"Ramona and Beezus" Movie: Parents' Partnership Inspires

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We took our kids to the movies today - a rather rare event given that they are usually unhappy to sit in a dark, cavernous theater and watch the typical zam-bam, in your face, designed-to-sell-the-toy animation that passes for kids' movies these days.  But this one was different. A real-actor, G-rated, sweet movie based on the Beezus and Ramona books by Beverly Cleary that Marc and I have had such fun re-reading with M over the past 3 years.  We know all the stories by heart, and T knows a lot of them too.  So off we all went.

The new Ramona and Beezus movie is a compilation of many of the book series' stories, altered a bit to fit into a few months when Ramona is 8 years old. It is cute and charming, even though several reviews may rightfully complain that it doesn't give Ramona quite enough spunk or naughtiness to match her book character.

For Marc and me, though, the best part was watching what the screenplay writers did with Ramona's parents relationship. In the books, Ramona's dad is laid off and spends many months trying to find work again while her mom takes part-time medical secretary work to keep the family afloat; finally, he settles for a less-than-stimulating full-time job in a supermarket and her mom continues part-time work because she finds that she likes working. Fairly typical family arrangement (although not for the time in which the books were written - Ms. Cleary was definitely ahead of her time in portraying a matter-of-fact working woman).

But the movie departs a bit from this scenario. Spoiler alert. Ramona's dad is offered a high-power job in a start-up company that would require the family to move - ending Ramona's mother's satisfying job and uprooting Ramona and her sister, Beezus, from their schools. Instead, with his family's support, he chooses to follow his career dream as an artist, and takes a part-time job teaching art in the family's hometown public schools. Ramona's mother is able to remain at her part-time job. The path of most income is not chosen; instead, this couple chooses to share responsibility for bringing in enough money with two jobs that fit the wishes and interests of both parents.

On the housework and childraising front, Ramona's dad steps up to full partnership as well - not relying on his wife to show him the ropes, and even telling Ramona proudly that he's gotten to be a pro at laundry in one scene. Her mom does a small amount of primary-parent instructing early in the movie, but then steps back and lets her husband flounder and succeed of his own accord. The respect between the parents creates a lovely vibe.

So here's to a children's movie that doesn't pander to commercialism and fast-action violence, and shows us how two parents can choose their best life together with shared breadwinning, shared housework, and a true partnership in childraising.

Something the whole family can love!