When I was pregnant with Owen, I developed a little parenting wish - a prayer for how we might help him develop as a person. It was even something we mentioned when he was baptized:
Confidence in Self - Compassion for Others
Owen seems to be embracing the compassion part a bit more than we intended these days. He is feeling in full force right along with every character on the TV and in the books we read. While it's great to see him starting to understand the feelings of others, but it's gotten to the point that we're calling it Extreme Empathy. If something goes wrong for a character, I often hear a sad, sad voice whimper, "Mommy, that girl is sad..." and one of us has to sit down and try and reassure Owen that things are going to turn around before the tears start falling.
We reached a low point when we tried to watch Elmo in Grouchland a few weeks ago. When Zoe accidentally lost Elmo's blanket, the lower lip started quivering. We were able to head if off with some reassurance that Elmo would go find his blanket (that's the premise of the movie!), but when Mandy Patinkin stole the blanket away, the sobs were uncontrollable - we had to jump to the end of the movie, prove that Elmo indeed got his blanket back, and banish Elmo in Grouchland from our TV for the foreseeable future.
We've had to be a lot more diligent these last few weeks. Even books that we've read 40 times are now sometimes bringing worried looks and questions. Shows that previously had no effect bring on tears or at least require some snuggling on the couch to get past the "sad" parts. And it's not like we're showing inappropriate stuff - today Owen was watching Wonder Pets on NicJr. It's a program about baby animals that throw on super hero outfits to go help other animals in trouble (i.e. the skunk stuck in a bush or cat outside in the rain - silly stuff). His lip started quivering when the WonderPets' Flying Boat was broken, and I had to snuggle him up and rub his back for the 20 seconds it took the animals to sing "What's going to work? Teamwork!" and repair the missing wheel. Geez!
Let's just say that our attempt to watch Finding Nemo (you know, the movie where Nemo is lost from his dad for 80% of the show....) didn't go so well. Thank goodness we have a few Elmo's World DVDs from Christmas - all smiles and giggles there - and Owen knows Cars well enough not to be concerned during the 10 seconds that Mater is missing Lightening McQueen. If I start seeing tears around Lightening McQueen... I don't even want to know.
I really hope this is just a temporary phase. We want to develop compassion, but crippling empathy for fictional characters? That's just adorably frustrating.