There hadn’t been a Bean-friendly movie in theaters for many months, so I was excited when Hop opened. I had been planning to take the Bean for a few weeks and when I broached the subject with him, he seemed excited. Soon tickets were bought and a giant tub of popcorn procured. But about a half-hour into the movie, the Bean signed “all done”, which is the last remaining vestige of teaching him sign language as a toddler. A few moments before, I had noticed him sitting rigid in his seat, hands over his eyes. As much as I wanted to see the rest of the flick, it would have been bad parenting to keep him there. He asked to leave again. We left.
The Bean was despondent as we walked out of the theater. My attempts to find out what was bothering him went ignored. We passed by a furniture store and I suggested we go inside to test-sit the couches. When the Bean found a rocking chair, his disposition brightened some. After several minutes of chasing each other around the store, my boy was back. I found a nice over-stuffed sectional for us to crash on and I was finally able to coax his troubles from him.
There was a scene in the movie, where a cute and fuzzy talking bunny is hit by a car. Although the bunny was barely touched, he feigned hurt to gain the driver’s sympathy. The driver, thinking he had maimed a small animal picked up a rock in order to put the rabbit out of its misery. At the last minute the bunny realized what’s happening, a bit of chaos ensued and thus began the comic misadventures of man and bunny that drove the rest of the story.
Although all of this is played for laughs, this scene is what bothered the Bean. He couldn’t get over it and he worried that another “scary” moment might be around the corner. While having to bail before the end credits disappointed me, I understood that doing anything more than complying with the Bean’s wishes to leave the theater would have been incredibly hypocritical of me. Because when I was a kid, I was petrified of the movies.
My first movie memory is of Superman. When faced with the death of his beloved Lois Lane, Superman flies around the world backwards and turns back time. As a young child seeing this on the big screen, I completely and utterly lost my shit. For years afterward, I would have panic attacks at the mere mention of going to see a movie. When I did make it inside, I would often have to leave mid-flick. As a result, my dad and I spent a lot of time doing deep breathing exercises in many a movie theater parking lot.
Amazingly I not only got over my fear, but I transformed into a giant movie nerd. To those closest to me, particularly the ones who endured my phobia, my obsession with movies stands as the greatest of ironies. Any psychologist worth their salt would say that my connection to movies is a subconscious way of overcoming my childhood fears. Though I guess I didn’t just overcome them, I obliterated them.
All of this ran through my mind as the Bean and I ate lunch. I fought off the urges to try to explain to him that the movie wasn’t supposed to be scary, that even though some scenes can be thrilling, movies are filled with happy endings that make us feel good. But I knew that anything I said would have been as pointless as when people said them to me many, many years ago when I was a freaked out kid. The best thing I could do here was to accept that my son is my clone, to stand by him and to realize that this wouldn’t be the first time we walked out of a movie together.
I hope that the Bean doesn’t develop the level of fear that I had as a kid. It was something that haunted me for a long time. But if he ever does, he’s lucky because he’s got me for a dad—somebody who understands what he’s going through and will stand by him unconditionally, and somebody who knows plenty of deep-breathing exercises and where the best places are in parking lots to do them.