Monday, June 18, 2012

What Judd Apatow Taught Me About Parenting

There’s a scene in the 2007 movie Knocked Up where Paul Rudd’s character Pete (a married father of 2) and Seth Rogen’s character Ben (unwed father-to-be from a one-night-stand) are watching Pete’s two daughters playing excitedly at a park as the older one blows bubbles. The girls and some friends are laughing and having a great time.  Ben and Pete have this exchange:  

BEN
They seem to love bubbles.

PETE
They go ape-shit over bubbles.

BEN
They’re really going ape-shit.

PETE
That’s an incredible thing about a child. What’s so great about bubbles?

BEN
They float. You can pop them. I mean, I get it. I get it.

PETE
I wish I liked anything as much as my kids like bubbles.

BEN
That’s sad.

PETE
It’s totally sad. Their smiling faces just point out your inability to enjoy anything.

When Knocked Up was originally released in 2007, I was a few weeks from getting married and 2+ years from becoming a parent. Yet the quoted interaction that I mentioned from the movie has stuck with me for 5 years, even though it wasn’t really relevant to me at the time of my first viewing.

Now that I’m 2 ½ years into this parenting gig, I know that what both Pete and Ben said is very true.  Kids are amazing because they can find joy in just about any situation presented to them. Whether chasing bubbles in the wind, pushing a grocery cart or receiving a balloon while at a store or restaurant, kids manage to find sheer bliss in what most adults generally consider to be mundane activities.

When I go to the grocery store it’s usually to get milk, cereal or whatever else we need for the house. It’s a task, not a party. But for my Little Dude going to Ralphs is an adventure. An opportunity to steer a massive steel robot on wheels through narrow aisles while avoiding bumping into old ladies (usually). 

So when does one’s focus shift? When does that simple bliss become a mindless task? I don’t know that there’s any event that can be easily pinpointed as the culprit, but I do know that it’s easy to get lost in a world of work, hectic schedules and “Draw Something”.  But the key is to figure out what is really important? Is it that Triple Word Score in Words with Friends? Or taking a 2 year old for an ice cream cone? (Believe me, I am guilty of the former more than I’ve eagerly done the latter.)

As hard as the mindset change has been, I have been trying to be more present with my Little Dude.  And I mean present figuratively, literally isn’t a problem. When he’s running up and down the hallway, I am chasing him. Not just checking out baseball scores on my iPhone until he makes a return lap to where I’m standing.   If he’s having a great time then I want to, too.  For he’ll remember that when he’s older, when he has a family of his own, much more than I’ll remember whether the Cleveland Indians won or lost a meaningless game.

So during this Father’s Day season, maybe we should be taking lessons from our little ones when thinking about what really makes us happy and not think about it. Just let it be.
And don’t forget to blow some bubbles. 




read to be read at yeahwrite.me

62 comments:

  1. Very well said. When you take the time to really be present in the here and now, life takes on a whole new meaning.

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    1. Thanks, JK. It is a strange, but good, feeling.

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  2. for kids, the world is just full of wonder. everything is new to them...even if they have done it a hundred times. I think it's because they can just be so in the moment. But us adults.....our minds are never really in the present: there is so much other stuff just pressing in; crowding the joy out. I think we have to learn to not let the busy dust of life settle on our joy.

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    1. That last sentence is a great way of looking at it. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Ha! So true about kids...it's great how they can appreciate everything.

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  4. What a gorgeous post. I really believe that being present for the kids is so important and I just read a study that said Dad's are often more revered then moms because of gender roles etc. If a kid can get their dad's attention and keep it - apparently it has quite the impact!

    Your son is VERY lucky to have you!!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie. I want him to know that I'm around and not just a warm body.

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  5. You are right on. When we lose that child-like ability to enjoy pointless little things, we lose. Period.

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  6. I think the shift starts when we give our children toys that demand little imagination. Or may it's when they start school, which too often turns learning into a task to be completed rather than something to be enjoyed. Okay, now I'm depressing myself. I'll shut up.

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    1. Right on both counts, Joe. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how amazing it is when my son plays with a box, more than the toy that came in it. And school...don't even get me started.

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    2. Joe, I don't disagree, though my kid hasn't gone to school yet. But there are so many toys that are just pointless. I prefer him to have things that challenge his mind.

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    3. Michael, That box fascination is amazing, isn't it?

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  7. ahhh i love this. :) i love being present, really present with my girl. this is the best age and i don't want to miss a minute.

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  8. So beautifully put. You're right. So right.

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  9. Excellent. You are so right. It is about being present, actually there and remembering to have fun, too! :)

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  10. I love this post!
    It really is amazing how much pure joy bubbles (and balloons, like you said) can bring to kids.
    I think being more present with our kids is something we can all work on. Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. Thanks, Dawn. It is definitely something that takes work, but is not that hard to accomplish.

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  11. I wish I could channel some of the sheer joy that my kids have over simple things. I'm trying to remember to be more present for them as well. Email can wait, twitter will be there later. Maybe I'll rediscover some that joy. Great post, dude!

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    1. Thanks, Delilah. Of course when they are glued to an episode of Super Why, it's OK to do other things, too :)

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  12. absolutely. be present. better to be fully present for 30 minutes then do the half-assed pushing on the swings for 45 minutes but be checking your iphone the entire time (not that *I* would EVER do that, ahem)...otherwise it's all like that Harry Chapin song, right? "Cat's cradle," where the dad never has time...
    and the sad thing, for me, is why it's so hard to be present - not all the time, but at least some of the time?

