Single Mom’s Club Movie Review – Tyler Perry’s Take On Family Engagement
As a single parent, I was curious what Tyler Perry’s take on single mommiehood would look like on screen. He consistently gets hammered, often unfairly, for his depictions of African American women and their relationships with men. While catching a matinee of the film on opening day, I was amused at how Tyler…we are on first name basis…call me Tyler. o;)… paralleled five distinct personalities and lifestyles while linking them together with a common cord – single parents need support. Looking past the unrealistically well-appointed homes and outrageously gorgeous wardrobes of most of the characters, there was a realness in the challenges they each faced. Looking at each through the prism of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, it was evident that they were all capable of addressing the parenting challenges they were encountering after experiencing the blessing of a support system,. –> Spoiler Alert – a few of the details of the story are listed below. Tyler, forgive me. :o)
Parent Engagement and the Five Love Languages
1. Time – Jan, the ever busy ”I am Woman, Hear Me Roar’ mom is painted as a selfish, acidic professional who has not struck a balance between her at-work and at-home responsibilities. And she does not seem have found joy in either. Her child feels unloved and invisible due to her mother’s penchant for signing her up for extracurricular activities to enable her to stay at work late. Lesson: Our children should feel our excitement and joy at being a parent. Children are highly perceptive beings and can sense when we believe that time spent together as a family is meaningful or when they are being regarded as an unnecessary appendage. On a personal note, my ladybugs had to admonish me for my social media use; I am now on a 12 Step Plan. There was a time when I would be physically present with them but emotionally detached because I was OD’ing on Facebook and the crack of all social media, Pinterest. Pinterest gives me the munches…O_o. That was my first step.
2. Affirmation – Lytia, the bad wig-wearing (the wigs were killing me – Atlanta has a sea of well-groomed women who regardless of income have an eye for authentic Remy hair. The crew in charge of hair needs an intervention led by, Paula Britt, the owner of Blendz) stereotypical boisterous brick house Waffle House hostess. I liked her. She started her family as a teenager and was cognizant that she made missteps in her parenting with her eldest sons. Raising children in crime infested neighborhoods requires diffrent competencies than raising them in affluent, stable communities. I imagine that affluent Single Mom’s sent their children to the elite private school to ensure their kids got ahead while Lytia was ensuring that the school was a step to aid her son in staying alive. Her son, played by the cutie patootie DeVion Harris, by all accounts is a bright boy attending a private school. But Lytia is living under the immoblizing pressure of her past parenting mistakes. Believing she was too soft with her older sons, she consistently throws the mistakes of his brothers into conversations when reprimanding Hakim. Lesson: Speak love to your child by affirming who they are and the positive attributes they possess. Some of us live in the shadows of dynamic siblings and are let with a feeling of not measuring up while others are oppressed into thinking that they are clone of a wayward brother or sister. I was listening to Don Miguel’s The Fifth Agreement this morning and he sums up the power of words by stating simply that words are truth; distorted knowledge are lies. Stop comparing our children with others because that is perpetrating a lie. They are not other people. Instead, speak to them about the truth of who they are.
3. Gifts – Esperanza is my physical she-ro. Good grief can this lady rock a pair of pumps on a midday afternoon to go no where else but her ex-husband’s dealership. When I grow up, I want a better shoe game. On any given day, I wear Chuck’s and knock-off Uggs like nobody’s business. I blame Bentley. He’s my leather-lusting 2 year old Shiat-zu. He has consumed most of my pumps and one day I will replace them all. On top of that, I don’t crave hammer feet (remember that scene from Boomerang…those gnarled toes must have been the result of wearing stilettos). Esperanza GAVE LIFE to the term power walking when she rocked those heels at the dealership. So when when strutted into her ex-husband’s business the moment and the shoes were a symbolic gesture of her putting her foot down. The relationship with her ex-husband could be truncated into one word: control. He used money and the lifestyle that money afforded to control her personal life and household although he had moved forward and entered into a new marriage with someone else. In her younger years, she worked at a factory plant and undoubtedly she was afraid of losing the financially glamorous existence her child support was affording her. Lesson: As lovely as gifts are, beware of the Trojan horse because there may be some unwanted things hidden inside of attractive packages. Esperanza’s ex-husband lavished on their daughter parties and electronic devices as a means of showing his love. Temper the desire to ‘buy’ someone’s affection and remember that authentic gifts, like Esperanza’s homemade cake, are just as lovely and heartfelt. Spoiling children with material gifts can be highly damaging to their character because the yearning for more things is an insatiable desire since material things are temporal. So if you purchase the latest, hottest phone – how long will it take for that gadget to be considered an archaic relic? How can you things that lose their monetary value quickly? Most of the ‘must have’ items available for the holidays are slashed in price by the end of January and tossed into the trash bin a year after purchase. Gift-giving are a wonderful means of demonstrating love but be aware that these gifts need not be expensive. By the way, I tried to get my girls to celebrate the gift exchange part of Christmas on December 26th, but they wouldn’t go for it. We are still working on this lesson.
