Channeling Atticus Finch
Nearly 13 years ago, I was very pregnant. And as my 9th grade English class watched a scene from the film To Kill A Mockingbird, I got all weepy. It was a scene in which Atticus, the perfect father, sits on his front porch swing, instructing his daughter, Scout, about something or other, and it occurred to me in that moment – in a very real way – that soon I would be a parent, instructing my own child about life, its soft places and its hard edges.
I started to sob.
How would I ever do it?
Atticus had all the answers.
He had the right words.
Even after the movie ended and somebody had turned the lights on, I kept sniffling while conspicuously chomping on potato chips.
Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I had a soft spot for one of my freshmen boys and, as my shoulders heaved and I wept hysterically, he pondered aloud:
“I wonder what she needs more: tissues or a salt lick?”
I choked on my snot.
Class ended, and I went to the bathroom to
pee pull myself together.
As a parent, I’ve always channeled Atticus. A defender of justice, he fought for it even if he knew he would be beaten in the end.
Atticus argued for big principles like equality and duty, but he never lost sight of the fact that, in the end, it’s human beings and their choices that make equality stand or fall.
And he tried to instill the values in which he believed in his children.
These days, I watch my son and his friends walk to school, and I swear they come home taller each afternoon.
I have done the best I can do with Tech, who just six months ago asked me to stop calling him Monkey.
Lord, give me strength because his questions are becoming harder.
And I am no Atticus Finch.
As I look outside my window this morning, I’d like everything to stay. The trees are undulating softly, and the light reflecting off the leaves is making me squint. Right now, everything is green with possibility. The sun fills me with hope and reminds me of the goodness to come.
Is there a particular scene from a movie that stays with you? That you associate with a time in your life? That has helped you to parent?
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