I recently sat down to watch The Breakfast Club with my son in celebration of the iconic film’s 30th anniversary. To say it was a real moment for me would be an understatement.
The movie was, without a doubt, the defining film of my adolescence. Not only did it offer a sneak peek into the sometimes frightening and always fascinating high school experience, it showed me that no matter how seemingly big our differences, deep down we are all the same.
As the mother of a young teen, I was pleased to discover the film’s heartfelt theme seemed more relevant than ever in today’s brave new digital age. And perhaps even more surprisingly, that The Breakfast Club is a movie for parents every bit as much as it is for teens.
But parents, just one reminder before you take a stroll down memory lane and the hallways of Shermer High. This film is rated R for verbal sexual references, profanity and marijuana use -- some of which I had completely forgotten about (It has been 30 years!). That said, the movie really proved useful in facilitating important conversations with my growing teen.
Here are five things I realized about The Breakfast Club now that I’m a mom:
1. My teen and I aren’t so different. I might be Generation X and he might be Generation Z, but I’m just as confused as I ever was. Even though adulthood may have given me the opportunity to know myself a little better, like Allison, I still have times when I feel misunderstood. Like John, I still feel the need to be heard. Like Claire, I still feel the trappings of societal pressures. Like Brian, I still yearn for acceptance. And like Andrew, I still fear becoming my parents. My teen and I may not enjoy the same music, fashion, or at times even speak the same language, but we share the same ageless hopes and fears for the future.
2. Growing up is hard to do. I knew growing up was hard, but I’d forgotten just how challenging it felt to be misunderstood when you’re only beginning to understand yourself. Am I different? Why do I feel this way? Why do I feel so alone? Is something wrong with me? These are big questions with elusive answers, but as Andrew (played by Emilio Estevez) reminds us, “We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all.”
3. Who you are in high school is not the person you’ll always be. Our kids’ experiences and choices will shape them long after graduation as we learn from Carl, the custodian once named “Man of the Year” at the very high school he is now responsible for maintaining. Did the Breakfast Club go on to be more than a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal? We certainly hope so; each one of them was worth so much more.
4. Half the fun is proving everybody wrong. For every one of us that walked into our 10-year high school reunion 10 years wiser, 10 years kinder, 10 years humbler and 10 years stronger, we proved to others as much as ourselves we were—and still are—worth remembering.
Brian: "Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed."
5. Parents can do better. Allison (played by Ally Sheedy) said, “When you grow up... your heart dies.” Could this be the reason her parents ignored her? Or why Claire’s parents used her against each other? Or why John’s father abused him and Andrew’s father demanded too much? Or are we as parents so afraid that we coddle our children like Brian’s mother? While parenting will forever be an imperfect sport, the kids at Shermer High that fateful Saturday would all agree that as long as parents keep their eyes, ears, arms and hearts wide open, our kids will always feel loved.