Marc and I have a couple of go-to movies. They are our comfort movies — our potato/carbohydrate movies. One of those movies is Midnight in Paris. It’s a light, entertaining, and beautiful movie about a writer on vacation in Paris who wishes he could live in the glory days of Paris — in his mind, the 1920s. (Spoiler alert!) He travels back in time to the 1920s and meets a girl from that time who thinks it would have been the best to live in Paris in the “La Belle Epoque”.
We’ve watched this movie so many times, but last night when we watched it, I realized something: People idealize the past because they know how it ends. They know the whole story. Whereas, when you live in the present, there is more fear because you don’t know where things are going. Sure, in the movie they talk about all of the great characteristics of each of their favourite eras — the culture, the music, the feel of the time.
I’m convinced that part of the appeal is in knowing the whole story of those eras. And that whatever calamity may have hit in those times, they made it through. Or, as in both cases, the idealized eras of both characters end in the world taking a turn for the worse. (La Belle Epoque ends with World War I, and we all know what happened in the world once the roaring 1920s were over! ) By living in the past, we have the option to just pick the pieces that we like, but we also we know the whole story. We know how it ends, which will, of course, influence which parts we like!
And now I’m going to make this connect to parenthood.
I was at a baby shower tonight and struck up a conversation with a great lady from our church… which may or may not have lasted the entire shower until all but a few of the guests had left and where I didn’t even get up to the snack table!
We talked about all sorts of things, but what struck me was her perspective. She became a grandma a few years ago, so she’s about a full generation ahead of me in the game. And so her perspective on my stuff as a mom is different than mine because she’s walked it before in her own way. What I am looking ahead at in my future is what is in her past. She’s been there. She’s seen how it ends. As have a lot of the other ladies who joined our conversation.
And it is so good to hear their perspective. I can get so nervous about how my kids are going to turn out because of how they are behaving in these days. And what I need is not only some good advice about how to guide my children along paths of love, kindness, and gratitude. I also need to hear that kids (even kids you don’t know what to do with sometimes!) can turn out okay.
Because right now I don’t see what the future holds. Right now I have just over a decade of parenting under my belt and I can point to some rather harrowing moments of the past and can now see how they have shaped some beautiful things. But I see that best looking back. It’s awfully hard to see that looking ahead!
But when I sit with women who’ve gone on ahead of me, I can reorient my thinking a bit so the future isn’t quite so scary. So I can live in my present a little more fully and not fantasize about going back to a “better” time when life was more in control (because life didn’t actually feel all that in control when I was living then anyway!). Nor do I have to try to live in the future — either through worrying about how things will go or dreaming of a time when there won’t be lego men and spilled Nesquick on the kitchen table for days on end.
As we drove home from the shower, Madeline said to me, “Why is the dark so scary?” I replied, “Because we can’t see where we’re going.”
Exactly. But when I talk to these ladies — these ladies who’ve lived it — and when I take the courageous step of saying how things are really going for me… it’s like those bright beams on the front of the van on the drive home. I still don’t see everything ahead of me, but I see a lot more than I would without them.
So, tonight I go to bed thankful for good movies, good conversations, and those brave women who are walking ahead of me on the journey.