Last Saturday, I took my favorite almost-five-year-old out for a date that consisted of dinner and a movie. Since she is at that in-between stage of a toddler and a big girl, we were dealing with some behavioral issues that we were trying to break her of. Long story short- this date was a privilege that she earned for her good behavior.
We went to a fairly nice restaurant (let’s be real, I was with a 4 year old… we are not talking Morton's here, but there were at least linen tablecloths. I was just thrilled to not have to order out of a clown’s nose.) Despite her telling me that her “burger tasted a little bland,” we had a fantastic dinner. Great company, fantastic conversation- I was amazed at how much my little girl had grown up. Gone are the days of telling her repeatedly to sit down, or stop whining. (Keeping my fingers crossed on that one!)
After dinner, we were off to see Ramona and Beezus. Growing up, I loved reading Beverly Cleary’s stories about that mischievous girl next door, Ramona, and her older sister, Beatrice. As Cleary says “It is not that Ramona deliberately sets out to make trouble for other people. She simply has more imagination than is healthy for any one person.”
When the director of the film, Elizabeth Allen sat down with Cleary to discuss the making of the film, here is what she uncovered:
"I feel it's about girl who thinks outside the lines, who's struggling to figure out how to conform without losing her personality,'" Allen says. "And Beverly felt strongly that it was actually just about a girl learning how to grow up."
"She has an imagination," Beverly Cleary says of her most famous creation. "And some of her things just don't turn out the way she expected. "Those "things" often get Ramona in trouble, and then make her feel misunderstood.
This interview sums up my revelation during the film. We hold our children to such high standards that sometimes we forget that they are just that- children. True, Ramona does march to the beat of her own drum, much like my E… oh yeah, and much someone else used to... ME! But don’t we need a little bit more of that in this world?
I will never forget, when I would give my mother a hard time growing up, she would tell me “I wish you no harm in this world, all I wish is that you have a little girl just like yourself. ” Well Neets, you got your wish. As parents we focus so much on the “hard metrics” of parenting… Are they doing well in school? Do they follow directions? What activities do I need to sign them up for? How do they compare against their peers? Saturday night was a great interruption from all of the noise- allowing me to focus on what was really important in raising happy, healthy kids.
So, the very reason why we were at this movie was as much a privilege for me as it was for her. And as my little girl moved from her chair and nestled into my lap during the last half of the film, here is what occurred to me:
1. It’s important to set expectations for your children, but always remember that they are just that- children.
2. Encourage creativity.
3. Always let your child know how much you love them.
4. Be a positive role model.
5. You can never get (or give) too many kisses and hugs.
6. It’s okay to be different.
7. Everyone is special.
8. Celebrate all accomplishments, big and small.
9. Teach your children how to bond with their siblings- this is a relationship that will last long after you are gone.
10. The most important thing in life is to be happy.