Evening. It is 9:38 p.m.
He sits alone in his room, frustrated and sad–a misunderstood 11-year-old tired of trying to express his need to overcome the loss, to fill the void left by his father’s sudden death. His mother finds her ways: a boyfriend’s consoling kisses, a demanding job. His sister is always surrounded by her friends who make her forget altogether that he is gone. They infuse her life with much-needed fun and trivial mischief. Little time remains for her to dwell on his death.
But the boy has no girlfriend, no cadre of friends to surround him. Instead, he has his imagination, and it doesn’t take long for him to be terribly misunderstood by his mom and sister. They wonder what is wrong with him, why he withdraws, why he pretends to be a ferocious wild thing who has a tendency to bite them (they provoked him, though–to be sure). They ignore, push away, too busy with taking care of their own wounds.
Every Woman, daughter, and son for themselves, I guess.
So begins the movie Where The Wild Things Are, which I just watched yesterday and used with my advanced composition class. We talked at length about misunderstandings, watched the clip, and then wrote a bit more about the relevance of Max’s loneliness.
Not an easy subject on a Friday afternoon.
We came to some good points about loss of innocence and the archetypal “initiation” story, but I think it goes much deeper than that.
In the entire first part of the movie, Max (the suddenly orphaned boy), is desperately trying to return to innocence, return to a time when pain wasn’t permanent, and it was okay to be held and hugged as long as you needed it. Watching this opening clip several times, I started to wonder: Why do we give and receive our greatest hugs and gifts of kindness when we are newborns, infants and toddlers–and then again when we are in the final years of our lives? Why is it so hard to see the needs of our 11-year-olds and everyone else above and below in age?
It should not be so hard to put yourself aside, just for a moment or two, and show an act of kindness where it may (or may not be) needed or even expected.
When I saw this movie clip, I struggled to fight back the tears, as the kids in this scene are the same ages as my own children. What acts of kindness have they received lately? Why have I been so busy to take some time to put away the laptop and the Blackberry and just lie on the floor with my son, building cargo boats and police cars out of Lego blocks?
I’m thinking we let our busy lives get too much between us and our children.
No laptop, email, text message, voice mail, or spreadsheet is more important than your family, your kids, your loved ones. Show them kindness, and it will surely be returned.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Friends!