From the Cover of Despicable Me 2 by Universal:
Now that Gru has forsaken a life of crime to raise Margo, Agnes and Edith, he’s trying to figure out how to provide for his new family. As he struggles with his responsibilities as a father, the Anti-Villain League — an organization dedicated to fighting evil — comes calling. The AVL sends Gru on a mission to capture the perpetrator of a spectacular heist, for who would be better than the world’s greatest ex-villain to capture the individual who seeks to usurp his power.
Transfiguring Adoption awarded this movie 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]
If you’re watching this movie, it’s best that you have already watched the first Despicable Me movie beforehand in order to understand the family dynamics of Gru and his children. This second movie presents adoption in a much more positive light and included less trauma triggering issues than its predecessor. Not only did Despicable Me 2 bring about its same humor and fun plot but it also shows three adopted girls in a healthy, nurturing single parent environment.
Personally, this movie made me laugh more than the original Despicable Me. Seeing Gru go the extra mile to dress up as a fairy princess for Agnes’ birthday made me think about all of the things that as parents we swore we would never do, whether good or bad, that we ended up doing. Parenthood is full of adventures, and Gru definitely goes on one, not only with his children getting older, but also with everyone trying to pair him up with every single lady that they know. This sends Gru into unknown territory that is sure to make you laugh.
On a more serious note, there are definitely some situations that occur that will tug on your heart strings. Agnes struggles with Mother’s Day and Margo gets her heart broken. Despite these situations, Gru proves to have become the perfect dad for the girls, even if he does make some mistakes along the way.
** Spoilers Could Be Ahead **
How Is This Relevant To Adoption & Foster Care?
Despicable Me 2 showcases some of the best points of adoption. The girls are stable in their home, and they feel safe, loved, and secure. They appear to have formed an attachment to Gru and have settled into their new life. Gru appears to have gotten used to being a dad and is even seen acknowledging that some parts of his life he had to give up in order to be there for the girls. What I appreciated about this scene is that it isn’t said out of resentment, but out of love. He gladly gave up the life of being a super-villain to be a dad.
Mother’s Day comes around and Gru is helping Agnes practice her lines for a poem she needs to recite for Mother’s Day. Agnes’ comment of “I don’t even have a mother” can resonate with many of our foster or adopted kids who are living in a single parent father household or even a same sex couple household or who are separated from their birth mother. The idea of having a mom and a dad in a family is not necessarily the norm anymore, and many children could still be holding onto the ideal of what they consider to be a normal family: a mom and a dad. Gru was a bit insensitive in his response to Agnes’ concerns, suggesting that she doesn’t need one to read this poem and to imagine she has one.
Margo, the oldest girl, has started to develop an interest in boys. She meets a boy at a local shopping center named Antonio. Antonio reminds me of every popular guy that all the girls at school have a crush on. They eventually become “an item.” Gru swings into overly protective dad mode and is not happy about this situation. He stalks them on dates, tries to get rid of Antonio while they are dancing, and eventually freezes him with his laser gun when Antonio breaks her heart. Seeing a dad be fiercely protective over his daughter may be a new concept to our children and can cause them to ask some uncomfortable questions.
- A lot of the children that we love have experienced the feeling of not having a parent
Many of our children have experienced sadness around Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grandparents Day. Even after adoption has finalized and a family has been created, many of our children still have memories of their biological parents. Despite the names of the parents on a child’s birth certificate, the fact that their biological parents are no longer around can still cause pain no matter how much time has passed. As adoptive parents, it’s important to remember that these feelings are valid and to try and not take it personally. Incorporating something about their biological family on this day may help the children feel better. Writing a letter, drawing a picture, or even making their parents favorite food can help ease the pain of losing their family member. Just as there is enough room in our hearts to love our adopted children, there is enough room in our children’s heart to love their biological and adopted parents.
