Last night my friend Jeanie came over and we watched the movie “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” My twins, who are almost 18 years old, and my son Gus, 12, joined us even though it was a school night. Jeanie, my daughter and I were originally going to go out to the movies but then we decided to stay home and rented the independent film that Jeanie had mentioned she wanted to see earlier in the summer.
The twins were intrigued with the movie, enough to ignore their homework after catching glimpses of the film’s subject matter: a boy named Greg — the “Me” in the film’s title — is in his senior year of high school, exactly where my twins are at right now.
In the film, Greg navigates his way through high school, never identifying with any particular social “group” while at the same time trying to be minimally accepted into each social group. During lunch, rather than eating in the chaotic cafeteria dotted with clusters of these social groups, Greg eats with his friend Earl in his history teacher’s office.
After showing shots at school, the film launches quickly into Greg’s family life at home, where he is encouraged by his mom to reach out to a girl named Rachel who has been diagnosed with leukemia.
“You might be a person who can make Rachel feel better,” she says with compassion. When Greg hesitates, reminding his mom that he hasn’t interacted with Rachel since kindergarten and it is super uncomfortable and awkward, Greg’s mom doesn’t give him a choice.
Call her anyway. So Greg calls Rachel, asking her if he can stop by to see her and she basically tells him she’s not interested. No thanks.
Greg’s mom doesn’t buy the excuse, telling him to go over and talk to her anyway. She has cancer. This is huge. She needs a friend.
Greg listens reluctantly to his mother and visit’s Rachel. Their meetings at first are awkward — Cue, Rachel: “I don’t need your pity,” and Greg: “I not here cause I pity you, I’m actually here because my mom is making me.” With these exchanges, you can’t help but chuckle in the midst of a very serious cancer. Greg and Rachel eventually forge a friendship, that involves daily visits. Greg draws his friend Earl into the picture, and the two of them, who are amateur filmmakers, even make a movie about Rachel’s life to help encourage her.
In the end, Greg has impacted The Dying Girl’s life more than anyone else. And it was all because of Greg’s mom not taking no as an answer from her son.
As I thought about the interaction of Greg and his mom in this film, and how Greg’s mom insisted on her son reaching out to the dying girl, I began connecting it with this series on finding your parenting philosophy.
The message: “Sometimes you just make them do it.”
Yep, even teenagers, even pre-teens. Teaching them to push themselves into an uncomfortable situation, teaching them to reach out even when it is not easy, you do it. You are the mom. Kids need direction. And prodding sometimes.
What kinds of situations have you been in where you have pushed your child to move out of his or her comfort zone? Have you encouraged your child to reach out to someone they may not know? Have you asked your child to do something for someone that they may not be friends with, but had them do it anyway? What were the results?
Parenting philosophy: “Boosting Our Kids Out of their Comfort Zones”