The concept of E.T. (in theory): Cute. Fun. Beloved family classic.
The reality of E.T (to a three year old): Bad. Bad. Oh, sweet lapse of parental smarts, BAAAAD.
The other day we were watching something on television when a trailer for E.T came on. (I'm not sure why. Maybe it's about to be re-released for the 25th...26th anniversary?) Anyway, Sophie saw the clip and was mesmerized. Glued to the screen. Like Gorilla glue to a...well, who are we kidding -- to everything needing fixing in our house. She stared, without moving or blinking for the entire two minute clip. Immediately following came the questions...
What was that weird thing? Why was his finger on fire? Why does he talk like that? What does "FO toe" mean? Why is he such a funny walker. LOOK AT HIS CHEST! IT'S RED! Why is it red? Bicycles can't fly! Can they, can a bicycle fly, Mama? His head is really BIG. Ooo, nasty, why is he in that bag? Why is that little boy crying? Is E.T sick? Where are those yellow men taking E.T?
Seriously she was firing the questions off bam, bam, bam faster than I could answer them. It reminded me of the whole Incredible Hulk experience of not so long ago.
It's funny. Sophie is a happy kid 99.9% of the time. Very happy. She always has been, even as a refluxy infant with feeding issues. Not much gets her down, and she's tougher than anyone I know, adults included. That said, ever so often, she surprises me. Occasionally, out of the blue, something really upsets her. Usually something that totally catches me off guard.
For example, "One Shining Moment" - the song by Luther Vandross that they play every year at the end of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. (Happy song. Perky beat, right? Cheerleaders!) A year ago (she was two, mind you), she was watching the clip of when Arkansas won the national championship with Russell. It was barely a few seconds into the song when she burst into tears. BURST. We tried to get her to explain what was wrong, but she just couldn't seem to verbalize what had made her upset. She just kept her head buried in her daddy's shoulder, as the sad little tears continued to fall. She finally stopped crying and wandered away. Still slightly droopy, but back to playing.
We chalked it up as being one of those bizarre kid moments.
But then one night, six or so months later, Russ was again watching clips of "One Shining Moment" on YouTube. (The boy loves that song. I don't know. Male bonding through celebration. Persevering to victory. Fist pump to the heavens! Something like that.) Sophie heard the music playing and walked toward the office to investigate. When she got close enough to recognize what it was, she started wailing. "No Shiny Moment! Daddeeeeeeee, no Shiny Moment!"
I looked at Russell, like what the...?? Stunned, Russ pulled her up on his lap and began the line of questions to try to get her to explain why she had reacted as she had.
Nothing. Just some incoherent mumblings between sniffles about a "sad dog". "Her sad dog." She pleaded with us to turn it off. Which we did, of course. I looked at Russ, "Okay. No more Shiny Moments in front of the wee one."
How quickly we forget. This year, prior to the championship game, Russ casually mentioned during our dinner (and viewing of the game on the big screen at TGI Friday's) that he was looking forward to hearing "his song". He got as far as "Man, we have to make sure we're home in time to see Shining Mo..." before Sophie blurted out, "Huh uh! I'm not going to watch that song, Daddy."
Thankfully, she was tucked snugly in bed before any hints of the offensive post-game moment came on.
I don't know. A mystery. For sure.
But I do know our little toughie has a tender side. Sometimes things just affect her. Oddly. And truth be told, maybe it was an Obtuse Mom moment, but I honestly didn't think much about it when she asked to watch E.T's "on fire finger" on the computer screen yesterday afternoon.
I thought aw, yeah, I loved that! I think Uncle Zach even had one of those E.T fingers! Excited to show her the clip, I came in and pulled up the glowing finger scene on good 'ole YouTube. Which, if you'll remember, also happens to be E.T's departure scene. THE SCENE. You know, the scene that rips your guts out. And then flies them, and all of your sad little tears, out of your body to outer space. Along with your mom's pot of gerber daisies. That one.
Again, duh. Whoosh. Right over my head. I'd forgotten how that felt.
We were a little into the clip when I thought I heard her make a noise. I looked over and tears were glistening in her eyes, threatening to spill over. I reached for her and that small gesture was enough to activate the lip quiver.
In a shaky voice, she asked me:
"Mama? Where is E.T going?"
I started to answer... "Well..." (Crap!)
"Why does he have to leave?"
"Honey, he has to go home to his family."
I was just about to say, "Wouldn't you want to be with your family?" when it hit. The flood gates broke, and a deluge of tears, the likes of which I've never seen before, came rushing out. I scooped her up. She buried her head in my shoulder. Sobbing. Refusing to come up. Broken-hearted and just sobbing.
I was rubbing her back in slow little circles. "Sophie, honey, I'm sorry. It's okay. E.T's happy! He gets to go home, yay! And Elliot will be fine because he'll keep E.T right here." (I pointed to her head and heart. Help! How did that line go?)
"I. don't want. E.T to. leave."
She was crying so hard she couldn't even get it out in one breath.
"Sophie, honey..." (Crying harder.)
I tried another approach. "Sophie, sweetie. E.T isn't real." (Oh, good. Now's when I should tell her about Santa Claus. And her good buddy, Elmo.) "It's make-believe. He's like a costume. Remember at Halloween when we dress up in costumes?"
"He's (hiccup) real, Mama. He's (hiccup) l- leeeeeaving, and (hiccup) Elliot is sad. SEE! And (gulp for air) E.T is sad. Mama, why does he have to leeeeeeave?"
I scrambled to silence the video clip. Be gone, sad music!
Oh, man. I suck.
Following another two hours (!) of questions. Discussing E.T., and how he wasn't sad. Not really. Or real. Not sad or real. (Better to get it all out now than at 2:00 in the morning.) And finally she let out a big sigh.
"Mommy? You know what?"
"I don't think I should watch E.T anymore. Not even when I'm bigger. Or big bigger."
That's code for: I'm revoking your priviledges as parent. Since your Good Judgement-o-Meter is clearly defective, I should probably be the one to screen what I watch from now on.
Yes, my love. Agreed.
No more E.T. Or any other extra-terrestrial creature who deserts his grief-stricken best friend to return home with the Mother ship. At least not until you're in high school and have a tried-and-true system for coping with traumatic moments - like locking yourself in the bathroom and eating Oreos, while listening to REO Speedwagon.
We shook on it.