‘The Family Man’: a Timely Reminder of What Is Important

MH900202063The Family Man, starring Nicholas Cage, is a great Christmas movie, and I watched it last night. Nick’s character makes a choice at the beginning of the movie and, more than a decade later, is a very wealthy man. There’s a message from his old girlfriend, Kate, but he does not call her at that point. After a brush with fate, the next morning there’s a change in his life: He’s with Kate, two kids, little money, and he’s got to figure out what is important to him.

When he finally realizes what is important, he wakes up having never been married, and meets up with Kate—who is going to be flying to Paris and wants to give him back his old stuff. Back in his penthouse, he sifts through a box of memories. He goes to the airport to try to stop her and convince her about the life they would have had if only he’d made a different choice. If you have not seen the movie, I do not believe I totally spoiled it for you, but if I did, I am sorry. I wanted to capture the basics of the movie, but you will have to watch it to get the essence of the movie.

It’s Christmas time, and every year at this time, we are scrounging around to get the best gifts for our families or friends. The stores are packed, the after-Christmas sales will be going on very soon, people will be returning gifts to get what they really want, and the attitudes of people are not always joyous. If you do not need to be out shopping, then don’t. Each year, the shopping comes earlier and earlier, more sales, etc. I also think that each year, the meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus, being around family, friends, sharing love, kindness, helping others, and spreading cheer—diminishes. This is my opinion.

We each have a choice to make. Yes, I have fallen into making sure that my family and friends get the “best gift,” and feel so ragged that it can be hard to be joyous. Having a kid changes your perceptions on what is important and what is not.

With my almost 2-year-old son, I am reminded that it is not about the quantity of gifts that I give or receive but rather the quality of the time I spend with my family and friends. Whether it’s baking homemade peppermint patties (York need not worry about going out of business), decorating cookies, reading about the birth of Jesus, or watching holiday movies, it’s what I am doing with family and friends that counts. It’s watching my son’s face light up when we play with Legos together, or crash his trains and get the toy ambulance to come and help the trains get all bandaged up. The quality time I have with my husband is very important as well—how I do my part to strengthen the relationship (not talking about sex), the unity that we have, and help each other stay focused and not get lost in the emptiness that can come with giving a gift because it’s on sale.

Almost all Christmas movies are about being with the ones you love, spreading joy and cheer, laughing, playing, creating memories, etc. Many are also about people who are trying to get ahead and how empty they may feel because they are not connected to their friends or family. It’s like a wake-up call, and it happened to Nick in The Family Man.

This is your wake-up call. Remember: Each day, not just at Christmas time, tell your friends and family how much you love them, and play with your children and friends’ kids when you visit them. Allow the children to help you relive your childhood memories, and after Christmas, keep spreading that joy all year long.

Watch The Family Man. It might remind you of what is really important and help you find balance in your life.

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kelly Sanders, MFT, Child and Adolescent Issues Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • joe

    December 24th, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    at times,when I step back and see the rat race we are all involved in,its funny.we are really like the little animals going about our lives,doing things we think are the best and not really bothering about what’s around us,including our families.

    its sad that most people have become like this.no one element is to blame but a combination of all has gotten us to where we are.but love can overcome all of that.love is bigger and greater than any other force and if we show our love in real ways to those that are dear to us,I think it can help us break this bond that our mind is in most of the time.freeing your mind has never had a bigger meaning for me than this.

    thank you for the article.I really hope more and more people start to see the truth of life.

  • Carmen

    December 24th, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    While real life is not like the movies,some movies do teach us a life lesson.And this was one of them.Although things may not be the exact same IRL,we often forget about the real meaning behind things and are consumed by the commercialization and commoditification of relationships and festivities.Seeing the larger picture will definitely help getting your priorities right,including realizing that a few of things are not real priorities at all!

  • perry

    December 25th, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    its easy to get lost in the madness of festivities.we think e are celebrating christmas when in fact we ignore the real meaning ad embrace everything that was constructed by marketing firms and those that want to sell their products.if you do not let he ads around you control you but instead focus on the true meaning of the season then you’ve won a war most people do not even know they are a part of!

  • Nora

    December 26th, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    I haven’t seen that movie but this makes me want to go check it out

  • e blakely

    December 26th, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Nora, I haven’t seen this movie either, but it sounds great. I would also like to sincerely thank the author of this article for not being afraid to mention more than once that Jesus is the reason for Christmas. I have heard how it started as a pagan holiday and I acknowledge that fact to be true. However, in our modern world, it is celebrated in two different ways-the birth of Jesus and the coming of Santa Claus. I have often wished that we could totally separate the two by at least two or three months because, quite frankly, I love both holidays. I’d love to be able to celebrate the birth of Jesus and its appropriate reverance as well as the magic of Santa Claus and the joy that part of the holiday brings to children.

