Things Were Different Then…

21 years ago, it brought me many laughs. Though I cannot tell you with whom I saw it, nor where, nor anything about the details of that day, I do, indeed, recall laughing hysterically a number of times when I did. However, when I first watched Mrs Doubtfire, the 1993 comedy about one damn bitter divorce, I wasn’t divorced. I wasn’t even married. Nowadays, things are different. Immeasurably so.

At my sister’s urging, I viewed the movie again last week, and, boy oh boy, did it hit home. Even though I come from a family that has had its own share of divorces, I didn’t connect to the film on that level back in the early-to-mid 90’s. It was more laughable than sorrowful, then.

That was then, this is now.

Mrs Doubtfire is, naturally, the same flick, but so many aspects of my life are vastly changed now–and with that perspective change comes a grossly disparate reaction. Based on 21 years of experiences and growth, alone, would make viewing most movies seem… different, but now that I am divorced and going through the custody phase, I can readily state that watching this movie was practically like watching it for the first time, as I don’t relate to it now like I did then. Not at all (even though I did crack as smile at Robin Williams’ silliness once or twice).

Seeing the film now prompted a few tears, actually, especially when the verdict was handed down at the first court hearing, the verdict awarding custody to the mother. Knowing her husband loved the children, with all his heart, understanding that the children loved their daddy, too, in all his quirkiness, realizing the pain it would cause her own offspring, she still went with her emotions to destroy him, or at least try.

To see the bitterness in the movie mother’s eyes at times throughout the film, to understand that the father was a good or even great daddy (regardless of his supposed flaws), and to know that even though the parents’ paths had diverged to the point of no return–yet the kids shouldn’t have been thrown into the mix and been hurt by such decisions, it remains utterly, poignantly clear that separated and divorced adults can be blinded by emotions. The children in the film are innocent players, as are all real-life children caught in the middle, yet to bring harm to them by ousting their daddy from the family equation was tragically illogical, entirely wrong, regardless of what the mother thought about Robin William’s character, Daniel.

Sure, they didn’t get along. But does that merit such vengeful, hurtful decisions?

The children in the film would undoubtedly opt for a different outcome.

So to watch Mrs Doubtfire and see Daniel’s face drop, his energy sapped, his soul bruised, when the courts decided he wasn’t “responsible” enough to be a dad, awarding care to their mom, who, herself, has her own set of issues, well, it is powerful.

Knowing that Daniel didn’t deserve such a judgment, for it was vividly clear that his children adore him, I sat there staring at the screen wondering why people act in such a way.

The mother in the movie surely fell out of love with her husband, and perhaps she hated him for nor being adequately responsible, for not being enough of a disciplinarian, and for not being able to hold down a job (even though his stance on doing voiceovers for a cartoon that included a character smoking–and how that was potentially damaging to child audiences–is laudable, not irresponsible; he stood up for what was right). Yet to take the children away from their father is a punishment far greater than his “faults” justify. Tenfold.

To have experienced their first hugs after six months of suffering through my children’s absence was one of the most profoundly tear-jerking experiences a father can feel. So when Daniel, a.k.a., Mrs Doubtfire, gets to embrace his kids again, sans disguise, because their mother had a change of heart, I couldn’t help but tear up again.

But the tears flowed more heavily at the closure of the film, when Mrs Doubtfire (as whatever character she is on the TV series she landed) delivers her heartfelt, imploring monologue about families to a young viewer who posted a question about her family.

You know, some parents, when they’re angry, they get along much better when they don’t live together. They don’t fight all the time, and they can become better people, and much better mummies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don’t, dear. And if they don’t, don’t blame yourself. Just because they don’t love each other anymore, doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country – and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months… even years at a time. But if there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever.

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