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Lamonte - July 16, 2007

This past weekend I watched one of my favorite movies on TV.  The movie is called “Parenthood” and it was released in 1989. 

The cast includes a long list of Hollywood’s elite and the story includes many subplots of each smaller family that makes up a larger extended family with Jason Robards as the patriarch.  I like Jason Robards in almost anything because 1.  I think he’s a great actor, and 2. He looks a lot like my own father and sometimes acts that way as well.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Robards has come to grips with the realization that his favorite son, played by Tom Hulce (he starred in Amedaeus) is nothing more than a small time hustler and will never amount to anything.  Hulce has ask Robards to loan him $26,000 to pay of some threatening bookees and so Robards comes to his other son, Steve Martin (who was always the boring one) to ask his advice about the loan.  Their discussion leads to a more general conversation about the responsibilities of being a parent and then Robards says something like “You never get to the end; you never get to cross the goal line and spike the ball.  You are always a parent.”

I thought about those lines this weekend in the quiet of my house.  Things have been a little bit noisier in recent weeks as we have had many other visitors.  I have four sons, three of whom are married.  My oldest son has just finished a PhD and will be teaching at a university this coming fall.  But for about five weeks he and his family, including a wife and 2 children, have been living with us while they make the transition to their new location.  This past weekend they took the whole family to the new location to start moving their things into a house they are renting.  My second son is still in school and he and his wife have two children as well.  My third son is also married but he and his wife have no children.  Last fall they proposed a plan whereby they would come live with us for a few months (when their lease was up on their apartment) which would give them a chance to pay of some bills so they could buy a house. We agreed and just a few weeks after they moved in my son lost his job.  The silver lining in this scenario is that he has decided to return to college and get his degree that he didn’t finish before getting married. He is attending a local school right now and they intend to move away from our area at the beginning of next year when he enrolls at a different school.  My youngest son is still living at home.  He moved out briefly a year or so ago and then realized that his old man knew what he was talking about when he suggested that he couldn’t afford to move until he finished school and got a better paying job. So my youngest son is back in the house now.

So over the past several weeks there have been 9 people living in my house where the most we ever had before was 5 (My oldest son had left for his mission before we bought that house and never has lived there full time.)  This past weekend Son #1 was away moving into his new home, Son #3 took his wife on a weekend trip visiting some of the campuses he is investigating and Son #4 was sleeping a lot like he often does on Saturday.  Son #2 was with his family in the city where he attends school.  I like the solitude of an empty house but I also love to have the whole family together.  I wish I could help my sons more from a financial standpoint but I also believe it is important for them to pay their own way for the things they really want.  My wife and I try to assist where possible but there is always a struggle.

I think of my own parents and how long they assisted us in establishing our lives.  I think of the love and emotional support I’ve always got from them with whatever I was doing and I want to provide that same emotional support for my kids, as well as any financial support I can give, for as long as they need it.  I think about Jason Robards’ words “You never get to cross the goal line…” and wonder if that will be the case for me.  Should it be the case for any us?  What obligations should we have as parents?  How long before we get to rest?  



  1. I always get the movie Parenthood mixed up with another 80s movie, a dark comedy called Parents. About a boy whose parents are cannibals.

    I think you get to rest when your health is failing and your kids have to take care of you.

    Comment by Susan M — July 16, 2007 @ 7:44 am

  2. I think we cross some goal lines. It is a blessing to associate with my older children (still one 16yo son at home) as adults. I don’t feel the same responsibility towards them now. I trust them because they know what they should do. I enjoy being able to help them (financially and otherwise) – not so much because of parental duty but simply because I love them. I have pretty good kids. They are a joy.

    Other goal lines we never cross. My older brother died early this year from an aggressive malignancy. He was in his late 50s. It was a couple of years after he lost his wife to cancer, also. I have caught my mother (one of the strongest women I have ever met) shedding tears over her loss. I hope to never rest from that aspect of parenthood.

