Today I took Karate Boy to see ‘The Croods’. I was hoping to take all three of my sons but the eldest, Big H, opted out at the first mention and my youngest, Stephen King Junior, well, he doesn’t like leaving the house (I will always leave if there is junk food involved, the apple has fallen far from the tree and rolled over a cliff, in that regard).
Of course, I didn’t find out how SKJ felt about not going until I’d after I’d been online to buy the tickets.
So we went, Karate Boy and I. We parked under the center and made our way up to the cinema via the supermarket. Yes, I indulged him but if you can’t load up on rubbish at the movies during the school holidays, when can you?
We took our seats. Me on the aisle, Karate Boy next to me with Stephen King Junior’s vacant seat next to him.
I was a little sad that SKJ was missing.
I’m used to Big H doing stuff without me. He’s nearly fifteen and sometimes it feels all I’ve said to him all day is, how’d you sleep, and nigh, nigh, honey. We do get to talk, usually in the car, and we laugh at each other’s jokes, and I’m on hand to propel him toward his homework should he need the push. It’s oaky. Me and his dad have made our impression on Big H. Some of his favourite songs are our favourite songs. He’s into Star Wars, I guess he may have found it himself, but he was never going to miss it with me and his dad for parents. And he’s making his impression on us, too. I never liked cello like I do now. I didn’t know about the twisting intricacy of a Matthew Riley plot. But mostly. I didn’t understand the beautiful complexities of a person. Big H is showing me.
‘The Croods’ is about letting go and holding on. Its central characters Grug, the caveman father, and Eep the cavegirl daughter, are at odds. Grug wants to protect his family in the way he always has and his daughter is aching to get out into the world.
So the empty seat in the cinema.
Stephen King Junior and I have a scratchy relationship. Maybe I look like I’m trying to hard and it annoys him. Maybe I haven’t tried hard enough and he’s annoyed. At what point do babies remember stuff? When he was little, a toddler, if I left the room, he’d cry, scream. When I came back he hold his arms up for me and scream louder. I reckon we’re still doing a version of this. There is less screaming because SKJ can use words but he also uses silence. He cries for attention and when I ask he clams up, shakes his head, silence.
Honey, I’m here, asking, what can I do? How can I help?
‘Why don’t you want to come to the movies?’
He turns from me and goes back to his typing.
Yep, I don’t know what to say, but we do have lots cuddles.
So I hold this kid, my unknowable quantity, and look forward to a time when we get each other for more than a day. SKJ writes, so we talk story. He has ideas running wild in his head, so we talk a lot of story. It’s a connection. Last week he wrote over five thousand words in three days. I asked him for a couple of his writing rules (writer’s love writing rules). He looked at me, shrugged, ‘Ya gotta do, watcha gotta do’, smiled and leapt out of the car. No, he didn’t invent that expression but he’s right. And yes, I’m envious of his drive, but it’s school holidays so I’m okay with letting the novel wait a little longer.
At the end of ‘The Croods’, Grug and Eep both get their way. Grug lets his daughter go only to have her stay in a way that she wants.
Parenting is about letting go.
You let go when they learn to walk.
You let go when they go to school.
It’s my job to get these boys ready for the world.
First failed test.
They have to do all this stuff without me.
I’ve got to get them ready for life, the good stuff and the awful stuff, and I have to be able to let them leave. There will be more empty chairs.
Stephen King Junior is right, Ya, gotta do, watcha gotta do.
Karate Boy at the movies and his brother not next to him