Many years ago I watched a movie called Parenthood, starring Steve Martin. It was a poignant, wonderful portrayal of family with all the ups and downs and ins and outs of how we deal with each other. More specifically, it focused on how we deal as parents, and the idea that we’re not perfect. No matter how hard we swear we won’t do what our parents did, we ultimately mess our children up just as much, only in different ways. The reality is we’re human and with that comes all the idiosyncrasies and quirks that make us who we are.
I remember one particular scene where Steve Martin finds out he’s going to have a fourth baby. He’s overwhelmed with the prospect of messing up yet another loved one as he sees his youngest with a bucket on his head, hitting the wall repeatedly. His daughter was twirling herself to the point of vomiting.
Then there was his oldest son, who feared everything and lacked confidence no matter how much they tried to support and push him to grow. At one point they decide playing in a team sport will do the trick. He’s pushed to join little league baseball, coached by his Dad. One day, a high–fly ball is sent his way. Steve Martin envisions only two options:
- His son miraculously catches the ball and decades later, while accepting a Nobel prize, will thank his father for making him play.
- Or, he drops the ball, is again ostracized by his peers and becomes a hermit, refusing to leave the house– ever!
Now, Steve Martin’s character is trying to figure out how he’ll juggle being Dad to another child while working the long hours the extra mouth will require. His wife, on the other hand, sees the baby as another amazing adventure they’ll eagerly adapt to. Both are frustrated by the other’s viewpoint. It’s during this turmoil and craziness that their 85 year old grandmother walks in and describes a childhood memory of hers:
“I used to love going to the amusement park. I never understood people who liked to go on the merry-go-round. All it does is go round and round and round, what’s the fun in that? Me, I liked the roller coaster. It goes up and down, over and under, fast and slow. You never know where you’re going to go or where you’ll end up.”
I was profoundly affected by this thought. From then on, I began to see the world as two types of people- those who like the merry–go–round, and those who like roller coasters. Either extreme can be debilitating or threatening to the other.
My sister was 10 years older then me and a world apart in perspective. But no matter our differences, she always provided unconditional love. She used to say I was like the eye of a hurricane. Calm in the center while storms raged all around me. I was always looking for the next challenge to add to the dozen I was already juggling.
She was a merry–go–round person. She craved peace and harmony at all times as she pursued a law degree, was on law review, and raised a family. While we were very different people- she could no more jump out of a plane than I could sit in a courtroom for eight hours- we honored how we both ultimately achieved our goals.
Maybe we need a balance. We can’t all be those entrenched in plodding through life with our heads down, never looking up to see new opportunities, and scared by those that do occur. And the world can’t be filled by those with their heads so high in the clouds filled with dreams that they can’t see how far they’ve strayed from reality.
My sister and I were a perfect example of how two very different people could still support and encourage one another.
When I wanted to shoot for the stars, instead of clipping my wings, my sister used her stabilizing presence to encourage me to plan for contingencies while tethering me to reality with love and support. I helped her to see possibilities she initially dismissed, like becoming a judge. Together we enhanced our strengths and gave each other flight. We didn’t always hit the stars we were aiming for, but we always had an amazing ride!
In the end, we’re all looking for the same things. A way to establish stability and comfort in our lives without sacrificing the excitement a new day can bring. Whether you prefer a merry-go-round or a roller coaster, lets hang onto each other and take that leap towards the other side. Knowing there are benefits to both types of pursuing our goals, it’ll get us that much closer to our goals.