Photo Credit: Sheryl Nields
In her first exclusive blog for the iVillage blog series CelebVillage, actress and mom (to daughters Violet, 6, and Seraphina, 3, and 5-month-old son Samuel with husband Ben Affleck) Jennifer Garner writes about how figuring out “if I’m getting it right” when it comes to parenting is a “condundrum that keeps me up at night” -- and how she connected on a deep level to her role as a mom in the new film The Odd Life of Timothy Green (in theaters of Aug. 15).
Did you watch the Olympics and vow to double up on your Judo prodigy's lessons to increase your odds of sitting in the stands of the 2024 Olympics, weeping at their efforts finally coming to fruition? Did you cry every time NBC cut to a parent watching their child compete? Confess! If I ever see Michael Phelps' mother at a Subway, I will burst into hysterical tears from some kind of deep sense memory.
Now, when you realize that your child hates the extra lessons and would rather build Star Wars Lego cities, what do you do? Do you push through until they like it again or is that too Tiger Mom? Do you let them quit and risk the future admonitions for letting them give it up -- OR -- do you find a Lego specialist and cross your fingers George Lucas has a seventh Star Wars up his sleeve?
This is the kind of mothering -- okay, parenting -- conundrum that keeps me up at night. How do I know if I'm getting it right? Isn't it my job to parent, to encourage, to help my child define themselves? Or should I step out of the way and let them be led by their passions? Do kids understand their passions without getting past the boring fundamentals?
Or you imagine yourself as some kind of mom-Mary Milk Maid, for example, nursing your baby for at least 14 months until they are ready to transition straight to sippy cups, blah, blah, blah. And then ... nothing. No amount of pumping and Fenugreek, hot tea and meditation can help you squeeze out more than an ounce and a half of breast milk and your child will be forever more susceptible to everything bad while you have a Scarlet B for Bottle emblazoned on your forehead (of course B works for Breast, too, but just go with me). The shame. The tears. The reorganization of your own self-image as MOM. What else will you fail at and how many more times will you let your child down? Many, many, many.
This doesn't happen in The Odd Life of Timothy Green (although I swear there should be an entire movie around women and milk production -- why does no one ever talk about it??). Somehow Peter Hedges, who wrote and directed the movie, understands a woman's idea of her self as mom vs. the reality and puts it onto the screen. And when you see it, I am hoping that you will find it nice to laugh a bit and cry a bit and feel comforted by our universal uptightness.
My character, Cindy Green, is obsessed with protecting her child from ridicule and insists that he be seen as normal. Somehow, in Cindy's need for Timothy to not get hurt, she fails to see what makes him so extraordinary. Talk about shame. When YOU'RE the one who's trying to hide their challenges under a bushel? NO!!
I watched the first screening of The Odd Life of Timothy Green with my two closest mom friends. After months of work on this movie and even longer waiting to see it on screen, I was so fascinated to watch different moments of this film hit them differently. What made one chuckle had the other dabbing her eyes. By the end of the credits they had gone through an entire package of Kleenex. I asked them what had gotten so under their skin. The answer was simple: recognition. They saw themselves up there: Tangled up in this little magical movie, they saw themselves. (I did, too, but that's a little different. It IS me. Weird job.)
The best part? My friend's 10-year-old son couldn't understand why his mom had been crying. He thought the movie was about a kid and was made for him.
I hope you like it, ladies.