Russell Crowe has no idea about his role in my parenting. He has no clue about how during the midst of Gladiator I put my hand on my pregnant wife’s belly and silently talked to my baby.
How could he?
We have never talked and I was no more likely to stand up in the middle of the theater in June 2ooo and shout at the screen than I would be today. I may be unfiltered, insouciant and playful but I am not crazy enough to believe that a character on a movie screen would talk back to me.
But I knew one day I would want to show that movie to my unborn child. I knew it was being added to my personal list of favorites and that it would take a place alongside Casablanca, The Princess Bride, Star Wars and others as something we would have to watch together.
It was one of those Â movies that I loved that would help me share parts and pieces of myself and I hoped that it would be something he or she would love too just as I had loved doing with my own father.
Writing, Mistakes & Bullseyes
A few days ago I stumbled onto a post where someone shared their writing process and smiled because it made something click inside my head. It made me think about a line from Gladiator, about being a father, about writing and about chasing down our dreams.
Marcus Aurelius: There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish..
I know this feeling of trying to hold onto an idea that is composed of smoke, I know what it means to try to hold water in the palm of your hand. I know what it means to be cautious not to hold on too tight because if you do the water will leak between your fingers and run away.
It is such a hard balance to hold onto and sometimes it is exactly what parenting is like to me. This walk on the tightrope where we try to give our children all they desire without turning them into someone we do not want them to be.
This dance where we try to help them figure out who they are and who they wish to become. We show them the steps and point out where we fell and tell them stories of our successes and our failures and hope they don’t make the same mistakes we did.
But sometimes they do and sometimes we blame ourselves for them because we could have or should have seen what was coming.
I think about it and remember a story about a famous archer who was known for always hitting the bullseye but that was because after he shot his arrow at the target he would draw a circle around it and make it appear he had hit the bullseye.
I think about writing and the comment I left on the woman’s post about writing processes because it all fits together for me.
Writing is a walk through the forest at night, without the help of a moon, flashlight or torch and I love it.
Some of the scrapes and bruises that come from wandering in the dark have served as the best lessons.
Drawing Circles, Advice & Mistakes
My children have heard the story about the archer and about how I interpret it as being flexible, agile and able to adapt to multiple situations. And of course we have talked about how it relates to writing and how sometimes we have to dig a little to find what is interesting so that we can write more interesting stories.
Saturday afternoon my son and I sat down to talk about a situation at school and about how some children are teasing him. I told him sometimes the way to defuse that is by taking ownership of the name and said maybe we would make a t-shirt with that name on it.
Almost as soon as I said it I wondered if I had opened Pandora’s Box because you have to be tough about that. Kids might really give it to him and if he reacts it might make it worse.
But instead of telling him about my concerns I turned on Gladiator and watched it with him. After it was done I told him if he wanted to take these other kids on I wanted him to be able to do it with the conviction Maximus shows here.
He nodded his head and then I wondered if I was holding water in the palm of my hand or squeezing it because parenting is one of those dances where I feel guilty when I step on my partner’s toes.