Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hold Em' Close but Hold Em' Loosely: A Toy Story 3 Lesson on the Joy and Heartache of Parenting

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord...blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!" (Psalm 127:3a,5a)

My wife and I took our children to the movies tonight to watch Toy Story 3. It was a wonderful movie. Ellie Kate (my witty, beautiful 3 year old daughter) sat in my lap nearly the entire movie while Emmett (my blonde-haired, blue-eyed and very determined 1 year old son) sat next to us in Amy's lap. The Kilpatricks were together at the movies in full force--even our unborn child was present. I guess that means that Amy actually had 2 children in her lap at the same time! ;)
I was prepared to watch a great movie with the family. What I wasn't prepared for, however, was the emotional, parental lessons that would present themselves during the movie. And as I held my daughter, watching the eager expectation in her eyes, the movie began. The opening scene was a doozy. Without spoiling the movie for those of you who have not watched it, I will simply mention that the opening scene is a flashback to Andy's youth. It sets the stage for the transitional theme of the movie: Children grow up.
Hold em' close.
Not even 5 minutes into the movie, I found myself holding Ellie Kate a bit tighter and doing my best to soak up these few short minutes of family movie watching. Occasionally, I'd glance over to look at my wife and son in the chair beside us. Emmett was loving the movie too. I could tell that Amy was probably thinking the same things.
Andy grows up. The entire movie hangs on the balance of the enormous life shift. Although Andy has gotten older, there is still just enough child in him to struggle with whether or not to hold on to some of his toys or give them away for good. In the end, Lord help me, Andy does the unthinkable. Without giving specifics, I'll simply say that he does indeed let go.
Off to college. Off to his own independence. The quiver is now empty. The parental bow was strung, tightened, and ready to shoot. Andy was taken out of the quiver and shot into the world. The Toy Story 3 release was made. And, it all revolved around the maturity of Andy.
The toys had played their part. They had been there for Andy from the time his imagination ran wild and his adventures with them were many until he cared very little to play with them at all. And it was in this part of the movie that I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach over a haunting, heartbreaking fact. Are you ready for this? Parenting, in many ways, is much like being the toy. As I held Ellie Kate in my arms, I realized that Amy and I were in the stage of parenting where the children are still fascinated to play with us and enjoy wild imagination adventures while the world was still larger than life. But as she gets older, things will change.
Hold em' loosely.
From the toy's perspective (and the parent's perspective as well) we can understand that there is a rich, heartwarming truth found even in this transitional tragedy. And this brings me to Psalm 127. Children are a heritage. They are a blessing. And the real blessing is found, get this, in the simple fact that we were given the opportunity to be there for them and guide them through their growth.
Of all the people in the world. Of all the toys. We were the ones blessed with this opportunity. The opportunity to be there. The opportunity to be held. The opportunity to be confided in. The opportunity to listen when no one else would. The opportunity to be a parent.
Hold em' close but Hold em' loosely. And love them every minute of their changing lives.
God bless.