I love it when you see a film and it makes you take a look at yourself. Myself and Mr I recently went and saw The Boys Are Back. The movie is based on the memoir “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Simon Carr.
The central character is Joe Warr, a top sports writer who spends a lot of time away from working. That is until his second wife, the beautiful Katie dies. He is then the sole carer for their son Artie (6) and also his older son Harry (14) from his first marriage, who comes out from England. The film follows his struggle to learn how to be the father that his boys need him to be, whilst juggling work and a personal life.
Although the central character is a dad, as a mother there were many moments through out the film when I reflected on the way I parent my boys. There was three key themes that stood out for me:
1. Over Parenting
Back in May last year, I wrote a post Am I Over Parenting? inspired by the release of the book Under Pressure by Carl Honore. Since this time there has been a lot of media about the phenomena of over parenting. (Just last week it was the cover story of TIME Magazine – The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting which is really worth a read if you have time).
Watching Joe interact with his boys made me think, that I still have some way to go, in terms of easing the reigns so my children can experience more. Watch the scene below and tell me honestly what your reaction was? I think that I was in the “worrying mother” camp. Yet if I think back to my childhood, I would have been doing those types of things at the exactly same age and lived to tell the tale.
Mr I was very happy to see that scene as we are in the process of building a fort in the back yard, which he says is going to have a flying fox on it. And he doesn’t mean one of the nice safe ones that you find in the playground these days, he means one like Joe built for Artie!
2. Remembering Who Is The Adult
As I noted at the beginning, the film shows how Joe struggles with parenting his boys and he certainly could never be accused of the aforementioned over parenting. He does however seem to forget at times that he is the adult in the relationship and that his boys need him to act like one.
When I wrote about Remembering To Be An Adult, I quoted Dr Simon Crisp who is a clinical adolescent and family psychologist in the faculty of education at Monash University, who said:
“Generally, one of the biggest threats to a child’s health and wellbeing is when parents are rendered powerless or ineffective. Developmentally, the lives of teenagers need parents to not just take control at certain times, but have the power to do so.”
In The Boys Are Back, Joe pushes the boundaries of the adult / child realtionship and ends up learning a valuable lesson from his elder son Harry. In the scene where Joe asks Harry to return home, Harry replies:
No, it doesn’t feel safe there, you scared me.
A valuable reminder to me that teen boys don’t need you to be their best friend, they need you to be their parent.
When Harry comes from England to stay with his dad, they have a lot of relationship building to do, as Joe left England when Harry was six. There are two key scenes which highlighted to me, a teenager’s perspective on how parents listen to them.
The first of these, is in Harry’s bedroom, where Harry asks his dad if he can ask him a question. Instead of listening to what this question might be, Joe jumps in presuming that he knows what Harry is going to say and gets it badly wrong. The moment of Harry opening up is then gone and an opportunity lost for Joe to learn more about his son.
The second scene is towards the end and Harry is more explicit of what he wants from his dad. Harry says to his dad that he wants him to listen to what he has to say. Joe jumps in quickly and says that he is listening, to which Harry responds :
I need you to really listen to me.
Harry proceeds to tell Joe how he feels, and Joe then does what many parents do, he hears what Harry says, but he doesn’t actually listen and take in its meaning. He dismisses Harry’s and Harry is left frustrated:
I say how I feel and you say I am ridiculous.
I know that this is something that I am guilty of doing too on occasion. One of my kids may tell me how they are feeling about something and I may respond, by saying don’t worry about it or something of that ilk. My intention is well meaning, I want to make them feel better, but this is not really listening. I need to remember that I don’t have to solve their problem or make their feelings go away, but I do need to listen to how they are feeling and acknowledge it. Sometimes children just want to express how they feel, without the parent taking over the conversation.
The Boys Are Back was truly enjoyable to watch. The start is sad though, so I would recommend taking along some tissues. It has been some time since I have watched a film that made me think about how I parent and to have to see it encased by the stunning Australian scenery and sounds, as it is in this film, made it even more memorable.
Myself and Mr I saw The Boys Are Back courtesy of Hopscotch Films.