How Motherhood Made Me A Movie-Going Wuss


Not five minutes into the movie, I turned to my husband– who had suggested and downloaded the film– and said, “I think I’m going to need a drink for this.”

Fifteen minutes into it, I hit pause and glared at him, “You knew Gone Baby Gone was about the abduction of a little girl the same age and general appearance as our daughter and you failed to mention that?”  He knew this was a fair point. “But it’s really good,” he countered. “Alright. Turn in back on,” I said.

It has been six years since I became a mother. By now I should be able to stomach storylines revolving around abducted/lost/electrocuted/drowned/chronically ill/dead children. Right? I got through the movie in one piece but it wasn’t easy. At one point I screamed, “Why don’t we have anti-anxiety medication in this house like every other sane person!?”

On our first date away from our baby, my husband and I went to see Syriana. Surely this will be a terrific diversion from the life we were living, I thought. A complete escape. Maybe it would be a hard, complicated movie but you know, good reviews, Clooney, Damon, Middle East politics, totally safe. Imagine my surprise when Damon’s adorable son is electrocuted in the pool twenty minutes in. At dinner after the movie I cursed screenwriter/director Stephen Gaghan. “Google him!” I barked, “I need to know if he has children.” It turns out he does have kids. He’s also a smart screenwriter — nothing like the death of a child to motivate drama. I liked Syriana. And I liked Gone Baby Gone. They are both really great movies.

But after the Syriana date night debacle I realized that, as a parent, I’ve really gone soft. There’s no way I could stomach Trainspotting now. I’m in no rush to revisit Terms of Endearment. I have become the movie-going loser I’d bitch about in my 20s. I blatantly look for “entertaining” movies with “escapist” plots. Not fluff, but come on, it’s been a long day, no maimed or murdered children please. A Serious Man? Great. Frost Nixon? I’ll make the popcorn. Idiocracy? Now that’s a date night.

When I was pregnant this hadn’t happened yet. I saw In America, Jim Sheridan’s moving autobiographical movie about the loss of his young son, and left the theater emotionally intact. But I sobbed on the sidewalk after Lost In Translation. These were tears cried over anxiety about a different kind of loss– that of spontaneity and rudderless international travel.

Now that I’ve been home with the kids for several years and playing it safe with Netflix, I think I’m ready for more grit. I managed to sleep soundly after Gone Baby Gone. But I wouldn’t object to one additional rating for the newbies, or at least a warning from the Motion Picture Association of America: May Cause Extreme Anxiety in New Parents.

photo: Miramax Films