There is no end zone

[This post is participating in Strange Culture's Dads In Media blog-a-thon.]

Some time ago I wrote,

The movie [...] teaches that worry is an inextricable part of parenthood, which is a comfort in a way. Thanks to Finding Nemo, when I encounter a worrying situation in my role as a father, I cope a little better. I know that it goes with the territory, that it’s universal, and that there’s a right way to deal with it.

An even more potent touchstone for teaching us to accept the worries of parenthood is Parenthood, the 1989 film by Ron Howard, and its central point is nicely summed up in a scene between Frank Buckman (Jason Robards) and his son Gil (Steve Martin). Frank has learned that his black-sheep son, Larry, is in deep trouble with the mob. While ostensibly asking Gil’s advice about whether to help Larry pay off his gambling debt, Frank’s really coming to terms with the hardest truth about having children: no matter how long you and your children live, if you love them, you never stop worrying about them.

Just earlier in the film, Gil had a fantasy in which his troubled young son Kevin grows up to be confident, successful, and happy, praising his dad in his valedictory address at college. Fantasy-Gil reveled in a job well done. Now here is Gil’s father with the dismal news that:

There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touchdown dance. Never.

And yet for all the worrying about children (of all ages) that occupies the film’s many parents, the message of the movie is a positive one: that lifelong worry is a small price to pay for the profound joys of parenthood. This too is summed up neatly in a scene where Grandma interrupts Gil’s obsessive fretting with a seemingly irrelevant story.

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