Sometimes my little boy surprises me with his sensitivity.
I mean, on the one hand, he has no problem delivering a smackdown to any of his sisters if he feels like he’s getting a raw deal. And though his aggressive behavior has improved quite a bit, he still occasionally gets in trouble at school for roughing up the other kids.
But at the same time, he can show raw emotion about some of the darndest things.
He’s been known to cry when seeing SpongeBob get mistreated by Squidward.
He gets misty if he sees a scene on Animal Planet where a bug gets eaten by a frog.
He has been known to run from the room, whimpering, with his hands clamped over his ears when, while playing the videogame Wall-E, his little character gets trapped in radioactive slime and runs out of battery life.
Clearly, he has the capacity for empathy, particularly when it concerns animals and cartoon characters (why this doesn’t carry over into situations with his actual friends and relatives is beyond my understanding, however).
But the latest instance was truly baffling.
We were watching “Muppet Treasure Island.” Michael repeatedly asked me who were the bad guys, and whether the bad guys were going to get killed.
“It’s a muppet movie. Nobody gets killed. It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”
“Are they going to kill the bad guys?”
“No. Like I said before. It’s muppets.”
“Are the bad guys going to get killed?”
“I think it’s bed time, Michael.”
“Okay, I’ll watch quietly…”
So the story continues, the bad guys are non-violently vanquished, everyone cheers, life goes on.
At the very end is a scene in which young Jim Hawkins watches as Long John Silver escapes on a row boat. There is a bit of emotion here as the boy cries knowing that Silver betrayed him.
And at this, Michael burst into unquenchable sobs.
His mother tried to soothe him. His sister tried to make him laugh. I shut the movie off and pulled up a video of Kermit the Frog singing “Caribbean Amphibian”.
And it helped… for a while. Michael finally composed himself, kissed his mom good night, and went with me upstairs to his room.
He clambered onto his bed, and I asked him:
“So, little man, what was it that was so upsetting about the muppet movie?”
He hesitated, and then his eyes welled up with fresh tears.
“I’m not crying!” he blurted, covering his face, before dissolving once again into a wailing mass.
“Okay, I won’t talk about it again,” I said, and wrapped him up in blankets and stroked his back. “Not to worry. It’s all done and everyone’s fine.”
After books and prayers and a good night tuck in, Michael was right as rain again.
Back downstairs, my wife and step daughter tried to get me to understand just how very sensitive Michael is.
I told them I already knew, because I was the same way as a kid.
I still don’t really understand why… but maybe that’s not the important thing. Just knowing is enough.