My husband and I flew home from Dallas a short while ago
after a week filled with appearances, including our multi-day presentation on
marriage and money. Two tired travelers, an evening flight and a crowded plane
suggested that zoning out was the best strategy. I had never heard of the movie
being shown, Way, Way Back, but watching it seemed a good way to ignore
my narrow-seated reality.
Instead, it made me realize a new reality of today’s world.
The movie, described as a “poignant coming of age” film, featured a number of
adolescents. All of them were children of divorce and all of them had parents
who put themselves ahead of their children. The kids were sad and troubled—not
because growing up is challenging—but because of their parents’ self-centered choices.
These were not abusive parents. They seemed the type of
mothers and fathers who might well make the statement, “I’d throw myself under
a bus for my kid.” While, they might choose their child’s life over their own
if confronted by such a dilemma, what they would not sacrifice was their own sex
life. If this movie reflects reality at all, today, the right to sexual
activity is more sacred than the ties between even mothers and children. Each
of the teenagers in the movie felt rejected by one parent and ignored by the
other as the adults who were supposed to love them put their own search for new
relationships ahead of their children. The strangest thing was that these
parents seemed utterly unaware that this narcissism was causing deep damage.
Without stretching too far, you could even say it was a form of child
abuse. Statistics that reveal the number
of children living with adults who are not either their parent or married to
their parent, or whose parents have ‘friends’ stay overnight, suggests that the
movie reflects reality.
Even granting that seeing a movie on a plane makes it less
attractive than usual, none of the parents in this film seemed appealing. That
is not the case for the character of Sarah Braverman in the popular show Parenthood.
Played by Lauren Graham, she is attractive and funny, and her love for her
children shines through. Yet, after marrying poorly, thus providing them with
an alcoholic, irresponsible father, she repeatedly hurts her children as her
personal life takes priority over them. She is incapable of ignoring the pull
of affection and sex, leading her, for example, to sleep with her daughter’s
high school teacher and to uproot her son and move him to her fiancé’s
apartment (though the sexual tug to her boss will end that relationship).
Somehow, Sarah’s desperate desire to be a good mother ends at the point that
she might actually choose sexual and emotional celibacy for herself to protect
The show doesn’t gloss over the damage to the children,
including an alcoholic car wreck involving her daughter and her son’s excruciating
emotional pain. Both these results directly stem from their mother’s actions.
Yet, none of the other adults in her life force her to acknowledge the
disconnect between her maternal feelings and her selfish behavior. Is it
possible that the adults and teenagers watching the show also don’t see that
this woman needs to tell herself that her role as mother means she must carefully
weigh up the call of that part of her own life against her children’s best
interests until they become healthy adults?
There certainly would be damage as well if the relationships
shown in the above shows were chaste. The message to the child would still be,
“I come first.” Nevertheless, it is clear in the above situations, the
inability to master sexual urges or the lack of understanding that having
dinner with someone is quite different from sleeping with them, propels
relationships more quickly and less thoughtfully. No one even seems to see that
disrupting the children’s living arrangements makes them less secure and comfortable.
Have we truly reached the point in society where we have bought into the
message that as long as you are protected from pregnancy and STDs, sex can
cause no harm? Have we seriously elevated the right to sexual activity above
our obligations to love, protect and cherish our young?
The movie on the plane did help pass the time. It also left
me amazed at reviews that cited funny lines or heart-tugging scenes but left
unmentioned the appalling cruelty by parents living in a society that
celebrates social mores that inflict cruel and unusual punishments on our
Is this a trend that you have also noticed?