    My biggest hope is that my children learn from the mistakes I have made.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — July 16, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  3. I love when Steve Martin plays the cowboy for his son’s birthday party. It reminds me of something Bill Cosby said in his book Fatherhood: “As a dad, it is often my duty to sit tall in the saddle and overlook a lot.” Also, you know that song they sing at the beginning, about “ridin’ in the chevy”? At one time, my sons and I had over thirty verses we had made up.

    I have five sons, and I doubt there will ever be a day in my life when I don’t worry about every one of them.

    Comment by Mark IV — July 16, 2007 @ 8:21 am

  4. I’m at the beginning of the parenting spectrum. My oldest is 6 and my youngest is 5 1/2 months. We’re hoping to have more, as well (we have four).

    I can’t imagine ever feeling anything but fear as the venture out on their own. #1 is starting 1st grade this fall and as excited as I am for school to start, I’m nervous to have her away for so long. I miss her when she’s gone.

    I used to say that if I can have all my children before I’m 30, then they’ll all be gone before I’m 50. Then I can travel the world! But I doubt it will happen. I’m sure I will be very much like my own parents, willing and able to help out my children until it’s physically and mentally impossible to do so.

    However, at the same time, I think some parents can be too helpful with their kids. I think we all have to be careful not to enable them to be lazy and the like…(not implying anything, Lamonte!)

    Comment by Cheryl — July 16, 2007 @ 9:07 am

  5. Cheryl – No implication taken. I’ve tried to use the same practice my parents did when it comes to college. I paid for it myself with student loans and with income from working in the summer and during the school year. But I always knew my parents had my back when times got tough. My sons have been fortunate to get into good schools and get some or all of it paid for through scholarships and grants. And not necessarily because they were brilliant in high school but because they have changed their lives as adults, after their missions and after they got married (kind of like me except I didn’t serve a mission).

    Mark IV – I share your belief that I will always worry about my sons’ welfare. And while I really think it is important that they experience some of life’s disappointments to help them appreciate the good times, it will always be my inclination to protect them as much as I can.

    Mondo Cool – I spend every chance I get telling my kids about the mistakes I made, hoping they will not have to repeat them in their lives.

    Susan M – You and I have a definite difference in our taste for movies! ;-)

    Comment by Lamonte — July 16, 2007 @ 9:34 am

  6. I had a friend in HS who was pretty rebelious and disrespectful to his parents and the rules of thier house. Around the time of HS graduation(of which he was a drop out) his parents dropped a bomb on him – “We’re moving to Florida, and you’re not welcome.” Looking back, his parents might have been justified – I don’t know every detail – but if me and my friend would have swapped parents back then I might be the one digging ditches(literally)with a bad case of tuberculosis from chronic drug use instead of on the verge of graduating from a great school to work in a profession that I love with a wonderful wife and kids ta boot. Because we were on the same path. The difference was in our parents. I Thank God for parents who waste and wear out their lives in the service of their children.

    Comment by cj dougalss — July 16, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  7. CJ – It never is a waste when you wear out your life in loving your kids. I’m sure you know that by now.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 16, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

  8. Sorry, I was just using the D&C terminology.

    D&C 123: 13
    Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the bhidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—

    It does sound a little off but I love the scripture.

    Comment by cj dougalss — July 16, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

  9. after catching snippets of it on tv over the years, i finally netflixed “parenthood” and watched it from beginning to end a few weeks ago. the scene where robards talks to martin about hulce also really struck me.

    i moved out when i was 16. i had graduated from high school, was emancipated from my parents, and was on my own. i harbor some resentment over all of it. on the flip side, my husband has some family members who have made horrific choices and are constantly welcomed back home despite their actions. as an example, one refuses to keep a job, uses drugs, abuses alcohol, is foul-mouthed and rude and yet he is fully supported, taken on vacations, and so on. i can’t wrap my head around it. my husband says he understands, that keeping your child close to you, regardless of age or circumstance, is sometimes the only way you can protect them.

    interestingly, my husband feels that you’re on your own once you’re 18 and graduated whereas i think you can stay as long as is feasible so long as you are being a productive citizen and a good kid.

