Last night, my husband and I watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green. We were looking for a feel-good, fun film to offer some distraction and diversion. Instead, it made me think.
The story is book-ended by Cindy and Jim’s overwhelming desire and relentless pursuit of parenthood. Before they digest the heartbreaking news that they cannot conceive, they build the idea of the perfect boy – then pack their dreams away and bury them safely underground.
Watching the palpable yearning of these scenes, I realized the amazing gift of my own children. I felt almost guilty that they came to me so easily; for getting so caught up in the drudgery of day to day that I fail to see the miracle that they are. How blessed we are.
Then Cindy and Jim’s dreams of the perfect boy sprout out of the mud and they obtain instant parenthood. Their joy at his arrival was a familiar feeling. And that the universe rewarded such yearning was a gratifying feeling. They truly wanted this child.
As the movie went on, however, their journey seemed to be less about Timothy and more about their own performance. How did Cindy’s child measure up to her sister, Brenda’s? How would Jim better his own father’s parenting skills? Were they making the right choices? Were they keeping him close enough?
The scene that haunts me most is their argument after Timothy’s game-winning goal for the opposing soccer team. As per his demeanor throughout most of the film, Timothy is nonplussed by his social and sporting gaff. He is happy simply to have participated and had fun. Cindy and Jim, however, have an all-out fight about their parenting. Did they hope for the wrong things for their child? Are their own feelings of validation getting in the way of their parenting?
In their pursuit of parenting excellence, Cindy and Jim lost sight of the most important thing – their child.
Is that not a struggle we all face as parents?
Do we use parenting as a vehicle for helping our children fulfill their true potential as human beings or to fulfill our own latent, unrealized dreams? Do we get so wrapped in assessing and perfecting our own performance that we fail to see the perfectly imperfect little being we so longed for in front of us? The yearning to have a child is a strong, very personal and intimate one and that child truly is a part of us; however, it’s also essential that we see their distinctiveness as well. At some point, their needs and desires diverge from ours and our performance is simply a supporting role.
If I allow for a willing suspension of disbelief, I know that Timothy is a magical being sent to prepare Cindy and Jim for parenthood. Indeed, soon after his short visit, they adopt a young girl. But as Timothy departed from them, he said they had always been ready for parenthood. Were they? Were/are any of us?
Are we ready to subvert our own desires and needs for the care of this little one? Will we be able to use our own experiences to teach him or her without projecting our own agenda? Will we be able to train his or her growth without stunting it?
It’s not about us. It’s not about the perfect child. The idea of perfection is a box in which we cannot place our child. Nor can we do it to ourselves as parents.