Monday, June 29, 2009

57 Months

We just saw the movie "Away We Go" and even though the relationship between the two main characters was very sweet and warm-hearted, the portrayals of all the other parents in the movie was simply a bunch of caricatures intent on making us laugh.

Here's how it works. You write a movie with likable leads with whom your audience can identify. In "Away We Go" the intended audience was hipster thirty-something gen-xers who are simply trying to believe that their lives have meaning. Then you surround those lead characters with a bunch of buffoons that we can all have a good laugh at because it helps make our lives feel so much more worthwhile in comparison. Presto! You have the makings of a great comedy. The problem that arises is when you venture outside your intended audience. When those people watch your movie they just think that your denigrating over-the-top portrayals are just asinine. At least that's what I think when I see it in other movies that I don't immediately identify with, so why would I think that it's okay or cool in this movie?

I don't. During the film I found myself laughing along with everyone else but as it continued on I suddenly realized the way that I was being manipulated.

That's me on the left and John Krasinski, the male lead of the film, on the right. Uh, yeah, I think I'm the intended audience. At this point I began to dislike the movie and found that I wasn't laughing so hard anymore, which kind-of fit with the tone of the film anyway since it began to quickly descend into a melancholy drama.

Here's the thing. This movie is also the perfect movie for me because I am a parent; a thirty-something hipster gen-xer who wasn't so sure that he wanted to have kids in the first place and who didn't have a clue about what to expect when my partner's belly began to swell. What I found out was that there isn't any one way to be a parent and there isn't any one book that's going to give you all the answers about parenting that are right for you specifically. Along the way you simply adopt the ones that make the most sense to you and slough off the preconceived notions that you might have had and the bad advice that sounded like good advice and even some of the expert opinions found on the non-fiction best-seller lists. Sometimes it works so brilliantly that you feel like the greatest parent alive and sometimes it seems like drudgery but it always is a wonderful and precious evolutionary process that resides in the murky soup that is your life.

So I looked at the movie and thought about all the crappy parenting that they showed in the least subtle way possible (i.e. cheapest). Yeah, I believe in the continuum concept. Yes, your children do want you to hold them. It's extremely important that your child have an intimate connection with you and just so you know, intimacy doesn't always have to mean sex. I know that's hard to understand in our culture sometimes. I am also very guilty of neglecting my child and saying ridiculous things about them and to them. Obviously I don't want to hate myself so much that my neglect puts my children in harm's way. None of the people in the film who neglected their children even wanted to give an ounce of effort to change that aspect of themselves, from the psychotic drunks in Phoenix to Krasinski's brother in Miami. It takes a huge amount of effort to raise children and even then we're going to make mistakes. Sometimes I also can find it hard to appreciate the beautiful life that I have, hoping for more and focusing on what I don't have. But I have to admit that doing that is just so damn difficult when you look at into your child's eyes. Every day I have a chance to share a genuine conversation with Lucas and he lets me in on so many wonders that I never knew existed. He has a precious light inside him and it's infectious when you see it.

Anyway, since I am a parent, I think that a movie like this doesn't need to bludgeon in order to get it's message across. There were some sweet beautiful moments and I truly wanted to believe in their quest. Finding purpose as a parent is one of the most divine paths that people weave. It's never perfect or easy or smooth but it is a blessing and it is wonderful and it is very very unique.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

17 Months (the second act)

There comes with being a parent that distinct understanding that you are mortal. For a brief instance, you look into the eyes of your 17-month-old and the years shed like a useless skin. It's not that you feel old but you can see the future so clearly, a cascading shimmer of images and delight filtering through documented filmscope that fades into view through a sundrenched landscape. It's all dreamy and romantic and lovable and a euphoria spreads through your bones. It's so easy to embrace but then it comes...the realization that you aren't meant to see it all. Ache comes with that thought but the flipside is even more horrific and a broader purpose about life comes into focus.

I was never one of those people who thought that the reason I existed was to pass on my genes into future generations. We all know those people who have such an intense desire to be a parent. They even strive forward with modern medicine when nature holds them back. The entire purpose of their lives are bent on having that child, come hell or high water. That was never me or Xtimu and we didn't decide to have kids because we couldn't imagine a life without them. In fact, it wasn't until a couple of months before Lucas was conceived did the concept of children even dawn upon our consciousness. We were fortunate, he came almost immediately and Quinn was a complete surprise. But, after saying all of that, we are so happy with them that now, as we look back, it does seem impossible to imagine a life without them.

Sometimes, when I look at Quinn I'm almost stunned by how much she looks like me. It's a strange and wonderful feeling to look into the eyes of your child and see yourself. Yet, she has a sharpness in her intense gaze and an awareness that is so foreign from who I am. These little people are so magical and filled with delight that a veil of amnesia falls over my eyes. I feel that the reason I am alive was to give these two amazing beings life. They were my purpose.

I don't know if that's egomaniacal or delusional or simply hopeful but it's hard to look at it any other way. That doesn't mean that my life is complete now and I can go to my grave happy or anything like that. I know that there's so much work in order to help them deal with the world and to teach them how to create value. Because even though I know that my children are special and just by having them that I have provided something valuable to life, I also understand that we all have other reasons for being here. In my small way I'm trying to find a purpose right here in these pages.

I think that it's impossible for our lives to be meaningless. No matter how much people sit on their asses or suck out the marrow from other people's bones, there is no void. All of us have a space to fill and that tiny speck in this broad universe has some sort of meaning. It's so wonderful to grasp at the design that swirls around us with eagerness and lust. There's so much joy in witnessing the laugh upon your friends faces, to be a part of something that lasts beyond the little bit that you gave. It's pure bliss to feel the sun on your face and appreciate the thoughts that light up in your mind because of it. It's an absolute pleasure to share time with everyone around us, to interact in a semblance of civilized wonder.

And spending a selfless moment with your child is one of the most transcending experiences of our human existence. Each and every one of us is blessed with an awareness that makes us unique and precious. I'm so glad that I get to have these moments. Quinn allows me to feel that appreciation. So does Lucas and my beautiful wife and my friends and family and everyone else out there. I wouldn't exist without all of you.

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