Friday, January 4, 2008

E.T. Go Home - For Now

The other night, E.T The Extraterretial was on television, and I DVR'd it thinking it would be wonderful to watch with my 5-year-old. We snuggled in on the couch and all was going ok until the spacesuited guys came into the house where the little kids were watching over E.T. It was a pretty scary scene, through Sara's eyes. We fast forwarded and saw E.T go home safely, tearing up a little at the long goodbye. Later that night she went to bed without any problems.

But in the middle of the night, she called out for me.

"Mama, I'm scared," and I rushed over, heart thumping, guilt starting to build. Had it really been too much for her? Was I wrong to have her watch it?

"What is it baby? Those men in the suits?"

"No Mama. I saw E.T.'s finger, in my room. It's scary."

The finger? That beautiful, glowing tip, I'll be right here finger that made everyone feel better was the stuff of nightmares for my Sara?

I remember when E.T. first came out, and he taught all of us that beauty really is in the eye, or maybe the heart, of the beholder. Some looked at the squat little big-eyed alien and beheld a magical being. For me, he opened the door to the Universe at large, and I couldn't wait to ride in a spaceship. For my little one, he is the stuff of nightmares.

The lessons of parenting are half for the child and half (or more) for the parent. Sara has taught me all her life. When she started out as the neighborhood bully, I had to delay my dreams of being the social mom who hosted playdates and tea parties until I understood that social situations overwhelmed her with excitement that she was too young to control. When the Emilia Reggio system of education didn't work for her, I had to quit thinking it was such a wonderful gift that would have been perfect for me and start the search for what would work for her.

So maybe Sara won't be the one who stays up nights with me at the telescope looking for star clusters and nebulae and UFOs. I can't make her fit my mold; it is my honor to help her be her own person in the world. Maybe it won't be baby Mia either, and that is fine. Maybe one of my lessons is to find out how to carve out time for me to be my own person too and not feel guilty about it.

But hey, E.T., if you're listening, I'm still here.


Me said...

Poor little Sara - I was the same age when I saw ET in the theater. It was my first time seeing a movie in a movie theater. I was so terrified afterward I couldn't go in the basement of my parent's house (why the basement? I have no idea) for over a month. It will get better though, this coming from a grown up Sara that survived the ET horrors herself.

Nicole said...

I think, ET was my first in the movies too - loved him.
Watch again in 2 or 3 years, maybe you can get out the telescope then ;)

(found you via a comment on Joels blog :) )

Sandy C. said...

Aww! Poor Sara. I saw Gremlins at her age and refused to open a closet door for weeks!

You just never know what will stick in their minds. My 2-year old all of a sudden runs screaming out of the room when the Backyardigans are on the tube...yup, the tiny singing bastards....they totally freak her out :( Go figure.

Lisa said...

Hi "me" - thanks for letting me know my Sara isn't the only one! Sorry about the basement -

Nicole - thanks for visiting! Nice to meet you

Sandy - I love the Backyardigans! But do you have the Boobahs? They're just weird, and my 2-year-old is mesmerized....

Marlee said...

I've had similar experiences with my 4 1/2 year-old son and the play dates...I feel for you!

And I STILL think ET's finger is creepy... :)

Synova said...

I think ET was scary.

I had nightmares a lot when I was a kid. Just about any Disney movie would do it to me. I had to be taken out of the theater when Linus lost his blanket. I must have been in Jr. High School and couldn't watch _Land of the Lost_. Other kids loved that show, I was terrified by it. If I saw something glimmery like the portal thing I'd have a physical panic reaction... in junior high school.

What do I do now? Write science fiction.

The reason all those things were so scary was precisely *because* I had an exceptionally good imagination. Don't despair. Your daughter may love the stars as much as you.

(Be careful about elements of scale, however. The sun going nova and consuming the Earth is an *immediate* concern to small children no matter how often you try to explain billions and billions of years to them. Same with asteroids. Same with whatever is at the end of the universe.)

My kids usually could handle things better on the small screen than the big one (an unfortunate Lion King incident comes to mind) and none of them are nearly as affected by television or movies as I was.