I just watched the movie Turning Red with my daughters and all three of us loved it. It was the right movie at the right time for me.
My 13 year old sat next to me watching the movie intently and relating to Mei, who is the main character in the movie. Mei was a voice for so many kids. I’m thankful for this movie and for its ability to make my teenager feel understood and for giving us some important points to discuss.
The mom Ming in the movie is very overprotective. My girls laughed at Ming and looked at me. “Hey, I’m not like that,” I told my girls. They often call me overprotective. The mom was spying on her daughter at school, and I made it clear to my girls that I would never do that. They think it’s funny to make fun of me and I just laughed along as they bonded over how crazy I am.
We want the best for our kids. We want them to be okay. Something I realized a long time ago is that they won’t always be ok. Things happen when we are around and when we aren’t around. I just make it clear that I am here. Just knowing that my mom was going to be home when I got home was the steady force that I needed, and I want to give that to my children. It’s okay for them to be upset, disappointed or angry.
Mei’s mom Ming had this impression of her daughter that she is perfect. I have trouble comprehending when a parent thinks their children can do no wrong. Are you perfect? Is anyone perfect? Your child isn’t either. The mom blamed the cashier and the friends for things that they didn’t do wrong because her child is so perfect in her eyes. You may laugh but I have seen parents do this. Let’s normalize for our kids that everyone makes mistakes.
I interviewed an amazing parenting coach this morning and she said, “We want our kids to run to us with problems not away from us.” Wow, did that line hit me. If our kids think that we expect them to be perfect, then they are never going to tell us their problems. They aren’t going to tell us when they screw up. I know that my kids aren’t perfect, and I know that they are going to make mistakes. Let’s make sure that they know this about us. If we react when they tell us things, they are going to clam up and run away. Let us keep ourselves calm and open to the discussion. They need us. They need us to be the steady force.
Mei’s father Jin seemed like such a wonderful, calm, loving dad. He told Mei, “People have all kinds of sides to them Mei, and some of them are messy.” He continuously impressed me in the movie. The father was calm and steady, and the mother was overprotective and reactive. It made me really look at myself. Especially when my 15 year old son told me, “You are always so tense.” My husband Seth is so calm and steady. That is part of what attracted me to him. Our children find it very comforting too. The movie really made me take a long hard look at myself. I saw the calm father and the reactive mother, and I found myself taking very deep breaths.
Mei’s mother blew up, threw Mei in the car, and booked it to the store to yell at the cashier when he had done nothing wrong. It made me think about when Ella was telling me about a couple of kids in her classes. As her mother, I wanted to get in my car and go yell at these kids. I picture it in my head, but I don’t actually go do it. I’m not going to tell you that I have never sent an email. Ella is even famous for saying to me, “Don’t do anything. Don’t fix it. Don’t email. Just listen.” They just want us to calmly listen to them. In fact, a parent recently said that one of the greatest things she does as a mom is to really listen to her kids. She doesn’t talk at them. She doesn’t lecture them. She listens. They want us to listen. They don’t want us to overreact. They don’t want us to storm down to school upset. They want us to be their calm steady force and listen to them.
If you haven’t watched the movie, I strongly recommend it. Mei turns into a red panda, and this leads to many changes. In fact, Mei’s friends embrace the red panda side of Mei and love who she is changing into. Isn’t that the only thing that we are guaranteed? That our kids are going to change. I felt like Mei’s mom was trying to keep her as her young child and was resisting that Mei is growing up. We can all relate to that. I stare at my children and wonder how they have gotten so old. My son is 15 and looks like a man and is excited to start driving soon. That is a lot for me to swallow. Our kids are going to grow up and change, and we need to grow up and change too. I told Max that as he grows older, I also grow as a parent. I learn and grow and change with them. I know that they need different things from me now. I know that Ella is responsible and capable and can do a lot on her own now. I see it. I embrace these wonderful people that they are becoming but I also know what it’s like to miss your young children.
Mei says in the movie, “If they don’t trust us anyway, then what’s the point.” I want us all to really soak in that line. Our kids want us to trust them. They want us to show them that we trust them. They want us to give them more freedom and allow their wings to open. They don’t want us to keep them home and protect them in our nest. They want us to see that they can be trusted and that they are capable and that they are going to make mistakes.
There are great messages for kids and great messages for parents. What I love the most about the movie is that Mei really learns to embrace who she is. Mei says, “I accept and embrace all labels.” I asked my daughter what her take away was from the movie and she said, “Embracing who you are and all your weirdness.” That is exactly what Mei would say, and she would agree with Ella. Loving yourself and all your weirdness is the best we can want for our children. Normal is boring, and what is normal anyway? If someone calls you weird, “Yes I am, thank you very much.” Just be you and just love you. Isn’t that what we want for our kids and for ourselves too?
As Mei is learning that who she is, is pretty wonderful, Ming her mom is learning a lot too. She is learning that change is okay. She is learning that her child can be trusted, and she can begin to loosen her reins on her. She is learning that in trying so hard to avoid the mistakes her own mother made, she was making the exact same mistakes. Her daughter felt like not enough, just like how she had felt. As Ming and Mei learn together and change together it is very touching.
The movie teaches us about acceptance. It teaches us about empathy. It teaches us about change. It teaches us about the importance of communication. It also teaches us that relationships can be repaired. As Ming and Mei’s relationship gets better so does Ming’s relationship with her own mom.
I recommend this movie. I agree with the messages from the movie. I am not perfect. My children aren’t perfect. I know that we will keep growing and changing together. Go get some popcorn and enjoy this movie with your children.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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