watched movies and discussed them over coffee and chocolate. We were young and childless and I was always up for an intellectual argument.

He sat frustrated for a while. “Was I ever really that fun to watch movies with anyway?” I joked to my husband. But we were both kind of sad. It’s weird to grow up, especially when it’s your normal that slips away in the process. So we watched an old episode of 30 Rock on Hulu. Almost the same…

 

One Good Phrase: Annie Barnett (Everyone is learning)
Marriage and the Growing Up of Us
The Pursuit of Enough: When sadness lives on the doorstep of happiness
First Day: The Holding and the Letting Go

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