Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Thoughts on “Boyhood,” Parenthood, and Being Human

boyhood

Drew and I watched “Boyhood” over the weekend (in bed!) and I know I’m a little late to the game discussing it since it was released many months ago, but, seeing as it was just released for rent a few days ago and it won Golden Globes last night for best picture and best supporting actress (Patricia Arquette, who is excellent) and best director (Richard Linklater, who is my all-time favorite director), hopefully I will be forgiven. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it (see it!), but I will say that it’s rare that I watch a movie and it stays with me for longer than it takes for me to get home from the theater or, more often these days, take out my contacts and wash my face and get ready for bed. It’s only been a couple of days, but I’m still thinking about the movie and hope we will begin seeing more films that experiment with time lapse production and editing. (“Boyhood” was shot for about one week a year over the course of 12 years). Beyond the groundbreaking production style, I really loved the simplicity of the story and how, as Linklater said in his acceptance speech last night, the film portrays the flaws and evolution we all (hopefully) experience as humans who love and grow and relate to each other and make lives and families together and just try to do our best as we go through life.

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As a mom of a son who seems to be growing so quickly (look how big he’s getting!), I thought the idea of watching a boy grow from 6 to 18 in the span of three hours would feel a little overwhelming, emotionally, and make me sad for the years that have already passed and how fast I know Jackson’s remaining childhood will continue to fly by. But it didn’t, really. Ironically — especially given my predilection for nostalgia — I don’t tend to feel too bittersweet right now about the passing of time when it comes to my role as a mom. Maybe, probably, it’s because I’m still so in the thick of it and it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that eventually — and faster than I can imagine right now — Jackson will be grown, or at least old enough to not need or want me in the same way he does now. That point still seems so far away that I see it with a perspective of relief and not as much sadness as I will one day.

I know what a luxury it is to say that — to feel like there’s still so much time, even if it is passing quickly — and somewhere in the back of my mind I know my heart will break when Jack no longer runs to me when he needs a kiss on a stubbed toe or a scraped knee or a bumped head, and so I soak up those moments and remind myself they aren’t going to last. But in these days that are still young for him as a kid and young for me as a mom, the idea that he will be independent eventually is a welcomed thought. I look forward to watching him grow up and become a person with his own unique opinions and ideas. And, frankly, I look forward to eventually getting back the pieces of myself and my own life that I have been devoting to raising a small child.

But then I wonder, what will those pieces of myself and my own life look like then? In “Boyhood,” when Patricia Arquette becomes an empty-nester after years of raising two kids as a single mom, she seems… well, empty. And she even says to her son as he leaves for college: “This is the saddest day of my life.” What will that be like to devote so much to something/someone who will eventually just leave me? Is it much different if you have a partner you’re sharing the experience with? Or will it still feel as empty and lonely? I don’t know. And I don’t know how you prepare for that day either except to keep at least a foot in a life outside your children as much as you can when they require so much of you so that, as their need for you changes and lessens and your free time expands, you have your own direction and interests to pursue.

And then there’s the whole theme in “Boyhood” about doing the best you can despite your flaws and mistakes and poor life choices. And I think about that sometimes — about how my own flaws and limitations have and will affect Jackson. Sometimes I feel so guilty for the things I don’t or can’t provide him simply because I don’t try harder. Or because I haven’t overcome my own personality flaws. Or because I’m lazy or selfish or because sometimes I put my own needs first — my need for rest or quiet or a morning (or whole day) to myself. But then I think: Hey, this is helping him build character. This is helping him form some independence. This is helping him to think creatively and to learn how to entertain himself. And so what if it’s not actually doing anything positive for him, but it’s benefitting ME? That’s ok, too. I think. Motherhood, after all, isn’t martyrdom. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Anyway, it was a treat to watch a film that got me thinking about my own life experiences (in the same way, I imagine, it got a lot of people thinking about their own experiences) and the life still yet to be lived. And maybe it’s with the naivety of a mother who is still in the early stages of parenting — but also, maybe as a woman who has a foot in a life outside parenthood, and definitely as a mother who has had the privilege of being very present in her kid’s daily life — that I can say I am looking forward to the later, more independent years of my son’s childhood as much as I am the immediate ones to come. I just hope I don’t mess any of them up too much. You know, just enough to keep everything interesting.

