We're in the thick of awards season and while everyone is touting the names of Argo, Silver Linings Playbook and Les Mis, I have been singing the praises of what I think is this year's best movie, Parental Guidance. Although the critics panned it, I cannot remember laughing or crying this much in a film in years. It was equal parts heartwarming and hysterical, poking fun at parenting in today's child-centric driven society where parents are used to bending over backwards for their children leaving them harried and exhausted at each day's end.
Veteran actors, Bette Midler and Billy Crystal, play young-at-heart grandparents who are called upon to take care of their three grandchildren while their parents sneak away for a long-overdue vacation. The film was rife with relatable themes. What one might have expected to come across as cliché, instead seemed to shine a bright light on some of the problems we are dealing with as a society where children feel this constant sense of entitlement and parents are doing everything in their power to accommodate them. What I loved most was the juxtaposition of the overwhelmed and uptight parents of our generation who cannot catch a break with their children, with the more laid back approach of our parents' generation, whose combination of old-fashioned common sense with a gentle touch of humor added a much needed lightness to the family dynamic. There were countless scenes where the parents tried desperately to appease their kids only to leave them more confused and upset, ultimately inhibiting them from the very behavior they were trying to cease. Once the grandparents were given full reign, they were able to step in, strip away the complexities of the modern world, and eventually solve the problems.
Yes, this is the movies and everything ended happily in the end, but I do think there are some real truths to taking a step back and re-learning some lessons from our parent's generation. In particular, I wouldn't mind seeing some of these now considered retro-style themes, return to the forefront in the world of manners. I imagine it would make all of our lives a bit easier, not to mention, more civilized.
The Telephone. No one uses it anymore! Children as young as five are texting their parents and friends. Conversation is reduced to shorthand and emoticons. The land line is long forgotten. What ever happen to the good old days where you could have a substantial exchange with a friend or just shoot the breeze with an acquaintance? We are collectively losing our interpersonal skills and it is doing us all a disservice.
Proper Dining. Sitting down to dinner at the same time in the same place without disposable tableware is quickly becoming a thing of the past. With individual family members on a variety of fad diets and everyone on different schedules, extra effort needs to be applied in order to enjoy a meal together. This is an opportunity for family members to check in with one another, share about their lives and spend some quality face time with one another.
Family Television. I am not a prude, but I don't think I'll be watching any episodes of "Girls" with my daughters anytime soon. Television is not what it used to be and although I enjoy many of the programs as an adult, I still feel uncomfortable viewing many of them with my kids. I wouldn't mind a return to a bit more wholesome programming. Am I the only one growing tired of the simulated sex, foul language and mean spiritedness that is overtaking our children's media?
Dressing. If I see one more person dressed in yoga pants and flip flops, I am going to lose my mind! Kids and parents alike are rolling out of bed and throwing on whatever looks most comfortable and is most conveniently located. Personal grooming is lax. Getting dressed for the day not only makes you look more presentable, it is also a sign of respect for yourself as well as others.
Winning and Losing. It's part of life, and we have to learn to deal with it. We call it good sportsmanship - the act of gracefully losing and congratulating your opponent. It happens on the field, as well as in the workplace and there is nothing wrong with learning these important life lessons while you're young to help build grit and resilience as you get older.
Repercussions. Setting boundaries with real consequences is practically unheard of today. Punishment is getting harder to instill. The word "no" is uttered only under extreme measures. Parents are losing sight of the fact that children actually thrive on rules and guidelines and, in the long run, even grow to appreciate them. Bottom line, it shows children that they are loved and that their parents care.
Downtime. Known in today's world as unplugging, we often need an excuse to give ourselves permission to relax and reset. The overscheduling is killing us and making us crazy. If only we could go back to the lazy days of taking a walk in a park, reading a thick novel or strolling leisurely through a museum. We'll not only become more interesting human beings, we may even gain a new sense of calm.