I saw the Pixar movie Inside Out over the weekend. It is the perfect film for the Age of Helicopter Parents. The premise, for those who haven’t been exposed to the media hype over the last week, is that we see animated the internal emotions of an 11-year-old girl. The film, though, taps in to all the fears of modern parenting.
Much of the plot involves the emotion of Joy trying to prevent sadness from invading the memories of the girl. How much of parenting these days is about working our hardest to protect our children from having feelings of discomfort or sadness? Today, at my child’s school field day activity where I was helping out as a parent volunteer, we were encouraged to judge both teams at the event I was supervising as having tied, rather than declaring one a winner. One child caught on after awhile and said that it’s pretty funny that the teams always have ties. Thinking on my feet, I said, “Well I guess it means you are evenly matched,” but I wondered whether I’m doing any of these kids any real favors by not allowing a team to lose.
In the film, the emotions, who seem to be the equivalent to the hovering parents of today, learn that sadness and joy need to be paired. The film shows us the behind-the-scenes actions of the brain, positing that people have core memories that stay with them for life and specific areas within the brain that serve as their lenses for living. I will leave the reality check for the neuroscientists in the crowd, but it made me think how this very premise taps into our hopes and fears as parents. How many of us live with the fear that one bad moment of mothering will be the only moment our children remember? I can’t tell you how awful my nighttime routine was when they were little; all I could think about was how we had such a wonderful day and all they will remember is mommy yelling at them to go to sleep right before bed. You can imagine my delight when Go the F*** to Sleep came out and I realized I wasn’t alone. The film also brings out the dreams and hopes of parents. Would it be only that easy to be able to simply choose wonderful memories for your children?
It is ironic, then, that some parents’ posts on websites I was reading said that they didn’t like the movie because it was too sad for their children. One parent was angry that their eight-year old left the theatre crying. Two of my children cried as well, and I admit to shedding some tears myself, but that was kind of the whole point. On our way out, I explained to my children that sometimes movies, or school, or life is sad, but then later we will have happy moments with them, and those moments will feel even happier because we experienced the sad ones, too. Wouldn’t you rather children learn that lesson at age 7? And wouldn’t you, as their parent, be the one who imparts that lesson to them?
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