Captain fantastic is an American comedy written and directed by Matt Ross and starring Viggo Mortenson. It’s the story of a family that moved into the forest to live in isolation. The parents, Ben and Leslie took up the training of their six kids for their sole purpose. The children were taught academics and how to survive the forest life. He trained them to be physically strong and mentally sharp. After the demise of Leslie, the family was compelled to move back into the community where Leslie’s parents lived in order to pay their mom the last respect and to ensure that her wish is honored. With Leslie parents against their decision to separate themselves from the society, Ben had a lot of scores to settle.
Getting back into the society was really awkward. When they got back into the city, they stopped by a family’s place for the night. And Ben did everything contrary to what civilized or informed and educated and ‘well-meaning’ parent would do. Extending the alcoholic wine to his kids, swearing in the presence of his kids, talking to them about how their mum committed suicide. He did all these not only in front of his kids – who are used to these by now – but also before the children of his host. The host parents were so uncomfortable. The husband could caution himself, but the wife couldn’t but burst forth. Then, series of arguments ensued where they confronted Ben and he had to defend himself.
Ben actually could prove some points. He said he would rather tell his children the truth and educate them adequately on the subject of their inquiry than sweep it under the carpet or lie to them. Seriously, we underestimate children, especially when they can read, write and get on the internet. Despite that there are some things that only get clearly understood with age and experience, I believe children have as much capacity to understand and reason as adults do. And because we are meant to train them, we cannot afford to keep avoiding important things that affect people, even if it’s gruesome or unpleasant. I believe people don’t get trained by neglect or ignorance. Ignorance enslaves and limits but knowledge offers freedom and liberty. It is also not just sufficient to talk to them, they need to be educated, and by educated I mean be thoroughly informed about the topics. I believe that doing this and having sufficient time and a conducive atmosphere will encourage our children to share a lot more with us, rather than shutting them up and down when sensitive issues are raised. Such situations challenge our competence as parents who should raise a child. It goes without saying that parenting is a serious function that should be treated as seriously as our jobs. Although, our reality is that we tend to give up one for the other. I believe we can do better.
While there were a few things that Ben sucked at and that presented him as a bad father, I saw some things that impressed me. Two things I saw him inculcate in his children which are very important is courage and compliance. He taught them to be courageous while facing tasks that looked difficult. They shouldn’t be shy to bring up issues that are of concern to them. He taught them to be able to defend their perspectives with reasonable points. He taught them to be able to courageously forge ahead despite challenges or blows, not expecting anyone to come to their aid. That way, getting rid of the entitlement mentality which is the reason why lots of people are frustrated and angry today. He also trained them to abide by rules agreed upon by the society they belong – which was their family. With that, it would be easy for them to imbibe various ethics which will help them better integrate into whichever community/setting they find themselves.
Parenting is one of the most demanding endeavors we can ever partake as humans. Not like we are perfect/master adults ourselves, and here we are with the obligation to bring up another. Instead of complaining or defaulting, we could make it an opportunity to be better persons too. I believe if we give our best – time, money, ears, knowledge, kindness, energy, etc-, we could produce something we can be proud of. Kudos to all the parents giving their all.