Spending a week musing on one movie carries with it an implicit recommendation to see the movie. Of course I encourage you to see The Impossible, but I also caution that there are “intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images” to quote the Motion Picture Association of America.
The film follows closely the events when Maria and her son Lucas are reunited after a tsunami hits their Southeast Asian resort on December 26, 2004. They’re wounded and separated from the rest of their family. Their journey takes them through the wreckage to a tiny village then on to a grimy hospital overwhelmed with survivors.
As I watched Maria’s struggle, and 13-year-old Lucas’s attempts to help her, there were painful moments of weakness for Maria. No parent should have to go through this, I kept thinking; to be so vulnerable, when the child needs you to be strong. It broke my heart imagining the sorrow she must have felt to be so dependent on her son and others at a time when she’d want to protect him from further harm.
I suspect most parents want to be strong and all-knowing and in control of their faculties at all times for their children. I know I thought that was what parenting meant. Now that I’ve been at it for about 20 years, I know that some of my best moments, and strongest bonds with my girls, came at times when I needed their help, or needed their counsel, or my absence called them to rise to the occasion and be braver, smarter, and stronger than they thought they’d be (to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh).
As Maria struggles to heal, Lucas learns much about courage, and the satisfaction that comes through service to others. He also experiences the deep pain of separation and the exultation of reunion. Lucas learned what he was made of, something he may never have grasped if mommy was perfectly loving, strong, and protective all along.
As parents, or in any nurturing or mentoring role, may we be brave enough to be weak—to let our vulnerable selves be not a weakness but an opportunity for those growing along with us, watching our example.