Watching Logan as a late-30s only child, I found myself feeling sympathy for his situation. Logan finds himself in the situation that many Boomers and younger adults find ourselves in, balancing care of a child with care of an aging parent. Watching Logan care for Xavier is heart-wrenching and realistic. Watching Xavier’s continued responses to Logan’s care act as foreboding foreshadowing of the future staring down my generation. Viewing the movie as a cautionary tale means that there are some distinct parenting lessons that we should all take away from Logan.
- Never wait to tell your children you’re proud of them. Logan spends a large amount of the movie working to earn Charles’s approval. Any child who’s tried to win parental approval recognizes being that kid. You know the kid, the one who does everything but still feels like their sibling is the favored one. Throughout the movie, Xavier tells Logan how he’s disappointed in him, fueling the sense that Logan partly assumes Xavier’s care because he desires acceptance and approval. One of the most heartrending scenes in Logan is watching Charles tell Logan that he’s proud of him only to find that Logan will never hear this admission.
- Grandparents almost inevitably undermine you, and children always side-eye you. Seriously, watching Charles tell Logan that “she’s just a child” when Laura was popping the door locks annoyingly made me want to yell at the screen, “But if LOGAN had done that, you’d have had a fit, right?” I can’t even count the number of times my parents have defended my son’s behavior when he was doing something they’d never let me do. In fact, the response to my calling them on it is almost inevitably, “Well, yes, but you were our kid. He’s our grandson. It’s different.” Right. Nothing like knowing mutants have the same intergenerational problems, right?
- It’s totally ok to be honest with your kids and tell them you’re not always perfect. One of the moments that stuck out to me as a parent was Logan telling Laura, “I suck at this.” Into that one sentence, the mutant wraps his inability to be emotionally close as well as his fear of being a parent. It’s hard to admit our failings and fears to our kids. If we’re honest with ourselves, every single one of us has worried about our ability to parent. Every single one of us at some point has felt that we “suck at this.” Every single one of us worries about failing our children or hurting our children accidentally. Right, none of us are mutants who have experienced the full-on wipeout of our friends in the middle of supervillain battles. I mean, totally fair. Most parents, however, can identify with Logan’s fear of losing Laura or failing her. New parents sit up at night listening to their children’s breathing, ensuring that they’re still alive. That first time the baby sleeps through the night, we wake up in a panic because “ohmigosh what if the baby died and we didn’t realize it?” Being honest with our kids means letting them know that we’re afraid of losing them and recognizing our weaknesses. It’s ok not to be perfect. Imperfections make us more than human (or mutant); they make us parents.
- Teaching children to take responsibility is a parent’s job. I’m not saying that all parents go on murderous rampages with the metal claws that poke through their skin. At one point, Laura says, “I’ve hurt people too.” Logan responds, “You’re going to have to learn how to deal with that.” Laura, like every child ever trying to justify their behavior, says, “they were bad people.” The father figure somberly replies, “All the same.” Laura wants to show that she’s different from Logan because the people she killed were bad. She wants to justify her behavior. She wants Logan to give her dispensation for her actions. However, like any parent, he refuses to give her the “out.” He teaches her in no uncertain terms that actions have repercussions and that we must take responsibility for those actions.
- Speaking of actions, our actions as parents speak louder than our words. Look, I think that we can all agree that no one ever really viewed alcoholic, drug-addicted, mopey, emotionally repressed Wolverine as the cuddly dad type. Neither, obviously, does Laura. After Wolverine tells her, “I suck at this. Bad things happen to people I care about,” Laura responds, “Then I’ll be fine.” The tension between the two in their respective parent-child roles drives much of the plot. While Charles might have been a tough love parent, Logan almost appears to be a no love parent. He tries to protect Laura in that comic book time-honored way of pushing away those about whom he cares. In the end, however, his actions prove his feelings. It’s possible to let people know you love them without telling them in so many words. In the same way, without actions to support the statement, the words are meaningless.
- It’s never too late to learn from your own parents’ mistakes. Logan never had the chance to hear Charles admit to being proud of him. Logan, after all those years of caring for Xavier, died feeling as though he had failed the father figure. Logan learned from this. In the end, Logan not only proves his fatherly love to Laura, but he tells her, “this is what it feels like.” He learns from Charles’ mistakes and doesn’t leave Laura guessing. In one of the most powerful moments of the whole movie, Laura, for the first and last time, calls him, “Daddy.” Just as Logan keeps from repeating Charles’ silence, Laura keeps from Logan’s mistake of not formally acknowledging their relationship.
The generational story in Logan broke my heart. In honesty, I’ll never forget the jerk dad and kid sitting up the row from me who sat with a seat between them and felt the need to interrupt my emotional catharsis (yeah, I’m talking to YOU, teenager who had to make a snarky comment about the cross becoming an “X” when all I wanted to do was ugly cry). The parenting lessons wrapped up in this movie will be ones that stick with me, if only because they’re as true for humans as they are for mutants.