I took three teenagers to see The Fault in Our Stars, or TFIOS, last week. I was not thrilled, but it was my soon-to-be thirteen-year-old daughter's greatest wish. Originally, it was just going to be the two of us - a girls' day, but we added my 16-year-old son and his girlfriend. We ate at Chipotle first. That was good. So, TFIOS. I read the book, of course, and was less than blown away. I felt like I had missed something. It was a nice story, and I liked the characters for the most part. They were a bit pretentious and know-it-all, but I think most of John Green's characters are like that. John Green is kind of like that. It's sad, and cancer sucks. But, I was underwhelmed. I think one of my English teacher friends summed it up well when she commented on my Goodreads review that teens have had such a small number of emotional experiences that a book like TFIOS really resonates with them and hits' em hard right in the heart.
While I was reading the book, and watching the movie, I couldn't help but take the parents' side. The movie doesn't really portray Hazel's mom the same as the book. Laura Dern was pretty laid back and really let Shailene Woodley (or whatever her name is) do what she wanted to. But the book mom was tough. She loved her daughter and she was in charge of her. Hazel is a teenager, after all, and teens shouldn't make some of the decisions they make. I don't think any adult would argue with me on that. I kept thinking, "Right on, Mom! She shouldn't go to Amsterdam or spend all her time with that boy and not eat." I am a mom. I can't help but think like one and have empathy for other moms.
After we saw the movie (the sniffles were very loud throughout the theater), I kept thinking about why the teens were so sad. And I remembered a couple of movies I saw as a teen and cried during. A lot. One was Lady Jane with Helena Bonham Carter. It is about Lady Jane Grey who was Queen of England for about three days until her cousin Mary came back and Jane beheaded. It was a love story too. Cary Elwes plays her husband and they are sooo in love. They both get their heads chopped off. Perfectly romantic. I sobbed watching that when I was a teen. The other one was Stealing Home with Jodi Foster and Mark Harmon. I went to see it with three of my friends and we couldn't stop crying on the way home. That one was a little more than a love story; it was also a coming of age movie, and I think we all knew we were growing up. What made me cry in those movies? I was a hopeless romantic as a teen (really, I still am) and I had never had a boyfriend. I couldn't imagine having someone to love and who loved me and then watching them die. To teenage me, there could be nothing worse.
Fast forward to 42-year-old-me. I've seen worse. Life is hard, and full of losses. Dads get cancer; moms get Alzheimers. Children struggle and get made fun of and cry and get depressed. Couples grow apart and separate, and the pain is like a knife in the heart. It snows on Easter, and there's no money for Christmas. The new position at work turns you into an outsider, and old friends become new enemies. It's sad and sometimes bleak, and it often makes it hard to get up in the morning. But it is life, and I wouldn't change a thing about the 42 years I've had so far. The bumps and bruises have only made me wiser, stronger and believe it or not, more hopeful.
I am glad my kids cried during The Fault In Their Stars because to me it means they haven't had to experience those really tough things in life yet. They haven't lost my husband or me, and Christmas was still joyous. They have people in their lives who love them and care for them - family, extended family, friends, church family, teachers....the list goes on. I know that they will eventually face darker challenges than the internet going out, or losing the wrestling match, and even losing a grandparent. That's okay. It is part of life, and I hope I am teaching my kids that bumps and bruises hurt, but they happen and you can live through it. With hope. I'm saving their tears like ZuZu's petals...for a rainy day, to remind me that things can always be worse.