As parents we naturally feed, clothe, and house our kids. These are basic functions we who are blessed with children are expected to do to the best of our abilities. Yet the one true purpose of parenthood in my humble opinion is to protect our offspring from harm no matter what consequences we ourselves are called upon to endure. Furthermore, should we fail to protect them from the harsh realities of life, as parents we must seek justice for the wrongs that have been inflicted upon them.
This truism was presented to me in bold fashion as I watched Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant last Friday. Whether it be a mama grizzly bear or a widowed father, when our babies are in apparent danger, our instincts to fight rise up. No matter how violent it may seem to outsiders, whatever is necessary to protect them should and must be done.
I would never attempt to give you a play-by-play of this amazing story because my efforts would be futile. But I will cite a few excerpts to bolster my 'true purpose of parenthood' theory. Hugh Glass, a scout for a group of trappers led by Army Captain Henry, is alone in the woods tracking Indian renegades when two bear cubs come into view. Although on his radar, his intentions towards these creatures seem amicable. However when the mama grizzly comes upon the scene, her first reaction is to attack. She charges from behind, knocking Glass to the ground with her full body weight, and begins tearing him apart with her sharp teeth and claws. Although he tries to protect himself, this scout was obviously no match for this enraged animal. Chunks of flesh are torn from his back, his arms and legs are deeply gouged, and his face bloodied mercilessly.
My first thought was that this grizzly bear was vicious and out to kill anything that could be eaten. But in short order, I realized that she as a mother was only doing what any mother would do under similar circumstances, protect her young. Now I certainly don't condone the grizzly's methods, but then again, I'm not a grizzly bear. This mother was using all of the tools she had at hand: size, weight, teeth and claws. Even when Glass came at her with his fists and a knife, she never backed down. Though her own injuries were life-threatening, her onslaughts continued. The mama grizzly would fight to the death to protect and save her cubs.
Hugh Glass is barely holding on by a thread, when the trappers are overrun by their enemies. After a gruesome battle, few men are alive and are forced to carry Glass in wintry, unbearable conditions. At some point, the captain decides they must leave the gravely injured man behind, but offers to pay two men to remain and care for the scout. John Fitzgerald, a mean, unethical racist, along with John Bridger, agree, and Glass's half-breed son, Hawk will not leave his father's side. When Fitzgerald tires of his assignment, he tells the others they need to abandon their duties. Hawk refuses and ends up being stabbed to death by Fitzgerald as his father looks on unable to do anything to protect the boy that is his everything.
Hugh Glass has failed to protect his son, and throughout the rest of the movie, it is that failure that keeps him alive until he can exact justice for Hawk's untimely death. When retribution is finally made, Glass having fulfilled his parental purpose, the only purpose he has left in his entire world, closes his eyes one last time.
I think it was in the very final moments of this extraordinary film that I realized that as a parent protecting my children has always been my true purpose. Whether I needed to make sure all the electrical outlets were covered when they were toddlers, or being vigiliant as they swam in the ocean as tweens, or making it my business to confront bullies during their high school years, that is what I, the parent was for, first and foremost. Without my protection, who knows how the lives of my three children would have faired?