4. Service – Hillary, the stay at home mom with a maid befuddled me. If you have a maid, does that count as being a stay at-home mom? Does Tyler have a Have Hillary’s Lifestyle Sweepstakes to promote this film? My life would be forever changed with a housekeeper and handyman! I’d pull Alice out of retirement ASAP! We must pause for a commercial break: I loved her home. The porch replete with swings overlooking the lake made me consider finding the residence and squatting. Must. Check. Georgia. Homestead. Laws. After becoming a member of the Single Mom’s Club, Hillary introduced herself to her daughter. I would have thought this moment was weird if I hadn’t had a conversation two weeks prior with my own daughters about the distance I was feeling with my eldest. She’s an introvert and I am a silly fourteen year old boy packaged in a forty year old body. I can be too much and our Felix and Oscar relationship can be a challenge for us both. Lesson: As a parent, we cannot shirk the every day responsibilities to others and expect to feel bonded to them. Life is about the little moments – doing homework, volunteering at school, braiding hair. We show love through our actions and explicit support of our kids social, emotional and academic development. And we have to make an effort to know our kids. What are they thinking about? What are their aspirations? Are we stuck in time thinking of who they were when they were seven or have we accepted that their maturation is ever evolving and that they are a more complex being then just a year ago. Get to know your kid again by engaging them in conversations.
5. Physical Touch – Nia Long’s character May Miller is an aspiring author raising a son fathered by a man struggling with drug addiction. Last Sunday, I attended East Gate Church in Cumming, GA and had the pleasure of listening to the powerful message by a gentleman who in his younger years succumbed to meth abuse. Representing the Christian-based No Longer Bound drug rehabilitation center, this man challenged our perceptions of who a drug addict is and what it takes to become free from the shackles of substance abuse. May’s son Rick, during the most heart-wrenching scene in the film, was left on the steps of his school when his father once again failed to show up. He asked his mother, “Does dad love me?” while they drove home. At that moment the impact of substance abuse on a child really hit home. Like all of the other kids pictured in the film, Rick was being raised in a loving home. But a mother’s love is not enough. Children want to be rooted and that’s difficult if they are wondering who they are and whether a parent loves them. Lesson: May hugged and kissed her son after his dad failed to show up. One parent’s love does not erase the other parent’s neglect but the physical touch of one parent can ease some of the uncertainty and loneliness. A gentle kiss on the forehead conveys to a child in one brief moment that you will be there by their side for a life time.
I read a recent report that the White House was seeking to ramp up the Pre-K Head Start program. I love it but wonder what great impact could be made if they invested in developing parenting classes too. Parenting is a learn-on-the-job lifetime commitment with precious little training opportunities. There are times when you know you’ve nailed it and then there are those other times when only a glass of wine and a whole lot of Kleenex and bucket loads of prayer can get you off of the ledge. I hope Arne and Barack (I am on first names basis with them too) take parent engagement into consideration as an avenue to achieve student success. Strong, stable families are possible with support and the impact on children is immeasurable. Cheers to man Tyler and The Single Mom’s Club! To all of the single mommies, continue to love your children and build a support network to help you through the toughest job on the planet.
Peace and Joy,
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