5 Things To Learn From The Descendant Dad

April 18, 2012 — 8 Comments

Recently, Brooke and I were finally able to sit down and watch The Descendants (2011) starring George Clooney.  Alexander Payne directed this authentic portrayal of a family dealing with loss and betrayal in the setting of beautiful Hawaii. I have always been a fan of Payne’s earlier films, About Schmidt and Sideways. His films are far from plastic Christian family films and are R-rated, full of characters who are busy, frustrated, but also have had a taste of what joy could look like in life by their ambitions.  These three movies are representative of a fallen world yet a world full of real people with real flaws we all can relate to.  Any movie willing to remove the mask I can appreciate. I’ve written about this before but in all of art, I try to look at where Christ can teach us about how to live, even through a movie like The Descendants.

Years ago I asked an older friend of mine how he was doing with his kids.  He said something like “You know, I have been spending a lot of time with my kids but the hardest part isn’t that, it is how to best engage with them.” I wasn’t a father then but it stuck. I thought of my own parents and the times we bonded best and it was almost always when there was true engagement through conversation, experience, and genuine discussion.

The Descendants reminds me of how I am supposed to be engaging with my kids. As I write, my girls are only 2 and 4 but it seems evident that if I don’t start doing this now, it will be more and more difficult to do like what we see in George Clooney’s character.

As a parent, I am learning these 5 things about what I need to do to be a good parent:

  1. Be present. You can’t be a parent without first establishing that you are there for them. Your job may be important and incredibly busy but there is no more important job than being there for your little ones.
  2. Listen. The more I ask the girls questions, the more I discover about their hearts through what they like and don’t like, etc.  Sometimes this requires me to be extra attentive when they start talking about the most trivial things but they want our full attention.
  3. Be patient. There are days that my kids won’t want much to do with me. Sometimes they just want their mom more (like what The Descendants implies).  Never feel like what you are doing is a waste of time because by being there for them, there will be the right time when they come to you.
  4. Pursue. Don’t be too frustrated if they push you away. Continue trying to engage. Whether kids admit it or not, they want us as parents to show continual interest and keep that hand extended no matter how bad things get.  You may have a broken relationship with your child and I can’t imagine how hard that would be. Give healing some time and never stop your pursuit.
  5. Join them. Go on adventures together. I read a great story in Meg Meeker’s book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters about a father who despite not having a good relationship with his daughter, he did what he knew best and took her camping. Even the trip it didn’t solve everything, the shared experience broke barriers and opened up the relationship to grow again.
Sometimes there will be smiles.
Sometimes there will be pain.
But it is all in the joy of parenting and a reminder that we never should give up.
God has never given up on us. 

8 responses to 5 Things To Learn From The Descendant Dad


    Dave, Your blog today really touched my heart. First, because I am a single Mom (with a fabulous co-parent) but nonetheless, there are times I am parenting quite alone. I liken our times together to Trace Atkins; “…She thinks we’re just fishing”. I have learned so much with “a line in the water” with her. Secondly, I lost my uncle and godfather today. He was 103 but is finally at peace. But it also made me reflect on the times I recall with own father, who passed away at 90. Being so much of an older parent, he wasn’t always engaged at my (often trivial) level, but he was always present. One of my favorite memories is walking along the Chatahooche River with him, and falling in — together. He soaked his wallet and I skinned a knee. But we laughed the entire time, hoping my Mom wasn’t going to bark at us. Engaged, sort of. Present, absolutely. Thank you for grounding me today. ~ Evelyn


      Evelyn, I can’t tell you how good this makes me feel. I’m just a young dad trying to figure this all out but I did think about all the single parents and how they deal with this. The Descendants is really about a dad figuring out that he is a single dad and how he needs to change to be a better parent. He makes plenty of mistakes but ultimately I love the image at the end of the movie with he and his two daughters sitting at the couch together. It shows that not all is solved but that they are together figuring it all out. I really appreciate you!


    Spot on, brother Dave. Wish I had come to learn these lessons earlier on, but as you say, there’s always hope for that “right time.” My problem is that I always judged my own parenting based on a father who was at church more than at home and not “engaged.” Even though I may have been there more and a little engaged, I could have done so much more. Great capsulization (sp?) of the very important “habits” of fathering. Write on!


      Brother, I had you in mind in many ways when writing that. I see it first hand how you are continuing to pursue your kids no matter how they respond. That is the mark of a father desiring reconciliation and relationship development. You da man.


    Dave, that scene at the end of the movie hit me hard too! It really showed me how I wasn’t being as “present” as I needed to be with my son, Cooper. We are all movie buffs and spend time on most evenings watching at least portions of a movie. Our natural order on the couch is me on the end, Morgan in the middle, and Coop on the opposite end. He had asked a few times if I would sit in the middle, but I always said my “place” is on the end (out of comfort and convenience). That scene in the movie gave me a visual of WHY Cooper wanted me in the middle…he wanted actual, physical closeness. But more than proximity–a sort of literal connectedness with our bodies touching that is an expression of something much deeper. So now I try to make a point to sit in the middle and be “close” to both my son and my daughter. They need this…and WANT it.

    Thanks for the reminder Dave, a great movie I highly recommend–especially being a single dad.


      Phil, you sure picked up on that well. The ending is such a great visual of how it should be. The girls asked me to sit in the middle of them right after I posted the blog this morning and I just smiled. It’s not natural for me at all because I like you want to be comfortable. Clooney’s character is quite relatable to single dads as well as dudes in my situation. We need to do Band of Brothers soon. Appreciate you brother!


        There’s something emotionally palatable when you see a visual of “how it should be”….echoes of Eden! Those moments move us because we’re pre-wired to recognize how things “should” be. Although obscured and distorted, our original glory groans for Paradise lost and recognizes it when we see it. Let’s do BoB! You’re a lot closer to me while your house is under construction, so let’s plan it during that time. Appreciate you more than you know!


        Brother, that is so true! I’m eager to get together more with this transition.

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