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Parental Guidance

This is not exactly a movie review of the 2012 release of Parental Guidance starring Bette Midler, Billy Crystal, and Marisa Tomei. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and I know others who did not. There were several chuckles, some nods of “been there, done that”, and some hair-pulling-shake-your-head in disagreement parenting moments.

The latter of which inspired me to write. Personally, I loved the movie. I cried through the movie and so did one of the ten-year old boys who I brought with me. It was a happy-sad and a sad-happy movie.

It was a pathetic reflection of parenting today. Rather, it was a perfect reflection of the pathetic parenting we do today. The storyline involved a couple with three children who are leaving to go out of town. They leave their children with the woman’s parents, something they do not typically do. The movie is a hilarious view of the intergenerational differences in parenting then and now.

Parents work so hard to be perfect parents. Competition forces us to examine techniques and training philosophies that would otherwise be irrelevant. It begins at birth when our neighbor’s child is sleeping through the night and ours is not. It continues to preschool when we begin to compare reading habits and letter recognition abilities.

We base our success on our children’s abilities to achieve, and we define achievement by high-test scores, getting into great schools, and being number one on the sports team. We are not the parents our parents were. We have a different set of environmental factors to face, and the world is a different world than it was then.

We are afraid to let our children fail, to watch them through disappointment, and to provide them the tools they might need to maneuver life… because we might look weak.

We are experts in a field that most of us received no schooling and little training in. We are too vulnerable to talk about our mistakes, to ignore social trends that make no sense, or to just be present in parenting. We are too proud to show our fear, to question ourselves, and to change our ways.

We worry too much that we are not providing enough for our children or that we are making the wrong decisions on their behalf. We worry that our children will miss out, that they won’t find friendship, or a job, or a meaningful path through life.

Have we those things ourselves?

Can we teach them what living is if we are not awakened ourselves? Can we teach them what success is if we attribute its measures to our financial status or how many vacations the family takes? Can we raise them to know what is right in the world if they do not see what is wrong?

Parental Guidance was a good movie with a strong underlying message. Hopefully, it made us all feel a bit foolish and inspired us to be conscientious in a different way, mindful in an abundant way, and to live according to values that truly make a difference.

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