Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Peanuts Movies

The Peanuts Movie is good, no great -- at the same time it's different enough that there's something special and endearing about it.

I saw this with my kids this weekend and was thankful that it not only held their attention, but was also a sweet movie free of scary scenes, hidden adult humor or agenda-driven story lines.

I personally find The Peanuts comic strip to be simply not funny. An iconic comic strip that never really captured me. I want to like the Peanuts specials that air, but we watched a few with the kids and found them feeling slow and disjointed.

Yet, somehow keeping all the campy charm of the comic and specials, this movie figures out how to speed the pacing up just a bit to create a feature length story that is touching -- nice work writers!

The one thing is this story that I found very special was the way that Charlie Brown's timid story line mirrored Snoopy's brave story line and in the midst of the contrast there was still a beautiful overlap of fear, bravery, and our own humanity. We often spend so much time defining our experience by who we are (outgoing, shy, silly, smart, a victim of our situation, etc.) but crossing through that is some core similarities. A care about who we in the eyes of others, who are in the eyes of ourselves, and the desire to be something special.

I am not sure how this film ages over time or whether it makes it way to family video cabinets or part of holiday traditions. But I am always amazed at projects like this that present the ultimate challenge of being genuine to an original and add something safely to it without isolating audiences. In this case, I see it as a true success.

Horrible Christmas Dramas and Parenting Reflections


This thanksgiving weekend we accidentally watched the unenjoyable film The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (again, Netflix...you do me so wrong...I just want a good Christmas film option).

I don't even remember how many siblings there are in this film, but there are a lot -- and they are all pretty messed up...all for different (but typical, for films of this type) reasons. Mad husbands, vices of all sorts, personal ambition, and daddy issues.

Think Rachel Getting Married, but worst acting, worst story, no wedding, plus an Irish Catholic Christmas.

All that horribleness aside, perhaps it was because I recently watched the first episode of the TV show Bloodlines (also about family/siblings) that it I started thinking about my own children.

In both this film and the TV show there is the emphasis on all the children getting together for a parent-related events (holidays, birthdays, local honors) and the emphasis is that these siblings get together for the sake of the parents.

In thinking about my own children it is my hope that they enjoy each other, even long after my wife & I are gone.

As a result, one of my thoughts the past couple week has been asking "how can I ensure they enjoy each other?" And one of my thoughts has been "Get out of the way."

This has worked in my kids favor already (to my own detriment) in that on Thanksgiving eve when hosting our families annual piefest my kids decide to bust open a box full of packing peanuts. It was crazy. Very crazy.

And yet, my reflection was instantly on this thought that I get out of the way and ensure they have their own parent-free memories of good times together to strengthen their own bonds with one another. I even filled an empty spice jar with packing peanuts as a memorial to this horrible event (that ultimately led me to Walmart at 11:00 pm on the night before Thanksgiving to buy a shop vac. Thank you, Walmart).

In The Fitzgerald Family Christmas there is a lot of reasons why different siblings haven't connected with one another, and simple acts of memory making will not heal all wounds - not to mention, people change, experiences in life continue past the age you leave your parents home, spouses certainly plan a roll and other family developments.

But, also think as a parent of three children, I have an opportunity to foster experiences and if I can crack the code of making memories without being central to the memory, I want to figure it out.

My young kids still are parent dependent as you'd expect. They will fight over who gets to sit next to which parent at a meal, on the couch, at a move theater. But if I can let them explore, give them a perimeter for them to tackle together then maybe I can foster a flame between them that last long after they leave my house.
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