It Was a Great Idea (Until I Bawled My Eyes Out)


The Kid had the great idea of having "dinner and a movie" date, just the two of us, at home this weekend. Earlier in the week I had picked out Toy Story 3 from the library children's section—a great resource for free (with a library card) family-friendly DVDs. The Kid had already seen it, but I hadn't, so it was GAME ON. From what I had heard, it was a total sobfest for adults. I figured it couldn't be much worse than the opening scene of Up, and heck, even as a teenaged girl I didn't bat an eye during Titanic.


The Kid and I settled onto the couch with our dinners as we began this new tradition. I'm not much of a crier, but I accepted the fact that at any moment any verklemptedness might wrinkle my nose and bring on the waterworks. When the movie ended, however, not only was I crying, I could not STOP crying. Confession: Like maybe I couldn't stop crying until I went to bed and even then I had the stuffy-nose sniffles and sighed a lot. I DUNNO, MAYBE.

The more I tried to muffle the deep sobby sounds coming from my chest, the more they escaped. This was the kind of crying reserved for funerals and other tragedies. And here I was, overcome by complete and devastating heartache from a kid's movie.


woman crying

Because kids grow up. Because my kid is growing up. She is hurtling toward an age when she won't play with her toys. Which sounds like a really stupid thing to worry over when there's war and economic strife and natural disasters and other scary things to keep me up at night. But when you have a child, at times your home can look more like a Toys R Us annex and you dream of the day you won't have to pick up any more tiny princess shoes or step on any bleepity-bleep Legos. But in truth, I'd rather have a deep discussion with The Kid about which Disney Princess is her favorite or which Lego set she wants for her birthday. Because those are safer? more fun? there are no right answers! better than any other scary mother-daughter conversation I know is coming my way someday soon very soon! too soon! about bras, body image, frenemies, crushes, s-e-x, driving, heartache, college, failure, success, death.

I sobbed because I know our days like these are numbered. And she is such a good and happy kid, and together we have a nice little life. These are the days she and I will recount, to each other and to her family, of toys and subplots of monsters and magical kingdoms and heroic princesses that made her happy (and me happy by proxy). Anyone who knows The Kid is aware of her completely wild and vast imagination. Right now, I get a front-row seat to all its beauty, depth, wisdom and hilarity. I don't know that I will anymore when she will someday express it in ways beyond toys.

Of course, that night The Kid gave a careful side glance to her blubbering mother on the other end of the couch and thankfully didn't ask why I had suddenly completely lost it. One time she caught me crying after we saw her dad and his then-new girlfriend leaving together with his parents to do something fun, outings I certainly missed. As I sat in the driver's seat, car motionless in our driveway, tears quietly slipping out from underneath my sunglasses, just waiting for that moment—any moment now!—when I would finally pull myself together so we could get on with life. The Kid unbuckled her seatbelt, got into the front seat, looked at me and kindly said, "Mommy… you don't look pretty when you cry," wiping my hot tears away with her little hands under my sad eyes and then kissing my flushed cheek. Which was her way of saying my sadness made her sad, so please knock it off so we can get on with life. Which, of course, made me cry. With her, I will always have love.

Bedtime was hard the night of the Disney/Pixar-induced sobfest. I tucked The Kid into rainbow butterfly sheets she had picked out with Grandma (which someday she will say are for little kids), with her yellow kitty from Uncle Zach (a first-birthday present that is not so yellow or kitty-like these days), her pink puppy (her first toy ever, with ears she used to gum on and a belly that has been twice stitched up and three times ripped out), and baby jaguar (which I bought at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs when she was four and loved giraffes). She won't need these "stuffies" forever, and I know this is good.

That night, I surveyed her other favorite toys: the harem of mini Disney Princesses and Prince Philip and Prince Azul (because he has blue pants, obviously), a collection of ponies and horses, Chunk, the Zuzu Pet hamster who even has his own bed created by The Kid out of vintage My Little Pony accessories given to us by a friend. I thought about the toys gone to The Kid's other home after the divorce: pretty painted wooden fruits with Velcro middles, Playmobil safari animals, all the Legos—stuff I probably won't see again, except in photos of those early years. I thought about her toys she hasn't played with much lately: dress-up clothes, tea sets, Dora the Explorer. All outgrown.

And much like Andy's toys in Toy Story 3, they faced donation, dump, or storage (in our case in the basement). I keep the ones that remind me, and hopefully will remind her someday, of these happy moments when she was in her own world of make-believe, one I was lucky enough to see if I just peeked in at the right time and tried not to let her catch me looking.


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