5 Reasons To See The Movie Eighth Grade

My son turned 16 this week.  We went to see the movie Eighth Grade together, and I’m so glad we did.  Yes, it is rated R.  I accepted in advance that we would have to deal with uncomfortable or inappropriate “stuff”.

I walked away from the theater thinking anyone who works with youth age 12 to 18 need to see this film, and anyone who is a parent or close relative of children age 0 to 18 need to see this (mostly without kids present).  Here are my reasons why:

  1. Eighth Grade is a culture capture masterpiece.  The main character, Kayla, is facing uphill social anxiety issues within a suburban life setting filled with social media overload, popularity issues, vlogging, and teen body development.  The movie gives adults the opportunity to feel the culture through Kayla’s eyes.  Most adults can not relate to growing up in the social media age.  For 1 hour and 33 minutes you feel the sharp edges of what today is like for many young people.
  2. There are mature moments that deal with everything from boys trying to take advantage of girls to feeling awkward in a bathing suit.  For me, this was an opportunity to talk after the movie with my son about what we took away from the movie.  We both had lots of reactions to unravel and I count every deep conversation with a teenager a win.
  3. As a writer, I cheered at the way the script set the scene from the get go.  The quick flash images of braces with rubber bands, a tumbling Crayola markers tower, etc. had me.  I was in the middle school setting.  I could smell the dry erase board.
  4. Elsie Fisher (Kayla) is an incredible actor.  I believed her character every second.  Josh Hamilton (the dad) nailed his part.  Oh my, I’ve been that parent!  Being there for your child in a culture that seems to dominate over common sense can be tough.  Kudos to all the actors and congratulations to writer/director Bo Burnham!  #Genius
  5. Parents of young children could learn a lot by seeing this film without kids present.  Use the experience to make decisions and prepare in advance for the adolescent years.  For example, I could not be happier that we waited to give our oldest child a smartphone until he was 17 years old.  We were concerned about impulse issues and it was good to watch his brain develop further before a phone was ever present.  Then, at a loss for a good Christmas present for the younger child, we gave him a smartphone much sooner.  He was 14.  I wish we waited.  Technology at a child’s fingertips is overrated.  I have a whole mental list of internet filters and turn off switches that I would have deployed if I’d known better sooner with my kids.

Another thought that came to mind is how painful it can be for young people to endure the current day culture if they don’t know of a Higher Power or higher purpose for their life.  No one measures up to photoshopped pictures of peers or celebrities.  Knowing peace in your heart and soul no matter what one sees online is helpful.  My prayer for young families is to not wait to give a solid foundation to your children.  Teach them early of the greatest love there is so they can withstand storms that arrive in various forms.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

Sidebar:  This is a link to an academic paper I helped write about Conceptualizing Adolescence/ts in 2017.  If you are an educator, parent or mental health professional, I hope it is helpful.

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GOD HATES YOU…?

What??? God hates you if… were words I heard this year from a group of 11, 12 & 13 year olds.

My heart broke because in their voices I could hear how much they believed what they were saying. They also said Churches hate you if….

To complete both sentences they went on to say a variety of reasons why God/Church might hate someone. My job is to listen and not interrupt. If you work with young people, then you may know how important vital it is to listen–to really listen all the way, to let them finish speaking.

Their conversation reminded me that what children see all too often is hate. Hate, arguments and people taking a stand in a way that steps on the hope of young people.

When we spew anger and judgement, we create an environment where a young person feels compelled to take a side. And like those teens expressed, we create barriers that a young person decides they won’t cross. Adults, do we think of the impact before we post something negative on facebook? Do we consider that speaking negative words might turn someone away from God instead of toward Him?

Q: How willing is someone to try going to church when they think they would not be welcomed through the door?

A: They are not willing and they don’t think church would even be an option for them.

But could we, adults, choose to love, choose to listen, choose to be open and inviting?

We can. And some do. But not enough.

I challenge us to read and review Matthew 7. Oh, what a wonderful chapter! That is one of the places in the Bible where you’ll find “Judge not, that ye not be judged.” Jesus talks about how we all have stuff we’re dealing with. He says to deal with our own issues and not point out other people’s challenges.

When Jesus was done speaking, Matthew 7:28-29 says …the people were astonished at his doctrine for He taught as one having authority…. Astonished? I picture the people in the crowd looking at one another with expressions of Wowza, He really meant that or Oops, I resemble some of what He said.

And here we are, thousands of years later, many still judging and still hating. We are human, but can we work to be better, to judge less or not at all? I believe not judging takes practice and prayer.

The teens did ask for me to chime in eventually. I shared, “In my experience God is love and He loves everyone no matter who they are or what they’ve done.” I paused, “And I’m grateful to say that I feel like the doors are wide open and people are welcoming at my church. There are many types of churches in your community.”

“Really?” some of them said.

“Really.” I smiled. And with that, their random topic changed to something else in the way that teenage conversations sometimes do.

Dear God, Thank you for your Word. Thank you for your teachings. Please help me not to judge. Help me to be open. Help me never to diminish someone’s chance for hope and peace. Help me to express Your love. Amen

Remember, the children are watching and listening. Care, don’t scare.

God loves you,

Glenna

THE MONDAY AFTER

I wonder how many parents are struggling to send their kids to school today?

How many of us wish it was time for Christmas break to begin so we could have a few extra days to catch our breath?

Like many parents out there, I could use more time to absorb the shocking Newtown, CT news before sending my children back to school. My heart grieves the reality of the unthinkable. I do not know how the families of the loved ones lost can stand up or breath without sobbing right now. And I weep just thinking of them.

In a short while I’m supposed to drop my kids off at two different schools. I’ve thought about my safety concerns at each building; every hallway and classroom. My logic tells me not to worry, but how, how do you not worry? This is not any normal day. This is The Monday After–the first school day after elementary students and teachers lost their lives in a gruesome, sick way. Innocent and gone.

My youngest picked this weekend to tell me that his teacher says you can skip the “under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance if you want. “Under God” is not required. Really? Wow. I understand and respect the reasons why. But this scares me.

Perhaps we adults who do pray and who do believe in “one nation, under God” can do a better job of praying for our children. I’m going to set an alarm on my phone so that every Monday through Friday I will be reminded at 7am to pray for children in our broken country and in the world.

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”

Protect the innocent. Begin with prayer. There’s much more we can do, but consistent prayers of protection is a good start. Please join me in setting your alarm for 7am and pray for children daily.

Sincerely,

Glenna