By Corrin Bennett – Kill
I am a sci-fi/fantasy nerd. I have read every book that Isaac Asimov has written (Nightfall is my favorite). I have plowed my way through 10-volume-plus epic fantasy series multiple times (just finished The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson). I have waited years for the next book and raised my fist to the sky when a certain author of a certain series died of a rare blood disease before finishing a twelve-volume series (How dare he!) I assiduously avoid movie trailers for new movies I want to see so I don’t spoil them for myself, and I squeed like a 10-year-old girl when I learned Game of Thrones was being made by HBO.
So, the last thing in the world I expected when I became pregnant with my first child was any change in my media consumption. Granted, there were some obvious changes that would happen. Seeing a new movie in the theater has become my great white whale, and any Game of Thrones watching happens after bed time. But, my taste, my choices, I figured those would all remain the same. Right?
And then came Ben. Squalling, never sleeping, constantly nursing Ben. From the moment he was born my vision of myself and my place in the world shifted irrevocably. I was no longer Corrin first, I was Ben’s mom. I had not spent my formative years playing house and naming all my future children. Until I was 27, I was not sure I even wanted kids. So I did not really imagine how different motherhood would make me.
If you’ve ever had a life-changing experience, you have an idea of what I’m talking about -something that shakes or shifts your world view and your place in it. I read once of a man describing parenthood as having your heart no longer inside your body, but carried around by your child. It is profoundly disconcerting and took me a good two years to come to accept. It is also pretty miraculous. But I digress. The role of parent now colors every aspect of my life, especially my choices about books, television, and film.
I am currently reading a new sci-fi/fantasy series: the Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. I’m midway through the first book, A Shadow in Summer. So far so good. Not your typical elves and fairies, aliens and hyper-sleep kind of sci-fi/fantasy series. One night I was reading and came to a part in the book where a young pregnant woman who wants her child is going to have it aborted against her will. (I know. Yikes.) She doesn’t know this, but that is the plan. I had to stop reading. I couldn’t bring myself to read through what happens to her. Being pregnant with my second child and experiencing the extraordinarily vivid dreams that have accompanied my pregnancies, I knew that I would dream about what happened if I read it, that I would begin to fear for my own unborn child.
In this past season of Game of Thrones, the most difficult scene for me to watch was when the baby was left alone in the snow for the White Walkers. I could hear the baby’s cry change from upset to frantic and I completely lost it. My thoughts were not about whether we would see a White Walker, but somebody has to go pick up that baby! I am an adult woman and I understand the difference between fiction and real life, but my mommy-feels don’t.
My mom, my older sister and I used to regularly go the movies together. In 1996, when I was 19 and my sister 21, that was Mel Gibson(40-something, pre-crazy Mel Gibson…rowr). The movieRansom was out in the theater, and big sis and I wanted to go see it because 90 minutes of Mr. Gibson. My mom, usually as enthusiastic about that prospect as her daughters, was reluctant. Ransom was an OK thriller-type flick, but it centered around the kidnapping of a little boy and his father’s attempt to ransom him home. My mom couldn’t stomach the idea of sitting through 90 minutes of child-taken-from-parents fear, regardless of it being fiction. “I think of my own kids,” she said. My sister and I scoffed (well, at least I certainly did) at mom’s soft heart and badgered her into going anyway. My 19-year-old self couldn’t understand how a movie would affect her so deeply in that way. The likelihood that anything like that would happen to us was laughably slim. And, after all, it’s a movie! Not a very good one, at that. What’s the big deal? Eighteen years and one and a quarter children later, I understand my mom’s reluctance.
Prior to becoming a parent, I related to the underdog character, the down-on-their-luck but good hearted scamp, and the only depictions that could really rip the tears out of me were daughters estranged from and/or reunited with their fathers. I was Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird and, man oh man, did I want Atticus to be my dad. I was LeeLee Sobieski from Deep Impact crying as my parents hand me my infant sibling to outrun nature. It was Maverick from Top Gun whom I wept with when Goose died. But now, I am no longer Scout. I am Atticus trying to guide a confused child through difficulty. I’m no longer LeeLee Sobieski. I am her mother, handing over my infant child to my eldest so they can both be safe. (Aside: I recently saw Deep Impact again on cable and sobbed hysterically at that scene.) I am now the parent sacrificing myself for my child. I no longer just relate to parent characters, I place my child into the positions of their child and unconsciously imagine how I would feel if I had to do what they were doing. All sad little boys are my boy. As you can imagine, it makes watching Law & Order: SVU more than a little challenging.
So, I’ll never again watch a film where kidnapping of a child is central to the plot. I may or may not pick up the book I am reading again … maybe after baby #2 is born. Cheesy sci-fi flicks with parents separated from their kids will continue to make me openly weep, and I will just have to live without that much Law & Order: SVU in my life. Of all the sacrifices being a parent has required, this is one I can live with.