Becoming a “Strong” Parent

In the 2010 movie Company Men, Ben Affleck plays Bobby Walker, a sales executive for a ship building company who is shocked into reality when he is downsized out of a job. In dire financial straits, Walker is forced to give up his Porche and beautiful suburban home. Finally, desperation forces him to move his wife and two children into his parents’ house, the house he grew up in. He tries to keep his unemployment a secret from extended family members, but his daughter blows his cover at Thanksgiving dinner when she delivers a blessing with a few good words thrown in for her dad.  Stunned by the announcement, Walker’s carpenter brother-in-law (Kevin Costner) offers him a job.

The reality of this film is positively gripping. But what struck me as most profound was how the director dealt with the children’s emotions. They’re afraid. Embarrassed for their father and family and relegated to the background amid all the worry.

One day Walker comes home after a hard day working construction. It’s still light outside. At his old job, he never got home before dark. Nobody ever said, “Quittin’ time!”

Down on himself, he climbs the back steps in his dirty work clothes, lunch pail in hand. He sees his teenaged son shooting hoops by the garage, probably the same backboard his used when he was a kid. Walker puts his hand on the door, ready to open it and go inside. It seems he would just rather wallow in self-pity. But then he has an epiphany. He looks at his son and puts down his lunch box. He realizes in that instant that his son deserves a dad, even if he doesn’t feel like being one, and goes out and starts playing with him. He becomes a stronger father, a stronger parent. 

Strong parenting is about being involved. It about doing what kids need right now in their lives. Or else figuring out what those needs are and getting the job done. That’s the kind of parent Bobbie Walker became. And when he opened his energy and love to the people around him, including his supportive wife, good things started to happen for him, too.

I have always said that when we commit to caring for our kids and doing right by then, we are blessed and taken care of in return. 

Before I was pregnant with our first baby I had never seen a woman breastfeeding. I was twenty-four. I thought breasts were vestigial organs, like the appendix. They made a girl’s sweater stick out, but had no practical use. 

Upon discovering my ignorance, my husband sent me to the library. 

The book I found in that old stone building was the original La Leche League manual.  It opened my eyes to a world of mysteries. My first revelation that babies need their mothers. 

I guess nobody ever told me.

That book was the start of a marvelous journey. I learned that being a parent, a good parent, is an active process. It involves striving daily to do the job better. And reaping the rewards.

I was determined to dedicate myself to mothering my children. Not to treat them like a burden, but a blessing. 

Being a strong parent often means we have to put our own desires, whims, pain, loss, etc., on the back burner. Stop wallowing long enough to recognize there are others who need us. Choosing to meet our kids’ needs, every day, no matter what. That’s strong parenting. FFG




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *