Friday, January 20, 2006 | Sometimes, being a father scares me but I realized this past weekend that NOT being one scares me even more.
This epiphany occurred in the situation where I have my most self-reflective moments: watching cartoons. In this case, it was at an advance screening of “Bambi II,” which will be released on DVD Feb. 7.
I’m not usually a fan of sequels of any kind. For me, the first “Star Wars” is the best, and I didn’t like the Meat Loaf CD “Bat Out of Hell II.” Heck, for a long time, I wasn’t sure I wanted a second child (I did change my mind on that one).
I must say, the new Bambi was as touching as the old one, at least for me. Alex may still be too young to get the emotional depths of it. She just thought it was about a bunch of cute animals frolicking around the forest.
The film takes place right after Bambi’s single mom dies in a forest fire and his deadbeat dad, the Great Prince of the Forest, is forced to take over the child rearing duties. The role of the Great Prince is played by Patrick Stewart, who not only delivers a sterling performance but he really looks like an elk.
Watching the film, I had two thoughts: 1) Alex was going to spill the buttered popcorn over my pants; and 2), that we would both be screwed if a forest fire took my wife away and I actually had to do my fair share of child rearing.
So far, we’ve had a tacit agreement that I’m the “fun parent” and it has worked well so far but, sadly, it took a straight-to-DVD film to make me realize that if my wife were to be killed by a hunter, both Alex and I would be up a certain colorfully named creek without a paddle.
I think Alex sensed I was having a moment. At one point, she said, “Why so sad, Daddy?”
I didn’t really want to tell her, “Because this darn film is making me realize that your mother is the glue that holds this family together and if something happened to her, we would both flounder around helplessly.” So I explained: “Because there’s no more popcorn.”
“Bambi II” may be about talking deer and elk (or as Alex prefers, “reindeer”) but I could relate to the Great Prince when he was trying to do what he could while doing his day job: Watching the forest.
At various points, he has to slow down so that the younger and weaker Bambi can keep up with his royal strides. I can relate: There are times when I am so focused on writing or getting to a destination that I forget about my daughter and her needs.
Luckily, my wife lets me know with a hearty “Wake up Daddy.” But “Bambi II” had me thinking about what would happen if she was swallowed by a whale (that’s not a scene in the movie but my mind started wandering towards Pinocchio and Geppetto’s relationship).
In the movie, Bambi and the Great Prince do have that “magic moment” where they recognize that they love each other. More important for me, Bambi realizes his dad loves him as much as his dead mom but fathers have different child-rearing methods and philosophies than mothers.
That made me feel a little less helpless because I was able to remind myself that my own talents – such as a very vivid imagination and tenuous grip to reality – can also be valuable parenting skills.
Still, just to be safe, when I got home, I gave my wife a big hug and told her I loved her. Then I checked her life insurance policy to make sure it covers hunting accidents and forest fires.
David Moye is a La Mesa-based writer who admits he cries when he watches Old Yeller, but, then again, who doesn’t? He can be reached via e-mail at