A Goofy Movie – Strengthening the Bond Between Parent and Child

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From the perspective of a kid who was born in the ’80s and raised in the ’90s, let’s face it: few animated features stand out in terms of highlighting the crossroads of the ’90s better than Disney’s “A Goofy Movie”. My sister and I spent countless weekdays following the adventures of Max and P.J. and the ‘Goof Troop’ as they tumbled and ran and flew in and out of every adventure and misadventure of their childhood. We got to see a bit more ofGoofy as the clumsy, but caring single dad, and catch glimpses of his extended family. On the other side of the fence, we found great amusement in watching P.J.’s gruff, scheming dad, Pete, try to plot and scheme and interfere in many of these adventures as well. It was sooo fitting that they cast Pete as a used-car salesman for that was who he truly was. And his Incredibly Amazing wife, Peg, who had a zero tolerance level for any sort of horsing around, was the perfect check and balance for Pete’s sometimes devious schemes. Ahhh, the nostalgia!!!

Not just that, but this movie was littered with 90’s references that were enough to make any of us who grew up during that time wanna grab our Ace of Base albums and our Tamagotchi Pets and settle in for a good laugh with Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence and the rest of the ‘Boy Meets World’ crew. This was also the time when if you wanted to know something, you had to go looking for it. I may not be ancient enough to be considered B.C. (Before Christ), but I did come from the B.G. era (Before Google). Useful information wasn’t automated like it is now and, despite good ole’ Pete’s get-rich-quick schemes, if you wanted it, you had to work for it.  So, on that note, let’s recreate this moment and set the stage already!

***Spoiler Alert***

In an effort to suppress the fear that his growing son is slipping away from him and possibly getting into trouble, Goofy decides on the spur of the moment to take Max on a fishing trip to Lake Destiny, Idaho. Max adamantly refuses to go because his personal life is taking off and the girl he is interested in, Roxanne, said yes to a first date to go to a party. However, Max is forced to comply with his father’s obligation. Max further complicates the issue when he lies to Roxanne about going to see PowerLine, the musical genius and cultural phenomenon of the day (does Michael Jackson ring any bells here?), performing in concert in Los Angeles. About midway through the story, Goofy makes a brave choice and entrusts Max with the navigation of the road trip to Lake Destiny. Max, meanwhile, had secretly changed the course on the map earlier to take them down a different path to the PowerLine Concert. Later on, at a pivotal crossroads on their journey, Max decides instead of honoring the tradition of his father to take them instead on the different route to Los Angeles. It is in this moment that I successfully unearthed a diamond in the rough that has broadened my perspective on parenting.

Goofy is understandably angry with Max for deceiving him and Max is also understandably frustrated that Goofy never really seemed interested in listening to him. He even accused Goofy of ruining his life.  While some of the accusations are exaggerated for the sake of drama, this situation has replayed itself countless times in many households the world over. It is difficult to watch our children, despite our best intentions and our best efforts, use their freedom of choice in such a way that they take a road that is either foreign to us or radically different from the one we intended them to go down. After floating down the river on their car for what seems like a long time, Max and Goofy slowly begin to acknowledge their differences to each other. Goofy drives Max bananas. Max finds Goofy’s jokes prehistoric. Max thinks Goofy’s mind is missing a screw. Goofy thinks Max’s values are, so to speak, askew. “But whatever mess (they) land in, who is always understandin’, Nobody Else But You”, they proclaim to each other.

Therein lies the diamond. It’s a poignant fact that when life becomes distressing, our kids will be S.O.S’ing us. Whether or not we are ready for them, they constantly look to us as their parents to feed them, comfort them, wipe their noses, guide them, and possibly even mentor them.  As grownups and as parents, we bear the enormous responsibility and privilege with the children we bring into this world and the children we are charged with looking after. We may or may not be ready for it, or we may even try to ignore it at times, but the responsibilities are still there and our children look to us for reassurance and guidance. Goofy had to learn that what may have worked for him wasn’t going to work for his son Max. It was through exercising the real power of listening that Goofy realized his son didn’t need a fishing trip to “strengthen the bond between father and son”. What Max really needed was simply his dad.  By choosing to share his son’s crazy adventure, the journey ultimately lands them on stage with PowerLine and later helps Max learn a valuable lesson about being honest in his relationship with his dad and later with his girlfriend.

Our children are so much more intelligent and observant of us than we realize. While the responsibility is great and the needs are many, what they need most is simply us.  The best way to guide them is simple: just be there for them and listen to what they tell you. It takes some practice, but as you continue to share this valuable tool of listening with your ears instead of your mouth, you’ll find yourself startled to realize you can also hear the things your children don’t tell you.

— The Incredible Elastimom

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