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Everything I Know About Parenting I Learned At the Movies

Written by Greg Schwem

I have never been a big fan of resorting to the Internet when it comes to parenting. Although words sometimes fail me when I’m confronting daughters who, occasionally, eschew homework for Snapchat or respond with ill-advised eye rolls, it still seems easier to mumble, “We’ll discuss this later” as opposed to Googling Dr. Spock or Dr. Phil for answers.

Of course that was before I stumbled across americanrhetoric.com

Laid out in front of me were dozens of the most brilliant movie speeches, complete with video from the actual films, that I realized could come in handy when engaged in a parent/child showdown. Repeatedly viewing Morgan Freeman scream, “This is not a damn democracy. We are in a state of emergency and my word is law” in Lean on Me gave me hope. Why struggle for words when Hollywood’s top screenwriters have already crafted them for me?

After spending all day on the site, and memorizing some favorite quotes, I felt I was ready to put my idea of “parenting via cinema” to the test. It didn’t take long. I walked into the kitchen to see my eldest, a high school senior, seated at the table. Laptop open and headphones firmly in place, she was texting when I approached.

“Excuse me,” I said.

Silence

“EXCUSE ME!”

“What’s your deal, Dad?”

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” (Paul Newman, Cool Hand Luke)

“Dad, we’re communicating.”

“I thought you were doing your homework.”

“I am. It’s done.

“All of it?”

“Most of it.”

“I must point out that the possibilities, the potential for knowledge and advancement is equally great.” (William Shatner, Star Trek)

“All right, all right. I’ll get it done now. Just give me 15 more minutes. Okay?”

“This conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.” (HAL the Computer, A Space Odyssey)

Satisfied that Hollywood had helped me win round one, I walked upstairs to find my 12-year old, seated in what I think used to be her bedroom. Only now it was a sea of clothes, paper, athletic equipment and assorted items that defied description.

“Are you cleaning your room any time soon?” I asked.

“I already did it, Dad. Looks better, doesn’t it?”

“I see dead people.” (Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense)

“Dad, you asked me to clean my room and I cleaned it. Okay?”

“You call this clean?” I replied, exasperated. “In my book, you either do it right or you get eliminated!” (Michael Douglas, Wall Street)

“Are you trying to eliminate me, Dad?”

Realizing I may have gone a little overboard, I rephrased.

“You’re either going to hack it or pack it.” (Robert Duvall, The Great Santini)

“Fine. I’ll do it again.”

“I’ll be back.” (Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator)

I retreated to my home office, closed the door and began scrolling through email. Five minutes later, my oldest knocked on the door.

“I finished my homework, Dad. Can I use the car tonight?”

“Yes, but you have to drop your sister off at her friend’s house. And you’ll have to pick her up at 11 p.m. So that’s your curfew for the night.”

“Why do I always have to be her chauffeur? She’s annoying! All my friends think so too.”

My back stiffened. “Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.” (Al Pacino, The Godfather).

“I’ll be home at 11.”

As my children left the house, I gave thanks to the scribes who just made my life easier. And to the movie quote websites — there are plenty more besides americanrhetoric.com — that allowed me to choose my best response. Suddenly, I spied our Visa bill laying on the table. I opened it and gasped just as my wife entered the room.

“Why is this bill so high?” I yelled.

“Honey” she replied, “You can’t handle the truth.” (Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men)

I guess we’ve been surfing the same websites.

About the author

Greg Schwem

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