Monday, July 13, 2015

Parenthood: Week 109 – Inside Out

I know that Ollie will not have any memories of the first two years of his life, but when I saw Joy, holding a little orb of a memory from Riley’s toddlerhood, I broke down crying for the like the 100th time while watching Inside Out.

Inside Out didn’t make me love Ollie more but it made me feel that love more acutely. Since watching this film last week, I’ve put more effort into our time together. Watching each memory form into a little globe and be placed into long term-storage, disappear or become a core memory was an important reminder of the impact that I have on Ollie’s memories, personality and his life.

Pixar is no stranger to making films about parenthood. The Toy Story trilogy is told in the context of big family changes (some theorize a divorce). Then there’s Finding Nemo, which is about every parent’s ultimate nightmare of loosing a spouse and unborn children and becoming the sole caretaker. And Up is about Carl taking on the role of Russell’s absent father, which is made all of the more poignant with the knowledge that Carl and his late wife desired children but were unable to have children of their own.

Since becoming a father I actually haven’t watched any of these films, because I’m not really sure how I can handle dealing with these topics now that I have a son of my own. So when I watched Inside Out, I wasn’t sure how this film would affect me. And as I expected I was a mess crying through most of this film.

Inside Out nails the emotional development of children through adolescence perfectly. From the newborn that only has Joy and Sadness in her head, through the emotional shutdown later in the film and finally the emotional complexity at the end, we see the emotional journey of the human experience. It’s a beautiful and sometimes very difficult path, but this film helps us through it with humor and grace.

What got to me the most was that, this film showed that every moment as a parent matters and that you never know what moments is going to become a core memory and what is going to be easily and quickly forgotten. It’s also a reminder to us as parents and teachers that all kids even seemingly happy and well-adjusted children struggle with their emotions. These moments aren’t something to dread, but something to embrace as they lead to a more fulfilling and meaningful connections with other people.

Probably the saddest part of the film for me was when Goofball Island collapsed into the abyss. One the things I love about Ollie is his goofiness. I feel like I was goofy when I was really young but I lost it in adolescence and it wasn’t until college that this part of me came back. When I see Ollie being a goofball, it’s the greatest thing ever and imagining him loosing that, was almost too much to bear. I came home determined to get as many core memories into his Goofball Island. But I know that it doesn’t work that way and I know that at some point things may fall apart.  What Inside Out reminds us though is what we end up with is something even better. In Riley’s mother we see that sadness evolves into compassion and is a leader.

Ollie may loose some of his goofball-ness at some point, but I need to remind myself that it'll be okay and like Riley's dad and with myself, that goofiness has a way of coming back.

I love art that expresses what its about like a song that is about how much fun it is to dance to music that is really fun to dance to.  Inside Out is a film that is about understanding that the most powerful and meaningful emotions in our lives are not simply happy or sad.  Every time the film hit me hard and I cried, it was swirl of emotions and memories, something indescribable and beautiful.

Go see Inside Out y'all.  If you have kids, make sure to schedule some quality time with them after you watch the film.  You are going to want to visit Goofball Island with them.  

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