In an attempt to preserve my sanity, I plugged in the VCR this weekend. We've watched the AristoCats over and over, and I needed a break. Besides, it was time to expand some horizons into other cartoons and Disney films. I just happen to have the bulk of the Disney library on tape. I just needed a way to play them.
Billy had already gotten into the tape collection and picked out the Lion King as the first movie to watch. He had seen part of it at the kids' corner in the grocery store and wanted to watch it again. I readily agreed.
So, with the VCR now working and a wealth of Disney movies available to watch, I popped in the Lion King for Billy's first viewing. This is going to be great!
But time does strange things to our memory. I remember the Lion King as being a fabulous film. And truly, it is. But it came out when I was a teenager and it's been over a decade since I've seen the movie. I've never looked at it with a parent's eye. Only as the teen that babysat kids who were obsessed with the film.
And suddenly, I found myself discussing the meaning of death with my two-year-old. It wasn't like a planned to have that conversation on a rainy Sunday morning. I didn't even think about a Disney movie launching such a profound and devastating topic.
But that's the truth about Disney. They don't shy away from the life lessons. Their heroes and heroines suffer devastating loss, face villains of all kinds- even family members- and encounter countless struggles. Along the way they teach kindness, humility and love.
So, here I was discussing death with a two-year-old. Simple. Keep it simple. "He went to Heaven." But then Billy wanted to know when he would come back from Heaven. "You never come back." And at the scene where Mufasa comes down in the clouds to speak to Simba one last time, Billy broke out into tears. As the clouds rolled away and Mufasa was gone forever, he cried. He got it.
Then he looked at me, "Mommy, why am I crying?" He didn't even understand the deep sadness he was feeling. "You're sad," I told him. And then he asked me, "why did he have to die?"
And in, perhaps, the biggest parenting mistake of showing him this movie, he started crying for Daddy- who wasn't home. He became confused that Daddy had gone to Heaven and would never come back.
Daddy, having heard from me about this, placed called us using Face Time (video phone) so Billy could see that Daddy was okay. Then, in words I've never spoken to Billy before, he looked seriously at Daddy and said, "the baby lion lost his Daddy."