When I was young and my mom was pregnant with my brother, I was given the task of choosing his middle name. Of all the names I could have picked, I decided to go with my hero's name: Parrish, as in Alan Parrish, the character played by Robin Williams in the film Jumanji.
I'm only one of several million people whose childhood hero was or was played by Robin Williams, which is why his death struck us all on a very personal level. Williams spent his entire career bringing to a captivated audience hilariously inspiring films like Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire and Jack, films from which your child can draw very important lessons. Here is a list of our favorite Robin Williams characters and the invaluable lessons they taught us.
“But oh, to be free. Not to have to go ‘Poof! What do you need, ‘Poof! What do you need, Poof! What do you need?’. To be my own master: Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.”
From one of Disney's smartest, wittiest, most beloved characters, we learned the value of freedom. As the Genie so wisely explains, "phenomenal cosmic powers" don't even begin to compare to the power of free agency. To be able to choose one’s path is truly a magical gift. From Genie’s famous friendship with Aladdin we learned another important lesson: how to be a good friend. Good friends, for example, treat others the way that they’d want to be treated. They show love and loyalty to those closest to them, no matter the consequences. Genie may be hilarious, but more importantly, he has a kind, selfless nature, making the scene when Aladdin sets him free from "a lifetime of servitude" all the more touching. In true movie fashion, he lived happily ever after, and we were all pleased to see it.
“Now I want you to take care of everything that's smaller than you.”
Hook taught us a lesson in taking care of the little guy. In the face of moral peril, Peter Banning (‘The Pan’) seeks to protect the Lost Boys at all costs, as they have sought to protect him. Along with this, Peter's journey also taught us to believe. We learned that no matter what obstacles you’re confronted with, you can overcome them and achieve the incredible when you have the faith to do so. Who knows--all those happy thoughts may even lift you right off the ground.
“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.”
Image from: Her.ie
Watching your parents go through a divorce can be a traumatizing experience. When you’re young, especially, it can be hard to separate your parents’ experiences from your own, making it very common for children to blame their parents’ troubles on themselves. Mrs. Doubtfire, along with absolutely cracking us up, teaches children who face this struggle that they’re not to blame, that their parents love them no matter how their marriages may turn out. This is a fantastic movie for families of all shapes and sizes, and is a true standout in Robin Williams’s career.
Jack in Jack
“And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day... make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”
Image from:Max Spliffington
Oh, Jack. In this touching film, Robin Williams introduced to us one of the sweetest characters the world has ever known: Jack Powell. This film tells the story of a boy who struggles to be a normal kid as he ages at a rapid rate. His age, however, is far from being his only struggle; he also deals with bullies on a regular basis. When he graduates from high school, however, recognizing that death is on the horizon, he doesn’t look back on his life with sadness. In his speech to his graduating class, he feels happiness in the face of tragedy, and is viewed with respect and awe. Don’t be afraid to make your life spectacular, he advises them (and us). We learned from him that even in hard times, we make exceptional memories.
Hunter Van Pelt: “Aren't you afraid?” Alan Parrish: “I'm terrified. But my father says you should always face what you're afraid of.”
Image from: IMBD ‘
Alan taught us what it means to be brave when faced with your deepest fears--and this film certainly provides you with things to be afraid of. From the game emerges a full assortment of horrors, from giant spiders to monsoons. In the end, however, Alan’s biggest fear is ‘the Hunter’, and it’s he whom Alan must eventually face. My brother and I also face some pretty scary things. We both have a blood disorder that causes us some trouble. Someday soon, he will face the same surgery I’ve already gone through. I chose Parrish to be his middle name because I want him to be strong against anything that come his way, not to mention the name seemed pretty cool as a third grader. If there’s anything I gained from the film Jumanji, it's that I can conquer my fears. It's also a good reminder to let the people in your life know that you love them.
Robin Williams was more than just a fantastic actor, although he was certainly that; he was born to lift our spirits one by one, something he spent his whole life doing. The hole in our hearts that he left can never be filled. But we can honor his memory by remembering his wisdom: “You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.”