I know I was not the only mom in the theater grateful for the 3D glasses while watching Toy Story 3. The dark shades hid my running mascara, as I sobbed my way through the last 15 minutes of this unexpected tearjerker. "Watch out," I warned my friends with college-bound kids, "it's a two- hankie movie." "You were right," a fellow mom confirmed. She and her husband, sending their only boy off to college in the fall, had to sit in the car and recover after seeing the movie.
Because nothing is quite so sweet, and sorrowful, as the passage of time seen through the eyes of a toy. For parents who have watched their children grow up, and then grow beyond their toy boxes, the movie was a reminder of how simply special childhood can be. And how we'll miss it more than our kids do.
About the only thing the filmmakers of Toy Story 3 got wrong was the enthusiasm of Andy's mom as she encouraged her kids to donate Woody, Buzz and the gang. Most of the mothers I know have to steel their emotions when their children move to the next stage of life, leaving behind a cache of books, bears and formerly beloved toys. Our children may grow out of the dinosaur stage or the tea party stage, but as parents, we never quite forget. As exhausting and labor-intensive as those years of childhood can be for a parent when every day is a play day, there is something special about watching their imagination take flight, of being a part of their fictional world. Soon though, imaginary friends give way to Facebook friends, and their world gets all too real with video games and school dances. As they can't wait to get older, we hold on a little tighter to the kids who just needed a couple of plastic cars and a Lego castle to create an afternoon of fun.
Unlike Andy's mom, leading the de-cluttering movement, I actually had to leave the premises when my sons cleared out most of their collection of stuffed animals, each one carrying a memory for me. The thought of Croaking Frog or Big Babar in a garbage bag labeled "Goodwill" made me too upset to watch. My husband handled that task, while I went to the movies. (Good thing it wasn't Toy Story 3! I would have needed an ER visit for fluids due to dehydration.) Truth is, even though my sons were unemotional, I wasn't quite ready to let go of Croaking Frog.
When we got home from the Toy Story 3, my tween son slipped quietly into his room, still stuffed with toys, some untouched for several years. Beyond the closed door, I could hear his voice narrating his play, complete with sound effects. I could picture him creating a magical world, exactly as he had done at 3, at 7, at 10. "Phew," I thought. "He's not quite ready to let go yet either."
Have you seen Toy Story 3? What did you think? Leave your comments below.
Lian Dolan is a mother, wife, sister, friend, daughter, writer and talk show host. She writes and talks about her adventures in modern motherhood for her website,ChaosChronicles.com, and her weekly podcast, The Chaos Chronicles.