25 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ktfran January 12, 2015, 2:10 pm

    My mom is still the first person I call for any kind of news always and forever.
    .
    And I’m happy Boyhood won a few awards. It thoroughly enjoyed watching it with my sis at the theater.

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 3:07 pm

      I’m happy it won too. I haven’t seen many movies this year but the ones I have scene I’ve hated, except Boyhood. I can’t shut up about it. And I have so much work to do but now I just can’t stop thinking about Boyhood. What an amazing experience that movie is. I’m jealous of everyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It’s so beautifully done.

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 2:22 pm

    I too loved Boyhood. That scene in the kitchen where Patricia Arquette is crying when her son leaves home for college, she says “I just expected there to be more” and it really floored me. I was balling. I saw in the theaters and then I rented it from Redbox Saturday am and watched it twice this weekend. It still moved me. It really is a unique film. I love the simplicity of it all – it’s all very real, with no significant plot – except the plot of life. I like that, though. Because in movies there’s always an ending – everything gets resolved – but in life it’s really not like that. We face obstacles, we get through them the best we can, but then there’s more. We continue to learn and grow and struggle and evolve… I’m rambling now. But, yes, I liked a whole hell of a lot. And I’m obsessed with Patricia. I can’t get enough of her. I’ve even started to re-watch Medium.

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    • Lianne

      Lianne January 12, 2015, 2:30 pm

      I loved Medium! And I also love Patricia Arquette. Hands down my favorite Arquette.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy January 12, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Oh, Patricia Arquette is great, isn’t she? So genuine and classy. And I actually haven’t seen her in much, so I’m a new fan. Should I watch Medium?

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 2:56 pm

        I really liked it. I thought she was great in it. It was fun watching Boyhood and seeing Patricia during the years that she would have also been starring in Medium – same blond bob.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne January 12, 2015, 2:57 pm

        I loved Medium. Such a great concept for a show.

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    • avatar

      ktfran January 12, 2015, 2:40 pm

      AP, I’m disappointed… i thought for sure you would bring up our conversation about one of the missing plot points…

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 2:50 pm

        Oh yes that! That was a really good article and really the only “flaw” with Boyhood – or maybe it’s a flaw with LInklater (and most white people who grow up in mostly white environments) – they don’t realize how race still affects them. I still think about that article a TON. Months later, I’m still thinking about it.

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  • Lianne

    Lianne January 12, 2015, 2:29 pm

    So, I have two friends who typically have good taste in movies recently tell me they thought the concept for this movie was brilliant, but overall they felt it missed the mark. Which led me to promptly say, I won’t see it then… Based on the awards it won and this post, I am reconsidering! For those who saw it, did you find there were aspects you wish they had done better?

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 2:55 pm

      Yes. It should have acknowledged race more. I didn’t notice it when I saw it, but I read this article that got me thinking and I do agree with the article. I can’t help but think LInklater experienced SOMETHING race related – either observed or heard or experienced more first hand – http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/09/the-not-so-relateable-boyhood/379700/.
      *
      But like the article discusses (if I remember correctly; I haven’t re-read it), we are kind of taught to ignore race and the role it plays in a lot of things around us. So LInklater’s omission of race I believe demonstrates just how much we (well, white people who grow up in mostly white communities) downplay the effect of race in our own lives.
      *
      Me, for example, I’ve grown up in mostly white schools and neighborhoods, yet I can recall very vividly experiences I’ve had that I’m sure the boy in Boyhood would have had – kids on the playground making racist jokes, fights at school, etc. Yet, here, the movie doesn’t touch upon it at all. Now, many people say that’s ok, he’s telling the story he chooses, but what he’s doing is telling the story of growing up in America in this time period. He briefly touches about domestic violence, homophobia, and other problems in society but the issue of race is silent. It’s omission is off.
      *
      BUT….. I still loved the movie. A ton.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 3:01 pm

        And to be clear, I’m not suggesting that he needed to fabricate a best friend who was black, or an inspiring teacher who was black. But, really, I can’t help but believe he didn’t experience things that involved racism. He could have thrown in some scenes on the playground or discussions in high school history or whatever where kids talked about race. It could have been just a couple of scenes, like the domestic violence and homophobia scenes were small snippets. Everything in the movie is a small snippet strung together to form his life and a few race-related snippets would have made it feel even more real.