- Gru shows anxiety around Margo dating
Generally, many cartoons do not portray adults as having any type of negative feelings such as anxiety. Gru displays lots of anxiety around the idea of Margo dating. This can allow children to understand that adults struggle with things too just like they do, and helps us be a bit more relatable. Gru may not manage his anxiety in the healthiest manner such as stalking Margo and her boyfriend, trying to get rid of him, and eventually freezing him, but this helps our children identify that what Gru did was wrong and problem solve on their own better ways Gru could have handled it.
- Opens dialogue about single parents, dating, and marriage
We know that our children struggle with transitions. Sometimes just the slightest change can cause them a lot of stress and anxiety. They have been through so many changes that we sometimes get into the mindset that they are used to it, but that is far from the case. One of the things that our children need is to have a set routine so that they feel stable and safe. Changing up the routine by dating or getting married can cause a lot of children’s behaviors to escalate. It is important that as parents we try to be as open and honest with our kids as possible. If we are starting to date or possibly marry someone, it may take several conversations with our kids to help them understand the change. Answer all of their questions the best that you can and if needed, don’t be afraid to get help from a counselor. They can help your kids adjust to the new routine and also help them bond with a new caregiver. This film also helps you have a dialogue with your child about dating. Dating can be tricky for our kids, especially those who have a history of attachment issues. Having these conversations early on can often times give you a heads up on what their feelings around it are and if there are any red flags that you need to be aware of.
- Gru’s response to Mother’s day can be hurtful to our kids
Gru has really come a long way since the first movie. He has turned into a great dad, but he still has his faults. When Agnes expresses her frustration over Mother’s Day, he doesn’t take the time to validate her feelings. He’s obviously uncomfortable and tries to redirect Agnes into not thinking about it. Seeing Gru uncomfortable with Agnes’ questions can cause our children to think we are uncomfortable discussing this as well. We want our children to come to us with questions or concerns, particularly around holidays that may be painful. If they express similar feelings, try to validate their concern and let them talk about it without trying to change the subject. Often times, our kids just want to feel heard.
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It’s Your Turn:
These are just a few questions that can be used to connect with your children after the movie. These questions are not meant to be used in a therapeutic manner, but will help your child talk about some of their thoughts and feelings that have never been talking about before.
Talking about dating:
- As a parent, what are your expectations around your child dating?
- Why do people date?
- What type of person would your child like to date?
- Do you think Gru was too overprotective when Margo had a crush on a boy?
These questions can help facilitate uncomfortable questions about dating that our children may have. Often times, everything they know about dating comes from what they see on tv, hear in songs, or observe from their friends. This can be a positive thing or a negative thing depending on the message their influencers are sending. It’s important to be on the same page as early as possible in order to prevent any issues in the future. It also lets them know in a comfortable way what your expectations of a parent are in terms of them dating.
Gru changes as a dad:
- What do you think makes Gru a good dad?
This question helps us identify what our children consider to make a good parent versus a bad parent. Many of our children’s expectations are low, depending on what their experience was pre-foster carae or adoption. A good parent to them could be cooking them food, telling them that they are loved, or buying them clothes. Others may talk about doing fun things with them, helping them when they are scared, or buying them a lot of things. Whatever your child’s answer is, it’s a good conversation to have to determine what their expectations are of a parent. Their view may be skewed, but it isn’t your job to convince them of what a good parent is; your job is to be the best parent you can possibly be for them.
Agne’s feelings about not having a mom:
- Have you ever felt similar to Agnes?
- What holiday’s are hard for you to celebrate?
- How do you think Gru could have responded better to Agnes?
Holidays are hard for our children. If they are older enough to have memories of holidays with their biological parents, it can be even more difficult. They may feel especially guilty around the holidays with the remembering of these memories. It’s important to allow your child to talk about their feelings and memories. Is there a tradition they used to do that they do not anymore? Try to implement it if appropriate. This lets them know that their experiences are valid. It also allows them to talk about some of the holidays they struggle with in a safe space. Hearing how they would like for situations like this to be handled is an invaluable piece of information for us as parents to have.