Back to school

I recently turned 40, but this past weekend I went back to high school. 

Image from The Perks of Being a Wallflower official website

We watched the movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I can't seem to shake it from my mind, my heart. Wallflower is a smart and quirky coming of age story set in 1991 -  the year I graduated high school. No cellphones, no internet, and trapper keepers instead of tablets. Days when you couldn't Shazam a song on the radio to instantly figure out the artist and song title. And mixed tapes. 

High school for me wasn't that bad, definitely not a horror story. I have lifelong friendships from those days and many good memories. But don't get me wrong, I would never choose to go through it again.

Watching Wallflower this weekend didn't make me reflect on my own high school days so much as it made me imagine the days when Charlie and Izzy will walk those halls. I realized that watching your own children experience this right of passage is likely the one thing worse than going through it yourself. Their failures and heartbreaks will be tougher to endure than my own. I want to protect them from it all - and yet I know these moments, good and bad, will shape who they become in life. I will have to let them experience it all and do my best to cheer them on and pick up the pieces.

I hope they never have to sit alone at lunch. I hope they have nice friends. I hope they are kind to others and learn to be themselves. I found a review of the movie written by Roger Ebert in which he said: "The movie confirms one of my convictions: If you are too popular in high school, you may become so fond of the feeling that you never find out who you really are." It's all so complicated.

Ryan and I kept asking each other throughout the movie 'where are all the parents?' There were house parties with no adult supervision, and scenes of parents meeting with teachers or talking to their kids about life in general were decidedly absent. The only real guidance from an adult came in a positive relationship with one English teacher, and even he wasn't painted as the hero. Paul Rudd's character didn't really do anything other than encourage the lead character's interest in writing. We decided this absence of parents and any influential adults in the movie was purposeful. No matter how well-intentioned a parent or teacher might be, teens must navigate the high school halls themselves. They learn from their friends, their enemies, and themselves.

It didn't help my foreshadowing that the title character of this film was named Charlie. With dark hair and dark eyes, he was sweet and kind - just like my Charlie. We have about 10 years to prep our Charlie before we send him down those hallways to find his locker, hoping he won't get stuffed in it along with his backpack and books. I think I'll go give him a big hug and a kiss now, and every day until then.

Image from The Perks of Being a Wallflower official website

The movie left me feeling completely vulnerable, but also appreciative of the parenting stage I'm in now. Sure, the nights are long and sleep is limited - but our children also look to us for every answer, we control their experiences and what influences them, and they learn everything they know about right and wrong from us -  their parents. They are in our family cocoon, safe and surrounded with love. I wish I could 
keep them there forever.


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