Robin Williams, Hook, and What I Retrospectively Learned About Fatherhood From My Favorite Peter Pan

The 1991 Spielberg movie, Hook, with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman, probably is one of the first movies I can remember thinking of as a “favorite”. I am discrediting and dating myself in the same sentence when I say that I was five years old and some change when this flick came out. I probably actually first watched it a few years later, but regardless of that irrelevancy, I will admit here and now that I can say Hook is one of those movies that left it’s cultural mark on me.

Parenthetically, it is no new thing for people, famous or not, who we have become accustomed to having around, whether in our normal everyday lives or on the silver screen, to shake us out of a stupor when they die. I count myself with the uncountable when I say I was shaken out of my personal attitude of taking one for granted today when I heard the news about Robin Williams’ death. The relevancy of this man’s life is not measured in how funny he was (he was very funny), or how famous he was (he was that, too), but the fact that he existed at all. He mattered.

When I first watched Hook, I watched it as a young kid who could pick up on the plot line of a workaholic lawyer, a husband and father of two, who also happened to be the grown up version of the boy Peter Pan. I watched how this man in the movie’s first act couldn’t arrive to his son’s baseball game on time, and how his priorities were swayed more towards being successful in his career than as husband and dad. Also, by the third act, I can remember the triumph over shame in Peter being there for his kids when they needed him the most.

Williams’ acting, in my opinion, was perfectly tuned to the attitude many of us, men or women, gear ourselves towards. Be successful, stand out in our profession, gain commendation from our peers, and, naturally, make lots of money. All well and good, but not so much if it’s all at the expense of the reasons why those strivings matter in the first place.

As a boy, I can remember my dad working and doing his best to be the best in his field. I salute him for doing so. But I can remember that I didn’t care if he was the best at what he did; I cared about him and the time spent with him. In the movie, I believe, that family element was touched upon via Peter rescuing his kids as well as making his office as Dad more important than his career.

As a dad now myself, the impact of that basic lesson hits me again, this time as a father learning the lesson every day. This is what I find ultimately valuable from watching this adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan: Williams’ character struggled with very real everyman obstacles in a fantastical setting. The domestic problems he had in the real, everyday, normal world were made drastically and painfully more urgent in Neverland. In the former, he unwittingly ignored his family in order to succeed (and oddly enough provide for said ignored family). In the latter, his children had been captured by Captain Hook and hauled off to Neverland, and their lives were clearly in peril by outside influence (or walking the plank, or semi-dead crocodile).

Williams’ character, like all of us, faced choices. Ultimately, in the face of very clear consequences, he chose to do what was right and place others’ before himself. Any good story has that elemental truth in it, whether or not the protagonist opts for the good or not. As a Robin Williams fan, I can enjoy his finest work. As a fan of the movie, Hook, I will draw from it’s enjoyable and entertaining tale. As a husband and father of four (soon to be five), I will draw all that I can from sources which do not shy away from presenting stark truths. As a Christian, to paraphrase C.H. Spurgeon, I can draw from many sources, but I live in the Bible.

To me, Hook is a great film. I was and still am a Peter Pan fan. Also, I find all the early ’90s idiosyncrasies nostalgic as well as humorous. The cell phone with the retractable antenna and Rufio’s hair adds up to limitless laughs. The “Gandhi ate more than this” quote during the food fight scene is probably one of my favorite comedic moments in the film. All in all, culturally, looking back on this movie brings back part of my childhood. Also, I can’t ignore the truths found in its script either.

And, yes, I cannot mention this movie without saying this: I, too, will miss Robin Williams.





Grace, Contentment and Dapper Dan

Grace and contentment are two things on my mind lately. The former is something ongoing, something which I experience at a deeper level the more I realize, as it’s name suggests, I don’t deserve it. The latter is something I am learning from the contents of the pockets of my jeans.

Depending on the day, the contents of my pockets will vary. From the universal contents such as pennies and dimes and lint, not Lent (that would be an odd as well as an abstract thing to carry around), to more personality-specific items such as a guitar pick or a ratchet end wrench. Every now and again, perhaps, a small paperback in my back pocket. Not to be found, a silver money clip with a rock star supply of cash or a can of FOP (because if I was a pomade user, I would use Dapper Dan).

