The Parent Trap Hits Different As An Adult
On a random Thursday night, I found myself sobbing in the rocking chair while rocking my youngest daughter to sleep.
Let me explain. I was scrolling my phone in a dark room while trying to put the baby to sleep for the night, a practice I assume is common for many parents.
A clip from the 1998 version of The Parent Trap popped up on my feed. I will tell you that I was obsessed with this movie as a child. I had the script and storyline completely memorized. I was riveted with the new technology (of the time) that allowed Lindsay Lohan to portray two characters in a single scene. The sleep-away camp, the infamous handshake, the Abbey Road scene, the campout scenes, fencing, the dynamic of twins switching places and fooling their families – all of it had me completely mesmerized as a pre-tween.
Go ahead, quiz me about the similarities and differences between twins Annie and Hallie. I’ve stored all that information in my brain for the past 25 years. Their birthday is October 11th, they both like Oreos dipped in peanut butter, and they are both allergic to strawberries (just like my oldest daughter). Before they met, Annie lived with their mom, Elizabeth James, in London, while Hallie lived in Napa, California with their dad, Nick Parker. Annie is prim and proper with long hair, while Hallie is more sarcastic and hip, with short hair and pierced ears. Their parents split up when they were babies and vowed never to see each other again.
In addition to having the script memorized, I also knew the movie’s soundtrack by heart. I owned the soundtrack on CD and listened to it constantly. When I tell you that I KNEW this movie backward and forward, I am not exaggerating.
For me 25 years ago, the movie was pure fun and enjoyment. The storyline, script, music, and technology were all compelling and drew me in to love the movie. However, this is through the mind of a 9-year-old child.
As an adult, and more specifically, a mother, the movie hits different.
When watching some of the scenes that were casually popping up on my social media feed, I was nothing short of horrified. I could no longer view the movie through the lens of rainbows, butterflies, switching twins, and fun music. I was now watching as a mother, watching another mother intentionally choose not to know one of her daughters, and two young girls grow up never knowing the love of one of their parents.
Many scenes were gut-wrenching to watch. One example is when each of the twins meets their opposite parent for the first time. Each girl has been dying to meet their opposite parent and secretly hopes they will bond with them, but simultaneously has to pretend they are the other twin. The girls cannot fully be themselves with their opposite parent because they have to keep up the appearance that they are the other twin. Even when the girls are having a great time, smiling, laughing, and making jokes with their opposite parents, there is still an evident sadness. The twins believe their opposite parent only loves them because they are pretending to be the opposite twin. There is a point where Hallie reveals her true identity to her mother and says, “I just hope that one day you can love me as me, and not as Annie.” Her mother, in tears, responds and says that she’s loved Hallie her whole life.
At this point, I am sobbing.
Because I have the experience of being a mother and I know the depths of love that a mother has for her children, I do believe that Hallie’s mother has loved her for her whole life. But how would Hallie have ever known that? It is heartbreaking that Hallie ever thought she had to earn her mother’s love. This scene depicts Hallie’s reality of having no evidence of her mother’s love over the years.
There is another scene where Annie’s identity is revealed to Chessy, Hallie’s family housekeeper. Chessy has been a part of Hallie and Nick’s family for over 10 years, and knew both twins, including Annie, as babies. Although Chessy is not a mother, she is still a caring and loving maternal figure in this family dynamic. Upon realizing Annie’s true identity, she begins sobbing and recounting taking care of Annie as a baby. In this scene it is clear that Chessy has grieved not being a part of Annie’s life for all these years, missing out on a relationship with her.
The movie has many scenes of reunification between various members of the family. The joys of reunification attempt to overpower the emotional trauma that each family member has endured over the years. Of course, the movie ends on a happy note, with the parents getting back together and vowing to make it work this time. However, the glimpses of grief and themes of the emotional separation of the twins from their parents were not lost on me. I am even left wondering how on earth the parents are truly going to be reunited without totally uprooting their careers and their daughters’ lives.