Welcome to Film Nerd 2.0, an ongoing series in which I discuss parenting, media responsibility, and sharing my love of film with my now-four-year-old son Toshi.
Empathy is, in my opinion, one of the most essential things to nurture in a child as you raise them. That moment when a child realizes that the world does not begin and end with them is an important one, and it's not something you can force. Either it will click in, or it won't, and if it doesn't, then you're Ted Bundy's father. Congratulations!
I've been on the road for the last week or so, and just before I left, I was going through one of my binders full of DVDs, with Toshi sitting next to me. I was trying to find a film that his mom had asked me for, and he was asking me what each of the discs was that we flipped past. We reached one particular page and he stopped me, pointing at one of the discs. "Daddy... what's that?"
"Nuh-uh. Popeye is a cartoon."
"Well, yes, normally. But they made a movie about Popeye, too. You know how you can watch the Batman cartoons, but you're not old enough for the Batman movies with the real people?"
"Sometimes they make movies about cartoons. They're just different versions of the same thing."
"Can I watch 'Popeye'?"
"Sure. Not today, but at some point. Sure."
I pulled the disc for him and put it in a separate case that we set aside, figuring we'd end up watching it together at some point. But while I was in Toronto, my wife saw the disc sitting on the counter and asked him if he wanted to watch it while she was napping. He was excited to check it out, and she stayed long enough to make sure the movie started playing, and then headed off to bed.
She was woken by the sound of sobbing from the other room, and she jumped up, ran to see what was happening, and was shocked to find Toshi sitting on the edge of the bed, still watching "Popeye," tears coursing down his cheeks. When he saw her, he jumped up and hugged her and, between his ragged breaths, managed to say, "Mommy... they took the baby!"
[more after the jump]