This has some very mild spoilers about Inside Out.
Mike and I took the kids to see Inside Out this weekend. We all enjoyed it immensely. Gorgeous to look at, well-acted, lovely score, clever story, smart dialogue – it had everything you’d want in a move. But what I like the most about Inside Out are the conversations it’s lead to in our house – even if a lot of them have been really hard.
Annabel laughed all through the movie, but I was curious how much of the film’s message she’d been able to process. As we walked out of the theatre, I said, “Annabel, what do you think the movie was about?” She replied, “It’s about memories! And that even when you’re sad, your body wants to be happy!” We talked a bit about how important each emotion is, but eventually started laughing about our favorite parts of the movie.
The next morning, as Annabel and I ran errands, she started asking me questions about memories. Memories play a very important role in the film – the way they’re created, the way they influence our personalities, the way they’re filed in the brain, and the way they eventually just…crumble and fade away. Annabel wanted to know about my memories. What was my oldest memory? My funniest? As I talked to her, I could see exactly where the conversation was headed, but I knew I had to let it happen.
“What is your saddest memory? Was it when Maddie died?”
“Yes. That is my saddest, scariest memory.”
“Ohhhh…so Sadness and Fear were both running your brain. Got it.”
She then went on to ask a bunch of other questions like, “What did you do after she died?” “Where is her grave?” and, “What’s your favorite memory of her?” After answering her questions, she said, “I never got to make any memories with Maddie. But if she were still here, we’d play all sorts of games together!” Her imagination was off and running.
I really related to Riley, the girl whose brain the movie takes place in. The first part of Riley’s life is idyllic, full of joy, friendship, and accomplishment. And then her family moves and she finds herself confused, lonely, and sad. It reminded me of my life before and after Madeline died. I’d lived a lucky, charmed life up until that point – joy was definitely my primary emotion. In the years since Madeline died, sadness, fear, and anger have taken on larger roles in my brain, and it’s been hard for me to reconcile.
The main message of the movie is that all of our emotions are important and valuable, and that they often are intertwined. I spent a lot of time trying to repress the “unsavory” emotions – to be honest, I still struggle with it. This movie was a great reminder that I not only need to let myself experience my emotions, but I have to let my kids experience them, too. I’m way too guilty of telling my kids to stop crying, to have a better attitude, to get over injustices. I have to stop that.
Later in our conversation, Annabel asked, “Mom, do you have any memories where Joy and Sadness work together, like in the movie?”
She’s not quite old enough to hear that Joy and Sadness are always working together in my brain, tethered to each other for the rest of my days. So I simply told her, “Yes.”
“I know all about that, Mommy. Like when you take the last bite of birthday cake. You’re so sad it’s gone, but you’re happy you got to eat it.”
Such a perfect kid analogy. I hope this is her saddest happiness for a long time.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I can say this…don’t beat yourself up about the little things that make your kids sad and you giving them the old “buck Up” line. I learned that when bad things happen, we must persevere. That’s how we teach kids that life has many challenges that we CAN overcome because some things are huge and others are just dots…
I do have to say that I worry about my SIL who had the stillbirth, and whose girl is the same age as James. I see no signs that she is processing the emotions, and they didn’t even name the baby who I called “Little T”. Ugh. Sad, inside, out.
Maybe she’s processing her emotions privately. Not everyone processes emotions the same way.
Debbie A-H says:
This is why I read you every day. This post here. Thank you for so much for this blog.
Wow..she is so intelligent and compassionate for her young age. You and Mike have done a fabulous job with your family. Hugs to you, I wish I could take away your sadness and pain. XOXO
Janet Shupe says:
I have not seen the movie. This was one of the most beautiful posts I have ever read. It brought tears to my eyes. I love you and your family.
Colleen Crawford says:
Joy and sadness = dropping your child off at college far from home, watching her walk up the steps to the unknown, and leaving. The joy is so strong, you are so proud and excited of what she will experience and accomplish. The sadness is just as strong, because you are leaving her to figure it all out on her own with not even one friend to talk to.
I know that feeling. I dropped her off in NYC and had to come back home to CA. I cried all the way home on the 6 hr flight. Thankfully after 5 longs years of us commuting to see each other, she moved to the same state. Joy & Sadness.
Perfect. I was so full of anxiety after I lost my brother so I had to take Xanax but I only took it for a month because I didn’t want to suppress my pain, my heartache and the good memories I was leaning on to help me during the dark times. It’s something I talk to my mom a lot; that feeling bad is good.
Hugs, friend. That amazing Annie is amazing.
Such a lovely post – I’ve been following your blog for years (Annabel and James are almost the same ages as my Ramona and Althea), and this post right here has to be one of my all-time favorites.
Practical question: how did James do? I think Thea would love the visuals, but I’m not sure about her attention. But when I saw that James went, I am thinking about taking here. Seems like a wonderful milestone (1st movie) moment.
He actually did pretty well! We were prepared – we had popcorn, drinks, and other snacks, so we were ready to distract him. He sat on Mike’s lap the whole time, and got a little squirmy about 3/4 of the way through, but he settled down. I was honestly surprised! We sat by an aisle just to be on the safe side, but we never had to take him out.
Annie is so smart beyond her years. My heart aches at this “I never got to make any memories with Maddie. But if she were still here, we’d play all sorts of games together!”
Love Annie’s analogy of Joy & Sadness with the last piece of cake
That was beautiful.
She is such a perceptive and smart little girl!
I’ve been wanting to take my daughter, and dreading it (I already saw it sans kids). On one hand, we’ve been talking about feelings a lot (in order to help her express hers, something she finds extremely hard) anyway. On the other, I worry the movie will only compound her confusion more. Ultimately, I’ve decided I might take her to see it, and hope it doesn’t make her more anxious about feelings than she already is.
Welp. I’m a bucket of tears now. You’re a good mom, Heather. A very very good mom. xoxo
Annie always strikes me as such an old soul based on the dialogue you have with her. This was definitely one of my favorite posts from you. Just a really beautiful message, here. Thank you for sharing. On a lighter note, I love the doll! Where did you find it? Such a great idea for a movie!
Annabelle is simply amazing. Incredible how she can express herself so well already. She’s going to grow up to be funny and intelligent like her parents!!
Maggie Squarepennies says:
Beautifully expressed Heather. You have a real treasure there. She understands so much and will be able to share with you as she grows.
This is a beautifully written post. Thank you thank you thank you.
OH my gosh, I love this post and Annie’s analogy.
Such a lovely post. Thanks for sharing, Heather.
Annie’s analogy about joy and sadness and cake really was spot-on.
I adore you and I adore all your posts!
This was so touching and so beautifully written. You are raising such smart, thoughtful, funny and beautiful children.