One of the benefits of a global pandemic is the chance for families to spend more time together. Prior to this time, life in a household with children was probably more like a whirlwind of ushering them to school, soccer practices, basketball games, music lessons, parent-teacher meetings, besides work and mountains of laundry. The opportunities to have a meal together became far and few between for many families. Yet, quality time together is essential for relationships. And for families that includes play time!
Miguel Arteta’s latest film is based on the book by Amy Krause Rosenthal by the same name, a delightful story in which the kids challenge the parents to have a day when they only say “yes” to the kids’ requests. Producer and co-star, Jennifer Garner, brought this idea to Arteta’s attention since she has annual “yes days” with her kids and has found it to be a blessing as she says, “I think a Yes Day is just a great way to celebrate families.”
The film begins with Allison (Jennifer Garner), the mom, who always responds “no” to almost every request by her kids or something that they do and so the kids see her as mean and heartless. Whereas Carlos (Edgar Ramirez), as the dad, has fun with the kids when he is not at work and isn’t seen as the rule maker as much as mom. At the beginning voiceover Allison says, “Parenting is the best thing that’s happened to us, but a new ‘no’ language takes over.”
Both parents go to the school for a meeting with some teachers about their two older kids, Katie (Jenna Ortega) and Evan (Julian Lerner) and the teachers show them from their recent assignments how the kids view their mother as a “dictator” and “psycho mom.” Allison is shocked and disturbed. As they leave the school, they run into the coach, a somewhat flaky and silly character, who told them about “yes days” with kids. You say yes to everything the kids want for 24 hours but with some ground rules. They decide to give it a shot. They tell their kids just as Katie challenges their authority and establish certain rules they must follow: do chores and finish homework, nothing dangerous or illegal, nothing more than twenty miles from home, and a budget is set. The kids are delighted!
As a media literacy educator, one of the best scenes shows the kids establishing their first “yes moment” for the parents—no screens for the entire day and no phones! In order to truly enjoy each other as a family screen time needs to be considered. Even though Carlos needs his phone for work, which he sneaks in a few times during the day, for the most part, his attention is fully on the kids and their time as a family.
Evan shows his parents a list of 5 things they want to do that day. As they go through the list of outrageous but relatively mild requests, such as going through a car wash with the windows down, they all learn to love just being together and enjoy the moment, something our busy lives often overlook. Things take a turn for the worse at the end of the day when a series of unfortunate events lead to them getting separated as a family. Katie takes advantage and goes to FleekFest, a concert, with her friends, something her mom said she could not go to without a parent. Her experience becomes a testament to the way her parents raised her. Katie’s friends persuade her to do something she doesn’t feel comfortable doing. Instead of going along, Katie refuses and her friends leave her. She begins to regret her choices.
At first, I thought this film will usurp the parents’ role of parenting by letting the kids tell them what to do with everything getting out of hand. It does in the end, but with consequences. Why parents say “no” sometimes is because they love their children and that involves discipline by teaching them right from wrong. When Katie tells her mom, “You don’t trust me,” Allison responds, “It’s not about trust, it’s about being your parent.” Love leads a parent to want to protect their children from harm at all costs, something teenagers especially cannot yet comprehend. This film shows that while also presenting the parents’ need to balance life and work, they also need to include quality time for the family. I can tell that Jennifer Garner, as a mom, gave insights into this script.
This Netflix film is definitely one the whole family can watch together and share about how maybe they can have a “yes day” of their own. Not only does it clear everyone’s schedules so they can spend the day as a family, but it also allows them to just have fun. If you want to try this, here is a Family Activity Book for some “yes day” ideas to get you started. Knock the screens and go out and have some fun!
Photo credits: © 2021 Netflix. All rights reserved.