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      • Lianne

        Lianne January 12, 2015, 3:18 pm

        Thanks for the perspective, AP! Very interesting. I decided I am definitely going to see it…all the chatter about it has be especially intrigued!

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        ktfran January 12, 2015, 3:34 pm

        Agreed. STILL LOVED the movie and as Wendy said, it’s one I thought about a lot after watching it.
        .
        I was ready to dismiss the article AP linked when she first posted it, but…. I sat and I thought about it and it is actually pretty true. I remember vividly my first experience with someone of a different race, i.e., African American, that wasn’t my Indian doctor or wasn’t the Cosby’s (yes, I referenced this because despite his controversy now, it was my first experience with people of a different color).

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki January 12, 2015, 2:53 pm

    I haven’t seen this but definitely want to. I’ll put it on my Netflix list right now (it is available on there, right? At least on DVD?).

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 2:56 pm

      It’s available at Redbox, not Netflix.

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 12, 2015, 3:20 pm

        Damnit AP, that’s not the answer I was looking for!

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      • honeybeenicki

        honeybeenicki January 12, 2015, 3:25 pm

        I just went on and Netflix claims they can get me the DVD… just not streaming. None of the good stuff is ever streaming. Although I can’t really complain – I don’t pay for it, I piggyback off my mom’s.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray January 12, 2015, 3:41 pm

        Whoops, I mean not available for instant watching! Ok you got it, go watch it, tell us what you thought!

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy January 12, 2015, 3:25 pm

      It’s available on nteflix through mail (not streaming) as of 1/6. It’s also available on Amazon and iTunes and Rebox.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra January 12, 2015, 7:03 pm

    Haven’t seen the movie, but if I could venture a guess based on what I read here, I think my dad is having a lot of these “empty nester” types of feelings right now. Obviously I’ve been out of the house for a while now but we’re in the thick of wedding planning, and I think in my dad’s mind he sees it as if he’s not the “go to” guy anymore, Navy Guy is. (circa “Father of the Bride) My dad gets really sentimental about stuff, and though he really really really likes Navy Guy, I think he will get pretty emotional over this.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark January 12, 2015, 7:14 pm

    Okay, okay. I guess, I will have to see this movie. I dunno. It initially struck me as such a cheap and obvious gimmick that it left me cold. Plus, I have never found Patricia Arquette to be an even remotely compelling actress. [despite the fact that I once had drinks with her much more interesting sister, Roseanna… 😉 ] She is just yet another product of nepotism. Yawn…

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    • Addie Pray

      Addie Pray January 13, 2015, 5:00 am

      Ohhhh tell us about drinks with Roseanna! But re Patricia, you’re wrong – Patricia is the best!

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      ktfran January 13, 2015, 9:57 am

      I was never a huge fan of her, but I did find her quite compelling in Boyhood. As was Ethan Hawk. Really, I liked everyone in this movie. The emotions of growing up really come across.

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  • avatar

    Sue Jones January 12, 2015, 9:13 pm

    I loved the movie. Every step of the way in parenting is an all consuming process. Last spring my son, now 11, finished elementary school. That last day at his nurturing hippie elementary school hit me really hard. All of us moms were hanging around crying… I somehow never expected that. And also last spring he went on a 4 day school outdoor ed trip in the mountains and the house seemed just…way…too…quiet. But then over the summer he was away for another week and my husband and I were able to have loud sex in the morning or any other time we pleased… and we took our own little trip together that week and had a great time doing things that kids just can’t do – like climbing some really hard big assed mountains. It was great and brought us closer together. So I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, once I cry my eyes out if he goes away to college (I happen to live in a college town here, but part of me hopes he will branch out and explore other parts of the country/world, and part of me hopes he will stay nearby…)

    And now he is in Middle School, and growing, voice deepening, signs of puberty all over the place, giant feet, only an inch shorter than I am… he has serious homework now… etc. But he still comes up to me and will play with my hair, occasionally even still sit on my lap (when nobody is looking, of course…) and I still see that little boy that he was… he’s still in there… for now.

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