  • mes

    December 26th, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    I absolutely love giving gifts to people that I know they will totally love, but as I get older, I am finding it harder and harder to figure out what to give people. I really do enjoy getting gifts for people more than I enjoy receiving them. My personal opinion is that the older I get, the busier I get and I just want to find something for everyone all in one trip. Maybe I need to slow down and smell the shopping roses and start much earlier.


    December 26th, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Often times we are so immersed in things and materialistic stuff that we put our relationships on the back burner. I have done that and lost the person I loved. I did it because I put too much importance on making money. But now there is no time machine, no magic that can take me back years. Yeah I do have money but relationships and love are some things you cannot put a price on, they are costlier than anything money can buy. Will check out this movie, seems like something I can connect to.

  • isabel

    December 26th, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    “Each day, not just at Christmas time, tell your friends and family how much you love them”

    ^^ this. it is so important to show your love to family on regular days and not just through a gift on Christmas day. i craved for love from family in my childhood because although my parents would bring me the best of gifts they did not have time for me. they felt the need to substitute their presence with gifts and more gifts.

    thankfully i have a wonderful partner who believes in giving love and joy,who believes gifts can be a small expression of love and not a substitute of love itself. i feel lucky to have been able to turn things around so much for myself. and i hope more people out there realize the true meaning of love.

  • Matt

    December 26th, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    There’s always going to be those that choose the things that truly matter and those that choose the other things in life.Question is whether you realize what’s important in time.Or you’d end up where nick did in the movie.

  • Hayden

    December 27th, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    It is so bad that the season that should be the most about family and love has evolved into something only focused on the material goods of the world.

  • Jaxson

    December 28th, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Its amazing how little moments can change so much in our lives.Moments we thought we nothing special can have a lasting effect.I was rude to my uncle the very last time I saw him and a couple of months after that meeting he passed away.It taught me that no matter what it doesn’t serve any purpose to be rude to anyone we care about.I loved him but with my last meet with him becoming an argument makes me hate myself even today,years after he has passed.

    That is also why it helps to always know about the real deal in life,the things that truly matter.Let us all take a pledge to stop chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and revel in the beauty of the grass at out feet and the beautiful sky above.The rainbow and gold will go away,the grass and sky will remain.

  • olinda

    December 28th, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    it is hard to believe that little things like these can have such a large impact but yes they really can.in all these years I have seen many examples of it in people around me.it may seem trivial but if we don’t think it through it can land us in a difficult situation down the road.

    it is essential that we think about what our decisions do and what impact they have on our future.taking decisions in haste is not going to let us do that.

  • gregory

    December 29th, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    How many of us have had thes what might have been moments where we have wondered how our lives would have been different if we had somewhere along the way made a different decision. Great food for thought, and an excellent movie suggestion by the way.

  • Nora

    December 29th, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    So, I went and watched this movie. Well, I watched it on my computer anyway. It was so good and totally worth the time I took to watch it. I highly recommend it!

  • TF

    December 29th, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    No hate here but this is typical Hollywood.Its either family/love or money.This or that.In real life it can be both.Its not evil to go after money but first prioritize.

    My priorities are a guide to all the things I do.One need not lose everything to gain money.It needs balance and a walk down the middle path.Not too hard,focus on all things.If you make one thing too important in life then you tend to ignore the others.Just put a bit in each and everything will turn out fine :)

  • Brian Cotsen

    December 31st, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    I know that i am only adding to what has already been said. I think i spent the first few years of my relationship worrying, at this time of year, that my gift would adaquately represent my love for my partner. he was also worried by the same thing. As we grew together we were able to admit that what was most important was enjoying quality time and not being distracted by ‘things’. We’ve kept to this sentiment and only give something if it really feels right. Often something home made. Time is the one commodity that you can’t get back and so i don’t want to waste it in either earning the money to spend on a gesture that isn’t really deep seated. i hope this doesn’t sound too worthy … I think sometimes it takes us time to work out what is important to us and what is just distraction.

  • noelle

    December 31st, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    Funny how sometimes it takes something like a chance encounter to give you that aha! moment you have been seeking.

    I felt like that a few years ago, always wondering about the choices that I had made and whether I was ever going to find the life that I felt like I really wanted. And that’s when I ran into someone from high school that I really never hung out with then, but this time it all just kind oof clicked.

    I felt immediately that what I had been looking for all along really wasn’t so far away like I had always thought, so I went for it. That was the best choice I ever made, and it took some distance and time for me to realize it.

    So for me, the time away gave me the clarity that I needed to see what was likely in front of me all along.

  • jace

    December 31st, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    sometimes we are surrounded by so many thoughts and things that we ignore the things and people that matter the most to us.I have been guilty of this and no matter how much I regret or cry about it the time is not going to come back,There is no way I can make amends.Strike when the iron is hot or you will forever regret!

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