At any rate, monetarily speaking, my pockets are on the lean side of life and to make matters worse, even if I wanted to use Dapper Dan, I probably couldn’t afford it when adjusted to current prices. Therefore, lately, I have been in a less-than-content state of mind. The obvious and thankful fact that I have pants at all is lost to me when I wander from the immutable truth that God doesn’t forsake His elect. That doesn’t mean He won’t let His children go without things like aromatic hair tonics or rock star money clips. I really should just be glad I am not only a creature but a child of the God who fashioned all things.


I suppose, too, the oddities I do have in my pockets also should, in a strange way at the end of a long day at work makes sense to me, be reasons to give thanks. Guitar picks enable the picker to cut the finger nails on the picking hand so he or she doesn’t have to have crazy long nails to pick the strings. Pennies and dimes mean at one time there was a dollar bill used to buy groceries and they are simply the remainders. Lint, not Lent, means, um, my awesome wife washed my jeans.


Bringing all back home, I like what Paul the apostle formerly known as Saul said in his letter to the Christians in Pilippi,


I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13, ESV).


Not to be mistaken as meaning he could literally fly like an eagle if he wanted or misapplied as a graceless, Christless prosperity gospel mantra, Paul simply stated he could deal both with having and not having. Simple as that. He could deal with it because of the gospel. He could deal with it because his greatest need was met on the Damascus road, where Christ was the intersection.




The Dad-Type vs. the Swashbuckling Bachelor

Being a father of four children, while perhaps not as hard a job as being a mother of four, is in itself a whole other world unto itself. I may be holding the office of Captain Obvious writing a sentence like the previous, but when I think about it, it sounds as if I’m dusting off some ancient relic within the labyrinth of some Central American pyramid like a domestically responsible Indiana Jones. Placing this in perspective, when I was an unmarried rogue of a bachelor I had as much free time as I had time off from work. The weekends and the hours after work days were totally free. Looking back, I had zero responsibility. The revelatory thing about taking an introspective look back is I practically did nothing remarkable.

I wasn’t a swashbuckling, hunk of a ladies’ man, taking girls out on the town in my two-tone ’83 Toyota four cylinder pickup. I was a 19 year old tire retreader in Auburn, Washington, I drank percolated Yuban coffee at home and hung out at Starbucks or Sherri’s 24 hour diner depending on my mood, and I had a library card- which I used frequently. My wardrobe consisted of whatever I found at the St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army thrift store. I was pretty much a loner outside work. I had a 4×4 but I never trekked off road, never went mountain climbing or hunted or fished. I was semi-nomadic on the weekends, talking long walks in the Orting Valley or into Sumner.

I usually had a moleskine notebook tucked in my shirt pocket and a Pilot gel ink pen packed away too. Fancied myself a lone, blue coller writer type who only actually had a couple of free lance pieces published in the Puyallup Herald. I think with both stories combined I made $100. I was living the dream.

By no means am I giving you, dear potential reader, the complete picture; also, I am not implying I actually had this deeper layer of mystique, to quote Shrek, “like an onion” or “parfait”. Not to downplay whatever segment of my life at that time was, but as I look back now, I could have done some dang cool things with my time. I could have fished for salmon in Alaska, fought grizzlies, or fought grizzlies trying to fish for salmon in Alaska. Or I could have worked on an off-shore oil rig thwarting the evil schemes of hostile Greenpeace activists on charter boats- with a squirt bottle. Alas, those things never came to fruition. The best was yet to come.

A couple of weeks ago, my wife, kids and I went up Lamoille Canyon in the Ruby Mountains, which are only fifteen miles away from our house, to check on the snow melt and when we might be able to start hiking. We drove about eleven miles in, almost to the end of the road and the trail head, when we hit the snow drift which indicated we wouldn’t be doing much hiking until the middle of July. There were two pickups parked at the snow drift and two men standing out in the sun chatting. I went up to introduce myself and the three of us started discussing the snow melt and trail conditions. One of the fellows was a white-haired old bloke, wearing minimalist hiking apparel-leather boots, khaki pants, long sleeve shirt and a round brim hat. The other was a younger, trendier man, maybe in his mid-thirties, and obviously single. Now, that is an odd thing to say for sure, but any married man with children knows what I mean when I say “obviously single”. If not, let me explain.

