An Exploration of Parenting by the Vowel

Journal of an Average Adolescent April 30, 2016

Filed under: The Unknown — edamomie @ 11:58 am
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U: The Unknown

Although each teenagers’ journey through adolescence differs widely, one thing is for sure: finding your place in this world…. well, it’s challenging. Just ask Greg Heffley, a teen comic icon brought to life in the Children’s Theatre Company production of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: it sucks.


Step + Repeat; Eye Roll

I lost count on eye-rolling reactions to sharp and subtle jabs, mean-spirited exclusions, brutal popularity rankings and labels that even the audience wanted to assign to each character. It brought me right back to my middle school days in a heartbeat. It was a tough playground. Scenes and the story surrounding the “cheese touch” were dramatically executed and harkened back to game playing as a passive aggressive way to show your true feelings toward someone.

Greg stumbled around in his exploration, dealing with seemingly insurmountable issues like a doting mom, an sports-aspirational dad, a little brother who embarrassingly called him Bubby, a terrorizing older sibling, Rodrick, and a swooning friend, Rowley, who Greg vastly under-appreciated in true teen style. The audience cringed and commiserated along with Greg every step of the way as his miserable little existence played out.

Yet, it was so sweet. Sitting on either side of me, taking in the show, were my kids. Calvin, my 10 year-old, who I could nearly slip right into Greg’s shoes in a few years and Ava, my 12 year-old, who could witness her current 7th grade situation and the realness of it.

We all loved the performance, but for different reasons. I appreciated that Greg possessed the innocence of his age as well as the fluid emotions and struggle to not only do the right thing, but define it for himself through a series of hard-knocks. Ava connected with trying not to subscribe to mainstream beliefs, but finding that values and judgements are next to impossible to escape in middle school life and its close quarters (which begs the question, should we be teaching more empathy in our schools?). Calvin, owner of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, thought it was sheer comedic fun.


Stack of Wimpy Books

Sharing our reviews over a slice of pizza after the performance, we talked about the experience of the story from book to movie (see our 2011 review of Rodrick Rules) to musical. We unanimously agreed that the ever-changing set design, comedic craftiness — the backdrop a sheet of loose-leaf paper, the furniture, doors and props white with black piping and Greg and Rowley’s comedy strip creation process on paper played out onto a screen — were spot on. The exact comic strip, right down to the first one that echoes Greg’s onstage commentary about his mom buying the shamefully labeled “Diary,” when it really was just a journal, felt very true to the written series.

Highlights of storylines and performances included Rodrick’s masterfully delivered death threats, Rowley’s crush on teenage music icon, Joshie, the highly coveted “Mom Bucks” (monopoly money) and the reputation-ruining “Cheese Touch.” The characters creatively jumped off the Wimpy kid pages in posture, Greg with a hollowed out slouch stature and Rodrick with all of the slanky starkness of a teen in a darkened state.

The concept of Diary of a Wimpy Kid seems to hold the message that adolescence and all its challenges are normal — there are no exceptions nor can one get around it. You just have to go through it. So embrace it and pencil in a date to see Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Musical now through June 12. Your tweens and teens might roll their eyes, but this is one moment where you just say trust me. Well done, CTC and congratulations on 50 years!




Rodrick’s Loded Rules August 4, 2011

I: Independence (Coming of Middle-School Age)

Wimpy Kid Series

Wimpy Kid Series

We were on the wimpy kid bandwagon early on with books, but it wasn’t until recently that we discovered the one of the movies of the same name. We’ve got three of the books: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (the original; movie 1), The Last Straw and Rodrick Rules (movie 2). There’s also Dog Days and the Ugly Truth with Cabin Fever coming out in 102 days, 3 hours, 48 minutes and 04 seconds.

We got into the first Wimpy Kid in January. Greg Heffley, the wimpy kid himself, is a pretty average middle-schooler. Kinney, the mastermind behind the Wimpy Kid series, sets Greg up with a younger and older brother so there’s a lot of good content and commentary on sibling rivalry and its trials. My kids at 6 and 8 might be a little young for some of the situations the kid experiences, but when they get there, they might find comfort in knowing that awkwardness and embarrassment are just part of growing up. Maybe they’ll re-read the wimpy series with new perspective.

Reading Up on the Band

Reading Up on the Band


Right now, they’re reading. And this is good. While my soon-to-be third grader, Ava, is sleuthing with Nancy Drew and alternately siding with Ivy and Bean, my 6-yr-old son is more hard-pressed to sit still and read. He doesn’t like to trust even the sight words yet, relying on the sound out each letter method. He wants to get it right. So serious. That’s why these books have been good for him – I hear him laughing. Likely pleased with himself too. I’m hoping Greg’s antics  – like faking an injury for attention – don’t give him ideas. Then there’s some bad language used that I really don’t want to hear coming out of my kids’ mouths.

So if I don’t like to see bad language in writing, why might I allow it on screen? Well, they wore me down (it’s been out since late March). I was still a bit reluctant when we rented the movie – Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Turns out it was good enough to watch three times (it was a miserably hot weekend anyway). The Wimpy Kid is a fine young actor, but Rodrick really stole the show for me as the feared, older, tormenting teenager. He was relentless in pursuit of maxing out laziness and perfecting how to get out of his homework. Obviously, as the drummer in Loded Diper, he had no time for school.

Calvin Rules

Calvin Rules


My kids seem to eat this stuff up  – Wow, Rodrick and Jeff had a party while the parents were away? What were Rodrick’s top ten ways to be lazy? Rewind. In between each slacker idea on the list, Rodrick connects with the camera – think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – twirls his drumstick and gives a convincing sell.

Greg follows Rodrick as he shows him the ropes, ganging up on unsuspecting people leaving a convenient store who discover a gel mold of reusable vomit. They also eat an insane amount of junk food and mess up so badly on the most simple tasks given to them by their parents, that the exasperated parents just do it themselves.

Post movie the kids mimic Rodrick’s list delivery, incorporating some of their new taekwondo moves. Ava says she thinks Rodrick is s-weet. Uh-oh. But I agree – he’s charming. Oh, also there’s a cool mom too – she lays on the Julia Louis-Dreyfus dance moves pretty thick (not cool: Mom Bucks). And, finally, the boys who have been at odds most of the movie become best buds. The kids and I have some conversation about why most siblings just are this way – – between states of blissful camaraderie, or fighting, door-slamming annoyance. I cue them in: It’s only the beginning of their story.


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