Snuggling with my husband on the couch last night, we were looking forward to an evening without the kids. It had been virtually months since we had watched a good movie and Mom’s Night Out (2014) had been recommended by several friends. Being several years removed from the exhaustion of small kids under foot and the distant memory of a husband who traveled more than he was home, laughter filled the room from memories gone by.
Trust me when I say that the last place I expect to get any real parenting skills would be from today’s movies, yet I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and realism of the characters’ parenting dilemmas. As I enjoyed the comedic antics of the young children and remembered when girlfriend time was something to be craved, I was struck by the interaction between the pastor’s wife and her teen daughter. From a parenting perspective there was much to gain for those who were tuned in to how the mother reacted to her daughters requests!
- WHEN YOU SAY “NO”, STICK TO YOUR GUNS. It was great to see the mother of this teenager stick to her “no” when it came to an inappropriate pair of shorts that the daughter had purchased. Several times the girl pleaded her case. The mother’s response was always the same. There was no dialog defending her position. Just a simple “no”. Know that teenagers fully understand what your standard of dress is and they will push the limit. Why argue with them when they already know what your response will be? They’re testing the waters. Don’t let them push you to give in.
- SAY “NO” AND ANTICIPATE WHAT THEY ARE THINKING. Plans had been made by the daughter to go meet a boy from church. Again, the mother said “no”. But she took it one step further! Knowing that her husband’s sports car was sitting in the driveway, she told the girl that she was not to take his car. She further told her not to ask her dad about going out when he got home. Her answer was “no”. How many times have our children skirted our “no” with a twist of circumstances that we didn’t anticipate? Make sure you learn to think like your child.
- LET THEM CHOOSE TO COMPLY. This is the part where I struggled as a mom. (Just being honest here). In the movie Mom had a night planned to go out with girlfriends. She told her daughter the rules, anticipated ways that she might try to get around them, and then left. This is where I applauded her! How many times do we as mothers try to control our teens’ decisions? The truth of the matter is that her teen could have put the shorts on, gotten in Dad’s car, and gone to see the boy. If mom had stayed home, the daughter could have been forced to stay as well. But Mom did the right thing!! She went out, had fun, and allowed her daughter to make her own choice to obey or disobey.
- GET REAL. How many times do we choose to keep the past a secret? All of us have a past that impacts how we parent. As the film plays out, we find that this pastor’s wife has something that she would prefer others not know about her. She bravely faces that past and even chooses to share it with her daughter. Yeah for the pastor’s wife!! She took her mask off so that she could connect with her teenager! If this were a true story, sharing that sordid past would most likely save her daughter a similar pain in the future. I’m not saying that everything we’ve done needs to be an open book, but at some point, teens need to know about some of the decisions we may not be so proud of. It helps them come to grips with not only our humanness, but the fact that we make decisions for them based on the painful experiences we’ve endured.
If only I had had such a role model early on in my parenting! Watching the character of Sondra fulfill her role as mother on screen, made me take a look at my own parenting. How many times have I changed my “no” decision because I allowed my child to sway me to their way of thinking? How many different ways did my teen twist my intent because I had not anticipated their potential ways to skirt the issue? How many times did my child succeed at playing my husband and I against each other until they got the answer they wanted? How many times did I forgo my plans in order to make sure they understood that I did not trust them? How many secrets am I holding on to with fear that my child may do the same thing?
Dare you to take inventory in your parenting on some of these issues. Maybe after watching this film and snuggling with your husband?