So we sat down this morning to watch a little TV and Jon immediately starts chirping for “Kas! Kas! Li-ning! LI-NING!” I grab the DVD box and slap in “Cars” a movie that he’s become a huge fan of, and one that Ella has seen, literally, at least 75 times. The movie starts and Ella makes her way over to me.
“Daddy,” she says, “can I sit in your lap?”
Now, this may seem sweet, but you have to know something right off the bat: Ella is an inveterate movie talker. She can’t help it. The girl starts asking questions or making exclamations as soon the titles show and doesn’t stop until the movie is over or you lose your freaking mind (and sometimes, she holds out for both).
When she first started doing this, is was because she was concerned about Maleficent, the evil witch in the movie “Sleeping Beauty.” She couldn’t understand why Maleficent would choose to be mean, and she wanted to know why. We settled on a combination of Mommy-issues and depression brought on by shoddy contracting on her castle. Ella seemed satisfied. But then she began to question other parts of the movie: why did the king send Sleeping Beauty away when she was a baby? Why did the good fairies fly? Who did the prince hear singing in the forest? Why did the prince fall off of his horse? What’s the sword of Truth? Why doesn’t Sleeping Beauty wear any shoes? Why do the animals steal the prince’s clothes?
And on. And on. And on.
Now, part of this is my fault. I believe that rather than banning all movies because they might have some content that Ella would find confusing we should watch them with her and talk things through. So I’ve brought this on myself (feel free to insert pitiless snark here). But I only meant for this to happen on the initial watching of a movie, when questions are natural.
I didn’t mean for it to happen EVERY TIME WE WATCH A MOVIE. Especially after I’ve answered the questions she’s asking 10,000 times. It’s exhausting, and in some ways I think this was the gateway drug for her transformation into The Negotiator.
So, going back to her request to sit in my lap, you can imagine the fear that I felt over her request. Being a daddy, however, I gave in. The questions started immediately. Questions she’s asked and I’ve answered countless times before. Questions that deal with the “whys” of the characters actions – she doesn’t want to know what color something is, she wants to know why it’s that color. She doesn’t want to know if a character’s bad choice is bad, she wants to know why the character made that choice and why the other characters reacted against it.
In short, my daughter wants to either be a psychologist or a writer, and possibly both.
And, again, this is my fault. When she first started asking questions about why something happened in general, I delved into the motives behind the actions – I started speculating on what was inherent to the character’s character that made them choose the way they did.
Ella has learned to ask those questions. Questions that only writers can answer – and that only writers would ask. She has learned that Story – narrative – is what makes a movie, or anything, work.
I guess I can take heart in the fact that my daughter and I will have a lot in common as she grows up. And I suppose, if you want to be heartless and leave me to my misery, you could say that I brought this fate upon myself. But for right now, it makes movies hard to enjoy.
But I’ll take it; there will only be so many years that my daughter will want to snuggle up in my lap and watch movies with me, wanting to know the world as a writer knows it, looking to me as if I were the expert and fount of all knowledge. One day, she’ll see me for the idiot I am, and that bond will be broken.
So for now, bring the questions, Ella. Daddy would rather have you than a moment’s peace.
Most of the time.