There are men out there, like me, who are happily married to a great woman, have a family, and know they’re blessed. Then there are other guys out there, single, and enjoying their singledom to the utmost. They are freewheelin’ types with a good job to support all their swashbuckling adventures. Depending on their context, they may have a muscle car, a nice apartment near a beach and surf a lot, or in this case, a good job and plenty of opportunity to cross country ski, can afford all the trendy, expensive hiking gear but choose to hike the entire Ruby Crest Trail like spartan, with a knife, ceramic pot and a staff made of mountain mahogany. Basically, the guys who are “obviously single” enjoy their freedom, blazing trails before the dad type can get all of his small children out of the family eight passenger car.

I love my family, and honestly, I do not envy those cool, lone wolf guys at all. But that doesn’t mean I won’t live vicariously through their awesome experiences when listening to them talk about reaching the summit of K2 in the Himalayas or Alaska’s Denali. My contentment in my marriage and family also doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes feel sick hearing them talk of all their coolish exploits. I grumble a little. But I rest knowing the lot I have been given is so very good! I try to revel in coming home at the end of a crazy day to the loud noises of my four children and the wife who loves me and also hands me a baby who needs his diaper changed. An epic diaper change.



Wash Your Hands Twice and Carry a Wet Bag

“I met a young girl and she gave me a rainbow.”

Bob Dylan, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

“Are you a ‘cool cloth diaper dad?'”

What was that? I had to clean out my ears when my wife asked me that question after I came home this evening from my latest towing call. Apparently, that was a title of a recent blog post from somewhere in the blogging world. I really honestly didn’t know the answer to this question. So it got me thinking, “Am I a cool cloth diaper dad?” That’s a haunting question. What if I’m not?

That’s what I love about my wife- she always surprises me in some measure and on a frequent basis. Questions are fun. “Do you know what day it is?” That’s a personal favorite of mine. She asked me that chestnut this morning before I headed out the door, slightly caffeinated. My back was turned and I was downing my second cup of coffee in one gulp when the question hit my ears. I froze. Time stopped. The Sun seemed to stay in place just like it did for Joshua (if only in my brain). I went through a cataloged list of possible answers, starting with the most important ones.

Then in a clumsy eye blink, not even a twinkling, I thought, “OK, it’s Wednesday.” No, dumb answer! Think, think, think! Keep it together, man! “It’s,” I finally said, more in the form of a question than a confident answer, “trash day.” “Good job!” she exclaimed.That right there, my potential readers, was a good moment, a moment totally made possible by my wife. She only gave me the test answer the previous evening. Little things like that go a long way towards keeping a man on his toes.

I often do not express, in actions, those inexpressible absolutes I have towards my woman; I reckon that’s a lifelong directive. But it ought to be an every day one as well. We’ve been married for almost seven years, and I still can’t keep myself from thinking, “Why did she marry me?” I met her when she was 19 and I was 20. I couldn’t say more than a few words to her nor she to me, but that was all right. When she said that one word when I asked her (not “axed” her) to tie the ol’ knot with me, culminating with those two words at our wedding ceremony, I felt some of what God must enjoy when we take delight in Him in response to His love toward us.

Cloth diapering is a game changer once you have kids and you make the commitment to get your hands even dirtier. You really have to want to save money and love your children in a special sort of way to start it. Once you get going, or once your wife gets the green light and plans it all out and does all the footwork, and you have all the diaper fixings, domesticity amps up another notch. A husband inevitably gets pulled into the subculture of CD (cloth diapers, for the uninitiated) and all the cool vernacular. Terms like, “Fluff,” “All-in-Ones,” “Fitted,” “Wet Bags,” “Micro-fiber,” “Bamboo,” “Pockets,” and “Stripping” can catch a guy off guard. So you have to pay attention to those things. Context is everything.

Here is my confession which I obviously freely lay before you, potential blog readers. Here is my Ebenezer, if you will. I like cloth diapering. Not just because I get to dunk dirty disgusting “pre-folds” and their PUL covers in a toilet when I don’t forget to, but because I genuinely think it’s a good idea. It saves money, it apparently is good for the environment, it hasn’t given any of our children rashes, and my wife gets to use her ingenuity and creativity when she sews stuff up or picks out a new cover. So am I a “cool cloth diaper dad”? Honestly, I don’t know how cool I am. I just found out a couple years ago what a hipster is for crimeny sakes. I am a husband, and a dad, and I happen to change diapers made of cloth. And I wash my hands with hot, soapy water. Usually twice on certain occasions.

Most of all, I love my wife.