What The Breakfast Club Taught Me About Parenting
I sat down to watch one of the all-time classic 80s films the other night… The Breakfast Club. I think I can quote every line of the film by heart… yes I’m one of THOSE people… an unashamed movie buff who can give you a verbatim run down of a myriad of amazing 80s and 90s movies.
Anyway, if you’ve never seen The Breakfast Club… er why the hell not? I insist you stop what you’re doing right now and go off and watch it this second!! It’s a classic and while it’s best to watch it for the first time as a teenager, full of angst and rage against authority, watching it as an adult is still worth doing.
By today’s standards, the hairstyles are naff, the music is retro and the clothes are dated… although they’re probably back IN style again, such is the cyclical nature of fashion. But the 80s hallmarks aside, the film is timeless in its sharp portrayal of teenage angst and their bid to break away from their parents.
Granted, they’ve no iPhones or social media to contend with, but they’ve still got all the usual pressures heaped upon them stemming from the stereotypes they cannot escape.
The film centres on five characters who have to show up to school on Saturday morning for an all-day detention (hence the name The Breakfast Club).
We’ve got the princess, aka Claire Standish the popular, rich girl played by 80s icon (actually they are ALL icons) Molly Ringwald. The athlete, high school jock Andrew Clark played by Emilio Estevez. The geeky brain who loves his academic clubs, Brian Johnson, played by Anthony Michael Hall. The basket case loner, Allison Reynolds, played by Ally Sheedy and finally the criminal bad boy, John Bender played by Judd Nelson.
All of the kids are presented in and at first appear to be, archetypal stereotypes, but as the movie progresses we get to peel back the layers of each to find that they are much more than their labels suggest. They’ve got vulnerabilities and fears and most of their perceived ‘issues’ stem from their parents.
In one scene in the film Andrew says to Allison; ‘Is it bad? Real bad? Parents?
To which she replies; ‘Yeah.’
He then says; ‘What did they do to you?
Ahhhhh! Their parents?
The overwhelming message from the film is that their parents have fucked them up, royally. They’ve put pressure on their kids, ignored them, pushed them in certain directions they didn’t want to go in, used them in arguments and don’t give them the freedom to be themselves.
I sank a little inside at the frightening realisation, that they all blamed their parents.
Because this was the first time I’d watched the movie as a parent and for the first time, I could see the story from the parent’s point of view. The parents have all clearly mistakes, but I’ve no doubt with the exception of Benders abusive father, that they were all trying to do what was best for their kids, yet each of them had only succeeded in pushing them away.
I couldn’t believe I was watching the film and rooting for the parents, and yet I was! I could see myself in the future, being one of those parents who was desperately trying to do the right thing, only to have the converse consequences take place.
My heart was pounding and I started to think about myself and all the mistakes I’ve made already at this parenthood malarkey at just 20 months in!
Like most first time parents I haven’t a bloody clue what I’m doing, I’m winging it every, single day and making a tonne of mistakes along the way. The fear of not knowing what I’m doing really terrifies me sometimes. It’s like the ultimate leap of faith, but the consequences of getting it wrong are huge.
The thing is though, despite my best of intentions, I’m going to keep making mistakes, but how will I explain that to my one day teenage son who might come to hate me for all said mistakes? How can I tell him that I love him more than I can quantify and that all I wanted was to do was to give him the best possible life, full of love, laughter, good things and good people; to hope that he wouldn’t make the same mistakes as me and instead have the world be opened up to him like an infinity pool of possibility that he can dive into. That I honestly did my best each and every day?
The answer is, I can’t.
Because here’s three undeniable facts.
The first - all parents make mistakes; there’s no handbook, no exams or qualifications for parenthood. You’ve just got to muddle your way through, trust you mammy gut and do the best you can.
Secondly - in the same vein, to some extent, all teenagers are self-centred creatures and that’s their prerogative. I was just the same and I’m guessing so is every single teenage out there.
And when both of those things collide you’ve got a recipe for combustion…
And the last thing? We don’t tend to fully understand what our own parents went through until we ourselves become parents. Only then do we finally realise just how tough it was for them, how much they were winging it, how many sacrifices they made, how many hard choices they had to take and just how damn much they loved us every, single day, even when we made it hard for them to do so.