Pop Culture Parenting – Ant-Man

“This is your chance, the chance to earn that look in your daughter’s eyes, to become the hero that she already thinks you are.” Michael Douglas – Dr. Hank Pym

The greatest achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in my mind, is the masterful blending of genres. Yeah, these are all comic book, smash-em-up, escapist fantasy. But underneath this larger umbrella, there have been lots of subtle (and not so subtle) uses of other types of movies. The first Thor movie was close to Shakespearean epic, while Ragnarok was more of a buddy comedy with arena fighting and explosions. My favorite of these, though, is probably Ant-Man.

Ant-Man is, at it’s heart, a heist movie. And Scott Lang is the thief doing the heist-ing. (Is that a word? Did I just verbify the word heist?) And, while I love the planning and the action, this movie, more than probably any other in the MCU, is a Dad movie.

Hank, played by Michael Douglas, is father to Hope (Evangeline Lilly), with a somewhat strained relationship playing out. Scott (with the inspired casting of Paul Rudd) is a thief fresh out of prison and trying desperately to be a good dad to his girl, Cassie ( Abby Ryder Forston). Almost everything in this movie hinges on father-daughter relationships.

Scott’s only motivation is to be able to see his daughter. Without that motivation, he doesn’t steal the Ant-Man suit, he doesn’t meet Hank Pym, he doesn’t become Ant-Man, and therefore does not become an Avenger. From burglar to Avenger, for no other reason than a father’s love for his daughter.

That’s the thing. Our kids can drive us to be better than we think we can be. They make us want to to ridiculous things just to see them smile, hear them laugh. (You’ve all danced to that stupid “Baby Shark” song. Admit it.)

Here’s the other thing. We don’t have to become an Avenger to be our kids’ hero. Fact is, if we’re doing our jobs, spending time with them, being silly, goofy, present, and loving, we’ve already achieved hero status in the eyes of the only ones who matter.

When Little Bit wakes up while Mama is at work, she wakes up asking for Elmo, Mama, and Pooh, usually in that order. When she wakes up with Mama, and I’m in the other room or out running errands, she almost invariably asks for Dada. (Well, Elmo still sneaks in top billing, but at least I’m in the mix.) Adn the best thing in the world is when I walk in the door, she looks up, and with a big smile on her face, yells, “Dada!” In that moment, seeing the sheer joy on her face just because I walked in the door, makes me feel like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, all rolled into one.

Guys, here’s the bottom line. If you want to be a better dad, better husband, better man, then do it. Set a great example for your kids, show them how to grow up strong, smart and safe. But if you’re trying to be the perfect dad, to do everything just right, to never make a mistake . . . you’re going to drive yourself insane. Perfection isn’t the goal. Loving your kids with everything you’ve got – that’s heroic.

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Pop Culture Parenting – Yoda Edition

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Yoda

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

There’s so much I want to teach my kids. Certainly reading, writing, all that academic crap, sure. But more than that, I want to teach them how to be in the world, how think about things and not settle for mediocrity. I want to raise them to be the best human beings they can possibly be.

“Do as I say, not as I do” just isn’t going to cut it.

That means I have to BE the best human being I can be.

As my beloved bride will attest, I am decidedly not that. I have, to put it mildly, some work to do.

To that end, I present the first installment of Pop Culture Parenting. I’m taking movie quotes, song lyrics, characters from my favorite movies, TV shows and books, and extracting the lessons and character traits I want my kids to see in their Daddy and take on themselves.

Me being me, I have to start with one of my all time favorite movies, The Empire Strikes Back.

Go watch this. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

There’s so much good stuff packed in this short scene. In a nutshell, Luke doubts his ability to lift his X-wing with the force, but tells Yoda resignedly that he’ll give it a try. That’s when we hear the line.

“No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Man, that hits me hard.

We live with my in-laws right now, helping out with health problems and letting Little Bit get to know her cousin here. Especially since the Corona lockdown, there have been some . . . disagreements here and there. I work on having a better attitude and doing better. When my bride and I talk about it, I tell her, “I am trying, baby. I really am.”

As if trying gets me bonus points or something.

Trying is all well and good, as long as it leads to progress, to improvement. Unfortunately, that’s not how many people use the word. I see “trying” used a lot as a “get out of jail free” card, as if to say, I’m trying, so if I fail, it’s not my fault. It’s a way to blame external circumstances for our own failings.

I don’t want to do that anymore. Not just for my sake, but for my children as well.

I want my kids to learn personal responsibility, and not the avoidance of it.

When I was a kid, I’d screw up (as we all do), and my father would always sit me down and ask me, “OK, What have you learned from this.”

That is an important question.

That seemingly simple question encompasses so much of how I want my kids to live their lives. Examine your life. See how you can improve. Own your mistakes. Learn from everything.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

The other day, I told her that I was eliminating “try” from my vocabulary. It’s do or do not. I’ll either do it well, or I’ll screw it up, own it, and do better next time. It’s definitely a process, but it’s getting better. I’m learning where my shortcomngs are in regards to patience and control are and getting stronger and better in those areas, bit by bit.

Man, this would be easier if I had the Force. And a lightsaber.