Don’t watch Sophie’s Choice

Amazon Instant should have a category that goes: Not to be Watched While Caring for your Itty Bitty Bear Cub. I admire those thespian powerhouses Meryl Streep and Kevin Klein and had some vague recollection that the movie Sophie’s Choice would show post-WWII Brooklyn (have not read the book), and so yesterday afternoon, I popped it on while holding my sleepy cutie.

DUMB.

There have been many afternoons when I’ve held him and gently rocked him for hours and hours straight as he sleeps, giving us both that intimacy and comfort we crave, and to entertain myself, I’ll put something on at low volume while we rest on the couch. It was a particularly lovely session yesterday, and the movie was so good! Until it was not good. I’m not talking about the quality, but the content. I’m quite embarrassed to say, literature and culture lover that I am, that I did not know what Sophie’s choice actually was. And in my former life, I would have been moved and awed by the power of the story. In this new life as a mother, I was made ill.

Sophie has to choose which of her two children will be exterminated. They are in line at the camps, and a Nazi guard orders her to choose which one will go to camp and which one will go to the ovens. She begs to not have to choose, but because he is going to send both children to be exterminated if she does not, she finally cries out, “Take my little girl!” And he does. And the little girl screams as the Nazi takes her away. And Meryl Streep screams, too.

DH had come in part way through the movie, and we’d talked, so I wasn’t following the story entirely and was surprised and shocked by what happened on the screen. “Oh, babe, I’m so sorry I have this on,” I groaned. “This is terrible.”

I tried to modulate my reaction, but it wasn’t long before I was quietly sobbing. Holding sleeping ST, tears falling down on his cute little star-filled blanket.

“We’re supposed to protect the children,” I whispered through my tears. “Not hurt them. Protect them. This world can be so cruel.” The feelings I was having were so strong, truly like nothing I’ve ever felt before. “How can that have happened to all of those babies and children? How?”

I told DH that I know we are going to protect and guide ST as best as we can, and we’re going to give him so much love and teach him so many things to make him strong. I know all of that. But in that moment, I was so sharply aware of the sharp edges of the world, the potential craziness of people, and I wanted desperately to be able to shield him from anything or anyone who might hurt him.

“This is going to be such a process,” I said to DH. “The bond is getting stronger every day. And I know it will continue to grow and deepen and become more complex. And yet we’re going to have to let go of him incrementally throughout the years at the same time. Let go and let him take care of himself in small ways until he’s ready to be on his own. I have these silly thoughts—thoughts like, ‘I’m going to die someday, and he’ll be alone.'” I smiled. “I know he’ll be an adult by then and we will have gone through so many stages of letting go, but it’s so hard to imagine.”

Itty-bitty bear cub sighed in my arms. I was stroking him and feeling that achy love.

In the very first days after STs birth, thoughts came to me unbidden about the child-hurters of the world. Me, someone who has always been against the death penalty, who believes that human beings have the capacity for dramatic rehabilitation and moral change, had black-and-white thoughts like: All known child predators should be executed immediately. The thought of someone intentionally hurting a child in any way made me feel an icy fierceness. At the same time, I had an intense empathy for all of the parents who have experienced their child getting hurt or killed. It is unimaginable to me.

By extension, I started feeling differently about the parents involved in that phenomenon that has been dubbed the “mommy wars.” I began to understand that parents out there and on the message boards who are particularly fond of the word “should” and who have a lot of opinions about other people’s parenting might not be expressing themselves so great, but it’s all (or mostly) coming from this intense, achy place of wanting to protect the children, of wanting to ensure that our bear cubs are getting the best care possible.

Speaking of cubs, mine is presently smiling in his sleep. Six weeks old today. I washed his hair yesterday and it is sticking straight up—he looks like a baby chimpanzee with a faux hawk.

Someday, I hope to give this printed-out blog to him to read. So ST honey, if you’re reading this some year in the future, I want you to know that you make your mama smile. The world may have sharp edges, but your Papa and I are going to do our best to show you everything that is beautiful about it, too. I love you so much, precious little one.

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3 Comments

  1. Oh goodness. I have not watched it but I cried a little just reading your reaction! I have found I am super sensitive to movies that involve children and parents.

    Reply
  2. I can’t even watch the news. Anything about child abuse or that kind of thing makes me want to puke. I’ve always been sensitive, but this is a whole new visceral kind of feeling.

    Reply
  3. I so agree!! Oh man, I cannot handle holocaust movies, it’s so heavy. With all this terrorism stuff going on in the world I too get scared for the world my boys are born into. I will avoid this movie!! keep hugging your adorable little man. I think one of mine looks like a baby monkey sometimes too lol.

    Reply

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