They say nothing can fully prepare you for the joys (and yes, sometimes terrors) of parenthood. And as a mother of an almost three-year-old toddler, I wholeheartedly concur with that statement. The love that swells up in you while looking into their angelic little faces and the tiredness that consumes you during those sleepless nights — it all has to be experienced to truly be understood.
Yet that doesn't mean I went into the role of motherhood completely empty-handed. Sure, I took a few online classes and read up on as many pregnancy and parenting books as possible. But looking back on my journey as a mother thus far, I've come to realize that my greatest teacher in the ways of parenting came from an unexpected source: my favorite childhood movie and a beloved '90s classic, Hook.
For those of you unfamiliar with the film, the story follows the life of an adult Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, who has become the very thing he always feared: a grown-up. However, when Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps his children, Peter is forced to return to Neverland to save them and reconnect with the life — and little boy — he left behind all those years ago. It's a fun, creative twist to a classic Disney film.
I remember watching Hook over and over again when I was young. I just loved all the characters and the exciting adventures or situations they'd find themselves in. Little did I know, though, that it was also preparing me for the day that I would become a mother. Because even though Hook is generally deemed a "kid movie," it actually provides a lot of great advice for parents as well.
Stay young at heart.
I'd argue that the movie's entire premise serves as a reminder of the importance of staying in touch with your inner child. Adults, especially parents, are consumed with so many responsibilities that we can forget what's equally important: to have fun, act silly, live in the moment, use our imagination, and believe in magic. Being a grown-up can make us forget all those wonderful things that come with being young. That's why Peter was so terrified of growing up, after all! Only children possessed the ability to fly in Neverland because they had the capacity to believe in the impossible. Adults, on the other hand, were too jaded by the harsh realities of the world.
But Hook proved that even adults can (and should) reconnect with that childlike part of themselves that still exists deep down. His journey reminds us to keep that belief in magic alive so that our kids can experience it as well and share in that joy. Embracing that concept made Peter a better father, and it's made me a better mother.
Time is a precious thing.
In one scene of the film, Peter's wife Moira warns him of the dangers of taking his children for granted. He had just missed Jack's big baseball game because of work, which has become a frequent occurrence, and Moira fears that Peter will end up missing precious time with his children that he'll be unable to ever get back.
She says: "Your children love you; they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Soon, Jack may not even want you to come to his games. We have a few special years with our children when they're the ones that want us around. After that, you're going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It's so fast, Peter. It's a few years, and it's over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it."
That moment has always stuck with me (to this day!) and served as a helpful reminder to not take one moment with my son for granted because he won't need me — like he does now — forever.
Think happy thoughts.
Being a parent is not easy. In fact, it's one of the most challenging, bewildering, time-absorbing, self-sacrificing jobs in the world. And while it's also definitely rewarding, it can be easy to find yourself filled with worry and doubt on a regular basis. Is my kid eating enough vegetables? Are they hitting all the milestones they should? Do I properly assure them how much they are loved?
However, Hook reminds me to find the joy in everyday life and fill my mind with positivity and hope whenever possible. Because even in the darkest of times, there should always be room for some happy thoughts.
Sure, none of these things specifically teach you how to sleep-train a baby, when to introduce them to solid foods, or even how to deal with colic. Still, the film's overarching lessons have truly helped me navigate this incredible (and exhausting) world of parenting more so than anything else. And what an awfully big adventure it's turning out to be.