    Comment by makakona — July 16, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

  10. makakona,
    you bring up a great point. And my parents were really only going to tolerate my nonsense for so long. They definiely weren’t push overs – just looking and waiting for signs that I would get my act together. Some kids need some tough love to wake up. I guess it depends on the situation.

    Comment by cj douglass — July 16, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

  11. My parents never had any money to help anyone out but their house was always open. When I was a kid we had my sister’s family of five living with us for a couple of years. At that time there were still four of us kids living at home, so there was a total of 11 people in the house, which wasn’t a very big house. There was a lot of conflict and stress and it was hard on everyone. Being a selfish kid, all I wanted was for them to leave. And I’m sure my parents felt that the situation was less than ideal, but as far as I know they didn’t put any pressure on them to leave. They were willing to help out however they could.

    Later on when I was a teenager we had my other sister and her three kids, one of whom was a truly troubled kid of 6-7. I think he was angry and felt abandoned by their father or something, but he was a terror. That situation sucked for everyone, but my sister needed help to get on her feet after her divorce and my parents helped the only way they could.

    As much as I hated those very long stretches of sharing “my” house, I’m really glad that my parents were willing to help their kids out because 1) it helped my sisters, whom I love and 2) it was a great example of charity.

    Probably the worst experience my parents had with people living with them just happened over the past few years. My ex-brother-in-law called up and said that he had had enough of my nephew, who was a teenager into drugs and in trouble with the law. My sister, his mother, was a truck driver and couldn’t settle down in one place, so my mom and Parkinson’s-stricken dad, who were finally empty nesters and getting a break from raising thirteen kids, took the kid in. It didn’t take long for him to make friends with the bad kids and get into drugs and in trouble. He stole my parents car, for which they reported him, and had to do time in juvenile detention. Then they let him stay with them again. The last straw was when my mom discovered that he was trying to make meth in the basement. That’s when they finally kicked him out for good.

    I had hope for the kid, and my parents did too. It was amazing what they were willing to put up with in order to give him a chance. But he was an idiot (and I really think he’s suffered brain injury from drugs) and refused to take the opportunity to put his life on track. I think you always wonder if you could do more. cj douglass is probably a testament that you shouldn’t give up too early. But I don’t know that you have to keep on supporting kids if by doing so you enable them in their screwing up.

    From what I hear my nephew is actually holding a couple of jobs and may be doing alright. Maybe being faced with sink or swim, kids are more likely to finally put their heads on straight. Sometimes they sink, though.

    Comment by Tom — July 17, 2007 @ 5:51 am

  12. Tom – Thanks for sharing your story. Your parents sound like wonderful people. My own parents have a similar story of putting up with a lot from their own children even still today while they are in their 80′s. Of course I am their only perfect child! ;-) From my own experience I know how hard it is not to help your kids through some bonehead decisions they might have made but I also agree that each child must learn to look after themselves and sometimes pushing them out the door is the only answer. Let’s pray that your nephew has finally learned his lesson. As a child and as a parent I have learned that those decisions are the hardest part of being a parent. And yet, when all is said and done, it is also the most rewarding part of being a parent. I’ve been blessed that my sons have made good decisions in their lives even if they’ve made some bad ones at first. God has been good to me and my family. We have been blessed despite some hardships along the way. I hope he is good to your family as well.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 17, 2007 @ 7:24 am

  13. [...] Filed under: Uncategorized — Johnna @ 6:52 pm Over at Nine Moons they’re riffing off Parenthood, one of my all-time favorite movies.   [...]

    Pingback by Parenthood « Just Johnna — July 19, 2007 @ 11:52 am

  14. I am always telling my wife how stressed I am while driving, but alas she just says too bad.

    Comment by TStevens — July 25, 2007 @ 7:26 am

  15. I haven’t seen the movie in a long time, but as far as the job of being a parent, I hope it never ends. My kids are still quite young and although I know they will grow to need me less, I hope they will feel that they can always count on me no matter how old they get.

    Comment by lds fact finder — July 26, 2007 @ 1:25 pm

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