Tag Archives: parenting

Life of Parents: An act of letting go

I finally went to see the movie Life of Pi this past weekend. I read the book years ago and had forgotten some of the finer details of the story, such as Pi’s introduction to various religions as a child, and the alternate ending with his mother, the cook and the sailor. I had also forgotten how I cried when Richard Parker walks into the Mexican jungle with nary a backward glance at Pi. It was so heartbreaking.

Richard Parker walks away from Pi without saying goodbye.

Richard Parker leaves Pi without saying goodbye.

For those who haven’t read the riveting book or seen the visually-stunning movie the story goes like this: an Indian teenager finds himself on a life boat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker and he must find a way to share the boat with the animal to ensure they both survive. A sort of high seas training ensues with the boy, Pi Patel, becoming the tiger’s master and also his unlikely mother, for lack of a better word. Pi feeds Richard Parker, provides him with fresh water and comforts him when the tiger is near to starvation.

Pi comforts the tiger when he is near to starvation.

Pi comforts the tiger when he is near to starvation.

Their boat finally reaches a beach in Mexico and Pi collapses on the sand. Richard Parker leaps off the boat and walks toward the jungle before disappearing in the undergrowth, without saying goodbye or even so much as glancing back at the boy who saved his life. Pi watches this unceremonious farewell and then dissolves into tears, still blubbering about his tiger when some locals show up and take him to a hospital to recover from his castaway ordeal. (On one level you realize it’s a wild tiger so you can’t really expect the same devotion you’d get from a dog. But still. Bring tissues.)

Pi watches Richard Parker leave without saying goodbye.

Pi watches Richard Parker leave him on the beach.

Years later, in retelling the story and its goodbye (or lack thereof), an adult Pi Patel says:

“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.”

It struck me that this is true and especially so for parents. We spend a huge part of our life raising our children and every stage involves letting go: of a chubby hand, a wobbly bicycle, a set of car keys. Our job as parents is to teach them the skills they need in order to let them go, but the difference between us and Pi is that usually we get to say goodbye: on the first day of school, before the first date, when dropping them off at university.

We can’t fathom that there won’t be a final goodbye, that they might have an accident and die, or run off travelling and never come back, and that our last memory would be them walking away and not looking back; that we won’t get to say, “Good luck. I love you. Goodbye.”

We can't imagine our children will leave us without looking back or saying goodbye.

We can’t imagine our children will leave us without saying goodbye.

There’s something about goodbye that brings closure. It’s why friends and family members rush to the side of an ailing loved one, or failing that attend the funeral. To not say goodbye leaves you living with hurt from a void that can never be filled.

On that boat Pi developed such an attachment to his tiger companion that Richard Parker’s abrupt departure is devastating. It’s hard to bear either way you interpret the story — with Pi as a boy losing his tiger; or the alternate ending, with Pi as a young man losing his innocence.

All those ski lessons are finally paying off!

When we signed Avery up for ski lessons at Fernie Alpine Resort four years ago, at age three, the day when she could ski with us anywhere on the mountain seemed a long way off. She was so little. Her skis were wee — she couldn’t even put them on by herself. And when she toppled over she was like that old lady from the medical alarm commercial: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

She fell. A lot. The instructor did a lot of heavy lifting that day.

She fell at age three. A lot. The instructor got a workout from heavy lifting that season.

But my husband and I are avid skiers and we want our kids to get involved in “lifesports” — activities they’ll be able to partake in their whole life and also ones we can do together as a family, such as skiing, hiking and swimming. So we persevered. Every ski trip meant some lessons, rewarded with runs on the bunny hill with Mom and Dad.

Fast forward to the beginning of her fifth ski season and it’s amazing how good Avery has gotten. I just skied with her in Fernie for two full days and can honestly say we had fun (read: we did not do laps on the Deer chair). Certainly, I have had my fill of the blue run Power Trip off of the slow and freezing Elk chair, but she took me on new-to-me runs like Holo Hike, which passes through two tunnels, and I led her down new-to-her runs such as Sun Up and China Wall, two black diamond pitches in Lizard Bowl.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

My girl en route to Power Trip. Again.

In fact, it warmed my heart to watch her follow an 11-year-old boy straight toward the moguls on the south side of China Wall (the middle part had been groomed flat) and then watch her link turns down the bumps without missing a beat. At age seven, kids have no fear. It’s awesome (except when they tuck it down a rather steep and narrow slope and you are the one having heart palpitations). I also felt a glow of pride when skiers riding the chairlift would turn around to watch my pink-helmeted wonder trying to catch air off of little jumps. I am one proud mama.

After skiing, we did what any tired mother-daughter duo would do: hung out by The Griz — the cardboard cut-out version, not the slopeside bar of the same name. Indeed, that’s now the only downside to carving turns with my girl: it limits the apres-ski possibilities.

She is with The Griz!

She is with The Griz!

Attention-seeking kids and the digital era

There’s a line from the original Cat in the Hat book that my husband and I recite whenever one of our children wants us to watch what they are doing — however silly, and however many times we’ve seen it done before.

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!”

It’s the part in the book where the Cat in the Hat is balancing on the ball, holding up a bunch of stuff — including the fish bowl — and he wants Sally and her brother to watch him add more items. For a cat on a ball, it’s impressive, but with our kids, they aren’t balancing dishes and cake and a boat and a rake. No, they want us to watch them do mundane things, like dance to Thriller, or run around the house in their underpants, or solve an alphabet puzzle. That was exciting stuff when they were two; at ages six and four, not so much.

Still, as dutiful parents, we watch, and take pictures, and sometimes even record video.

"Look at me! In the bathtub! With a bubble face!" Every moment of childhood is now easily captured, thanks to camera phones.

So, it’s no wonder our daughter has decided that filmed evidence conveys merit, and she has taken it one step further. She has recently started asking us to take pictures of her creations, no matter how ridiculous they are. Behold her squishie pyramid:

Awwww, a squishie pyramid! Just one example of how every facet of childhood, no matter how mundane, is in danger of being recorded for posterity.

Yes, it’s eight squishies stacked into a little pyramid. When she asked me to take a picture of this, I laughed.

Me: “Seriously? I’m not taking a picture of that.”

Avery: “Why not? It’s a squishie pyramid. Aren’t they cute?”

Blake: “You should take a picture of it, and then blog about all the lame things kids want their parents to take pictures of.”

And so I did. Sigh. But it got me thinking. When I was a kid my parents pulled out the camera, sure — on family vacations and at birthdays and Christmastime. But there were long stretches that zoomed by, unrecorded. Like a Super 8 film that goes splotchy in parts, my memory is the imperfect lens through which I view most of my childhood. It’s not a bad thing, really, and lets me look back at the era in awe and wonder.

I often wonder if today’s new standard of recording every accomplishment, however insignificant (example: the squishie pyramid), isn’t somehow cheapening our kids’ important milestones. I also wonder if we’re raising a self-absorbed generation that’s going to think it’s amazing for just flashing a smile. Shouldn’t things should be recorded for a reason, not just because they are? My daughter may well look back on this and say: “Why did you blog about my squishie pyramid, but not my solo in the spring choir performance?” Exactly.

How about you? Do you find yourself grabbing for the camera every time your kid strikes a pose, or builds something with Lego? Is this a good thing, or not?