8 Tips for Being the Favorite Grandparent from Parental Guidance
Old school or new school, Parental Guidance has lessons to share. Here are a few of the things we learned while we were laughing.
January 1, 2012
Parental Guidance, the new film from Fox that stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as Artie and Diane Decker, opened in theatres on Christmas Day. We got a sneak preview – and a chat with director, Andy Fickman – and think you’ll enjoy this funny and heartwarming take on family dynamics as much as we did.
Just for fun, we thought we’d share a few tips we picked up from the film on how to be a rockin’ parent and grandparent – the kind who is everyone’s favorite.
1. Show up.
Relationships are like the lotto: you’ve gotta be in them to win them! That means face time. Artie and Diane haven’t seen as much of their grandchildren as they’d like to, and when they arrive at their daughter (played by Marisa Tomei) Alice’s home to babysit for a few days, it’s clear that their absence has had a price. They’ve become the dreaded “other” grandparents – the less relevant grandparents. Diane is determined to remedy this.
2. Be yourself.
“Our grandchildren are going to love me!” Diane declares to Artie.
“What about me?” he asks.
“That’s your problem!” she replies.
Diane proceeds to win the hearts and minds of her grandkids by being herself – unabashedly and without apology. When one of her grandchildren is threatened, Diane stands up like a mother bear. When she thinks Alice’s rules are too tough, she speaks out. She leads with love every step of the way but what makes her irresistible is her authenticity.
3. Remember it’s not about you.
Artie learns the hard way that the kids have to come first. When he skips out on a play date Alice has planned for her youngest, Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), so that he can attend to business of his own, the results aren’t pretty. He’s in more trouble than Barker, especially with Diane and Alice. The take-away is a reminder that when there are children involved, grown-ups need to act their age. This endears you to the kids – including your adult children, too.
4. Stay out of your own way.
It’s easy to trip all over yourself when you’re trying to get the kids to like you. You may be tempted (like Artie) to bend the rules a little, or even break them completely. Resist the temptation. Even though the way your kids are raising your grandkids may seem alien to you, remember that they almost certainly know the kids better than you do and want the best for them. Express your opinion when you can do so nicely, but be respectful and don’t arbitrarily change the house rules.
5. Use your words.
Like many modern parents, Alice and Phil (Tom Everett Scott) impress upon their children that if they’re frustrated or angry, they need to use their words rather than acting out. It’s good advice for grown-ups, too. When Artie works up the nerve to tell his daughter that he doesn’t feel welcome in her home, he lays the groundwork for a more meaningful relationship with her, and with his grandchildren. Expressing your feelings honestly and with compassion is one of the best ways to keep your family strong.
6. Winning isn’t everything.
Artie is a professional sports announcer, so maybe you can imagine his dismay at learning that his grandson is playing baseball – but no one is keeping score. Then there’s his granddaughter, Harper (Bailee Madison), a talented musician who is sacrificing so much to get onto the fast track to the professional orchestra of her dreams – with Alice making sure she does. And don’t forget the tug of war going on between old school and new school values. What everyone in Parental Guidance comes to realize is the paradox that everyone can be a winner after recognizing that winning isn’t everything.
7. Share your passions and what you’ve learned.
Artie’s grandson Turner (Joshua Rush) is shy and sometimes stutter when he speaks. After a false start or two, Turner blossoms under Artie’s care. The secret sauce? Artie shares the thing that is most important to him and Turner makes it his own. Yes, it’s Hollywood. And sometimes the kids ignore us and play video games. But the lesson remains: we are meant to share the best of our life experience with the people that we love. When we do, magical things can and do happen.
8. Forget perfection.
Perfection isn’t possible and, even if it were, it probably wouldn’t be much fun. Instead, recognize the beauty that exists in your perfectly imperfect family. Disagree when you have to, but let love lead the way. Laugh together and sing together and dance in the rain.
Director Andy Fickman told us that he wanted his film to reflect what he counts as the most important keys to good familial relationships: compassion and compromise. We think he did a spanking good job of it, and he and his talented cast kept us laughing all the while.