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    1. I've been guilty of the swing thing more times than I am happy to admit. Thankfully my Little Dude isn't into swings any more.
      But seriously, at least some of the time isn't unreasonable.

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  13. Wait... looking at baseball scores on your iPhone is bad? Good thing I don't do that! (ahem)

    It's so true though that we need to enjoy our time with our kids. Before long they will become as without wonder as us adults, and it will come all too soon.

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    1. We have to milk the time as much as we can. Soon they'll just want rides to the movies and that will be that...

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  14. Dude, this is $$$.

    Your goal of being intentionally present with your son is something I've been really thinking about over the last few months with Harrison. While I have been better about pulling myself away from the ultimately meaningless distractions in life, I still get sucked in. What's ironic is when I'm writing a post about trying to be a better father and shoo my son away because he's being too distracting with all his "bubble blowing". I hate when I am confronted with my own hypocrisy.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. That irony is funny, but at least you recognize it. Parenting is a constant work in progress.

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  15. I love that scene, too, but I've given up trying to recapture my childhood innocence. According to my mom I never really had it. I'm banking on relating to the teen years.

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  16. Happy Father's Day, Jay! Pulling down a triple in WWF is definitely important, and so is baseball, but both are a notch down from watching your child laugh with intensely focused joy. Wonderful post as usual.

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    1. Thanks, Louise. You are too kind, as usual.

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  17. oh, i emphatically agree! to be present. to be joyful at the small things. to allow life to move us. that is what my children teach me, every day.

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    1. Isn't amazing what they end up teaching us, Tara?

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  18. Dude, you are spot on with this post. Loved it!

    My kids are 11 and 13 and I often think back to our "bubble moments." And the really cool thing is, we keep making more.

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    1. That gives me much to look forward to, Kathleen.

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  19. Yeah. My twins are 3, 3, and 2 -and at the perfect age for loving everything. They are so much fun to be around. Great post

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    1. Thanks, Kristen. Enjoy them as much as you can!

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  20. So true! When did I start to hate everyone and everything?

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    1. Good question. If you figure it out, please let me know.

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  21. Happy Father's Day. And that is a great question. When does the shift occur? I think when our minds get filled with bills, credit card debt, crazy schedules, more people in the family who the older they get make more demands. All that just crowds out fun and innocence. But you are right, if we clear our mind and stay in the present, peace comes a lot easier.

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    1. Thanks, SMM. That's a good point, responsibilities shouldn't necessarily mean more than our primary responsibilities.

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  22. I'm guessing the shift happens somewhere around the time they figure there are better things to do. I think my guy figured out stores aren't fun around 3ish. I don't think I became completely jaded until I was about 13 or so. That's when I'm planning on looking for the signs in him!

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    1. I guess I'll see if my Little Dude is the same in a few months. Keep me posted, Michelle.

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  23. Great post to remind us to be present - whether we have kids or not - to the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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    1. That's true, Cindy. It doesn't have to be about kids. There are a lot of other applicable subjects in life. Great point.

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  24. Being present makes all the difference in the world. I have tried to make a point to give my children time without my phone and or computer anywhere near my face.

    That way both of us can see that we have each others undivided attention.

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    1. It's something to work toward, Jack. Good luck, I know it's not always easy.

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  25. You're right... it's the times you least expect that will stick in their memories. What a great dad you are.

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  26. This is right on. It's amazing how many distractions we live with- and how numb we can become to the simple, amazing stuff. Sometimes I have to actually remind myself that every day is something new and exciting for my toddler.

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    1. You are right, GM. Even if it seems old and boring to us, we need to make the most of it.

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  27. Such true words! And kids totally know when you are checking the score between their laps around the living room. My husband and I talk all the time about being more "present" for our kids and this is such a great reminder.

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    1. Thanks, Kim. It's not easy, and is constantly a work in progress. I know you can do it :)

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  28. I'm Fran (dancerctry) from Huffington Post (we've been sharing comments including my blog hey did you write that post that hockey is the best sport ever?). Here's the answer. Around 8 they start to see the world differently. They want more independence and are more capable. It's not quite tween yet but it's close. That's the age they figure out Santa isn't real ect.... unless someone spoiled the fun when they were young enough to believe in Santa. I'm a sahm now but took education classes in college and an certified in NJ to teach P - 5. I tutored for a long time K - 4th graders at the local Sylvan Learning Center and more so I know Elementary kids well.

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  29. I got married a bit over a year ago where my wife grew up; a few weeks later, we had a "second reception" closer to where I grew up so some of my people who couldn't make the wedding could meet my wife and her parents.

    Among our guests were a friend from high school, his wife, and his twin toddlers. We knew some kids were coming, so we provided some party favors such as little rubber balls (I should note that, like most of our best ideas, this one came from my wife). When we put a ball in little Keira's hands, her mother prompted her with, "what do you say?" Her eyes grew wide and she cried, "baaaaaall!" with more excitement than I can remember ever feeling. "Ball" was not the word her mother was looking for, but to the extent that the point of a "thank you" is to convey sincere appreciation, "ball," delivered the way Keira delivered it, did the job.

    This isn't quite as related, but I'm also reminded of this cartoon. My first thought upon seeing that was, "this is why I want kids."

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