I took Little Man to see The Lion King this afternoon. It ended up being a truly memorable experience that I have to write down and preserve.
Although I hadn’t watched the movie since it’s days of being on repeat when I was a kiddo, I have often thought fondly of it throughout recent years. When Little Man was a newborn, just home from the NICU, the three of us were sitting on the couch basking in finally being home together. The Hubs, being the jokester he was, was saying something about how Little Man had taken over as king of the house when he reached over and rubbed his thumb over the baby’s forehead and said “Siimmbaa”. After that, it became a little joke and The Hubs would often pick Little Man up and hold him up high out in front of him with both hands, like he was ‘presenting’ him on Pride Rock. I even managed to catch that on video one night, on one of the few short captures I have of the two of them together. Because of these things, I’ve subconsciously connected The Lion King with my two boys. When I heard it was coming to the theater, I was excited to take our little guy.
What I didn’t stop to think about was the fact that the entire movie is about a little boy who lost his Daddy.
I cried like a little baby in that theater, surrounded by a bunch of little kids and their parents, with Little Man beside me gobbling up a rare treat of M&M’s. The tears started flowing in the very beginning when I saw our special scene, with the thumb-print and lifting of the baby lion. I expected to be touched by that, but didn’t expect to snot all down the front of my shirt and need to use Little Man’s blankie as a tissue for the rest of the movie!
I boo-hooed when Mufasa sat with the young Simba and told him, “Look at the stars. The great kings of the past are up there, watching over us … So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.” All I could think was ‘Seriously, Disney?!’
I cried again when Mufasa died, especially when Simba was searching for his father and calling out “Dad?” Little Man, in the loud voice of a two-year-old who doesn’t understand theater etiquette, cried “Oh no, he misses his Daddy.” ‘You’re killin’ me, kid!!’
I bawled when the grown-up Simba saw his father in his reflection in the water and Rifiki said, “See? He lives in you.” The tears flowed as the ghost of his father said, “Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember…” ‘Oh geeze, what I was thinking?’
And then at the end of the movie, when the newly-throned Simba stands on the edge of Pride Rock and sees his father in the clouds, I pulled Little Man into my lap and weeped into his hair as he said, “Look Mommy, his Daddy is in the clouds, too!” ‘Oh dear God, I’ll never watch this movie again!!’
My internal commentary was in high gear throughout the entire movie and when we left, I felt seriously drained. What I had intended to be a nice Mommy/Son outing turned into a cry-fest. Thankfully Little Man didn’t seem to notice, although he did give me extra snuggles so he must have picked up on my mood.
My first reaction to the entire experience was ‘No way am I watching that movie again’, but then the more I thought about it I realized it was actually quite the blessing. A simple Walt Disney movie created a beneficial experience for both myself and Little Man. I allowed myself a release, in public too which is huge for me, and I forced myself to face something from our past. And Little Man was able to find a little more understanding, in a way that is geared toward children, about the difficult parts of his life he is just starting to notice. Now, when we talk about Daddy in the clouds and why he can’t see him like everyone else, he will make a connection and understand a little more as he relates back to what he saw.
It’s crazy how little things in your day can become big moments and leave such an impact on your perspective. A movie I once loved as a child has now become one that will forever be special for my son and I. Who would have known back then that one day I would watch that movie again and use it to assemble another piece of my broken puzzle? I’m thankful.