A good parent is often a three letter word

In the last year or so, I have noticed that my empathy trait has been awakened. Why is this happening, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this … it’s taking movie watching to a whole new level.

I saw one the other night about a guy whose wife had recently died. As he tried to adjust to not having her around, he soon realized, among other things, that she had been the glue that held his family together.

It wasn’t that he loved his children less than her … he simply saw his role in the family as a provider, so he devoted most of his time and energy to his work. He felt that this allowed his wife to stay home to raise their four children. The perfect family setting, he thought. Well … maybe it wasn’t so perfect after all.

I just wanted what all parents want for their children … the best. So as they got older, he would push them when he should have been guiding. The problem was that he pushed in their direction … not theirs … a mistake that I think many of us dads make. And it seems their expectations were far higher than any of them could meet.

As the story unfolds, he begins to get closer to his now-grown children who are scattered across the country. When he gets in touch with them, they each embellish his situation a bit, leading him to believe that they are much better off than they really were. His daughter … “a leading actress on Broadway” was actually struggling just to get a role. His son … “accomplished conductor” actually played the eardrum … and so on. After all, they didn’t want to disappoint dear dad.

Since dad never kept up with personal contact … like I said, he left it up to his wife … along with him living so far away, it was relatively simple for them to pull off their masquerades.

As he visits them one by one and discovers their true stories, he sadly realizes that he doesn’t even know his own children. In fact, one of his sons, who thought he was a successful artist, was high on drugs and so depressed over his mother’s passing that he commits suicide. It’s a pretty heavy story.

The movie ends on a positive note with Dad reuniting his family and doing things right.

As I mentioned earlier about my new empathy trait, well … each scene was drawing emotions out of me that I didn’t realize I was storing. The truth is that I do not look anything like the father portrayed in the film … at least, I hope not. However, I could relate to the fact that no matter how hard we try to raise our family better, it is seen and felt from many different points of view that can manifest in unexpected ways.

As I watch my children’s lives unfold … struggling sometimes like we all do, I sometimes find myself questioning various decisions I made as a parent … wondering if I could have somehow made things better for them.

I guess he’s just a father’s quarterback on Monday morning. But on the other hand … there would be nothing sadder than waking up just one morning, realizing that while I was so wrapped up in the role of a father, I totally missed being a father.

Tomorrow I’m going to see “Talladega Nights”.