They just don’t make movies like they used to…
For those of us children of the 80's, we have grown up to be parents in a new millennium. It blows my mind to live in a world with Internet, Apple Pay, scanners, and Netflix, not to mention having the intel
ahead of time to predict the name of your driver and exact time of your taxi... er... Lyft, pick up. The fact that you can Jetsons style talk to grandparents ON YOUR PHONE (if they aren’t too busy playing Candy Crush on their iPad) was unheard of when I was little. When I tell my children I did not have email in college, or digital pictures at my wedding, or the capability to replay Mary Lou Retton’s perfect 10’s at the 1984 summer Olympics, they look at me with a quizzical, pitying face, and then ask Alexa to DJ their dance party.
Fortunately, we have the best decade of movie quotes to help us with our toughest parenting moments. Here are 5 to get you started.
“Goonies never say die” – The Goonies (1985)
There are days, especially in those first five years, when we as parents want to give up. The relentlessness is just too much. The baby won’t let you put her down, the toddler is on a tantrum loop, the preschooler decides to do a science experiment in the toilet with your special face cream, and your in-laws surprise you with a 2 week visit.
But the Goonies never gave up and we can’t either!
Even when our sleep deprivation feels like the the life or death piano made of bones, the constant mountain of laundry and kitchen disasters are comparable to the bad guys who want to repossess the house, and our kids are fighting like the Fratelli brothers. Did Josh Brolin give up when his bike had a flat tire? No! Did Chunk give up when he was locked in the freezer? No! We signed up for this adventure we call parenthood, because in the end, we will pull out that marble bag and shake out the perfect, beautiful pirate jewels, hug our kids, and take a trip to the Oregon coast. All our hard work and relentless teaching, coaching, nurturing, and encouraging DOES take flight (especially around that magical developmental age of 8) and we one day will reap the treasure. We just have to walk the plank first.
“I started out on clean up just like you guys. But now... now I'm washing lettuce. Soon I'll be on fries; then the grill. In a year or two, I'll make assistant manager, and that's when the big bucks start rolling in.” – Coming to America (1988)
What happened to a little grit? Kids these days have the nerve to say “I’m bored” and seem to have lost that drive we built while walking miles in the snow to school. In my day we rallied up kids from the neighborhood to play the Bloodhound Gang and were gone for an entire Saturday. The truth is, children need opportunity and an environment to practice skills, not parents who do everything for them. They need a sense of significance and belonging in the family to feel capable and a sense of contribution. We do WAY too much for them. Kids are capable, starting even before the age of 2, to help with anything around the house (cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry) and definitely with aspects of their own self care (dressing, feeding, toileting). So next time they get a little whiny or bored, hand them a mop, a spray bottle or some laundry.
Work ethic is timeless.
“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong, but we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain...
...and an athlete
...and a basket case
...and a criminal
Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”
-The Breakfast Club (1985)
Parenting is hard enough the first time around. Some of us even go back for a second (or more) round of adventure, bringing the delightful challenges of sibling conflict. And boy do we love to stereotype our kids! For these rough patches, simply re-watch arguably the best 80s movie ever to minimize rivalry and competition. Children are good perceivers and poor interpreters. They take their observations, and the way we treat each sibling and make decisions and beliefs that drive their behavior. When we typecast our children, “she is the athlete, he is the mathlete,” they believe there is only ONE of those roles in the family to play. What does that leave kiddo #3? Either the princess, the basket case, or the criminal in this metaphor. Watch the way you speak about your children, keeping as many parts available to all. They can ALL be passionate about biology, or run fast, or have a great sense of humor, so make sure they know that by the way we communicate (verbally and non verbally).
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller (1986)
Parents don’t get sick days, or mental health days, or badges or Oscars for that matter, so we need to look to Ferris for a good lesson in self care. Unfortunately, you can’t leave the kids with a rigged up mannequin in your bed and pick up Sloane and Cameron for a fancy lunch, but you CAN (and must) find small ways to resource and nurture yourself each day. It is not a luxury, but a way to reset so you are ABLE to access the patience to model managing big emotions, or being flexible, or curious, or gentle. Without self care, it feels overwhelming to teach that mistakes are opportunities to learn, and it is hard to be mindful and present enough to tell our children “I see you and I love you” authentically and with evidence to prove it. Instead of stealing a car or riding a float or going to a baseball game, make yourself a special breakfast, book a babysitter for a Monday night yoga class when the kids are in bed. Binge watch Stranger Things, or simply pause here and there and take some deep breaths. Most importantly, like Ferris, don’t feel guilty about it!
“You used to be fun. You used to be warped and twisted and hilarious…and I mean that in the best way- I mean it as a compliment!” – Say Anything (1989)
Ahhhh Say Anything! Just close your eyes and imagine John Cusack in the pouring rain playing “In Your Eyes” on his boombox. You’re welcome. This quote in the movie is one of my favorite parenting lessons of all time. Lloyd Dobler is talking to his sister Constance (and real life sister Joan Cusack). Lloyd is a senior in high school living with Constance, who is a single mom, and her son. She is pleading with him, “why can’t you be his uncle, not his playmate?” He says this quote back to her and I love it because Constance looks at him in response and softens. “I was fun, wasn’t I?” As parents, we FORGET that we used to be fun! And our kids NEED this from us. They need connection and lightness so their brain and hearts feel safe and they can soak up all there is to learn in their amazing world. Dragging them through a routine or nagging as our only form of communication is not helpful. You can be connected and fun and light AND also hold firm to routines and expectations. In fact, when you engage in imagination and role play and games, you are actually strengthening their executive functioning and creativity and overall prefrontal cortex, which gives them stronger neurons needed for emotional regulation and focus. So tap into that inner 80’s child, and FIND THE FUN!
P.S. I could keep going: Adventures in Babysitting, Die Hard, Sixteen Candles, Beverly Hills Cop, Back to the Future, Footloose. What are your favorites?
Julietta is a Certified Positive Discipline Advanced Trainer with an Ed.S Degree in School Psychology and a Masters Degree in School Counseling from Seattle University. She is the co-founder of Sproutable, science backed online parenting insights for pregnancy to preschool, helping multitasking and sleep deprived parents everywhere. Her trauma informed expertise includes early child development, autism, learning disabilities, anxiety, behavior disorders, Positive Discipline, Social Thinking and mindfulness. Her popular keynote speeches, classes and workshops in Seattle have been described as rejuvenating, motivating and inspiring. Julietta has learned the most from her own three daughters.