Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Good Parent Isn't A Friend (ah, they're back)

What does it mean to be a parent? Before my son was born, I thought that it meant parading a cute baby around in clothes from high end stores. Dressing the kids in little matching outfits so that people could tell me how cute or bright my kids are. Images of little John John in his perfect preppy outfits while summering in New England were present in my mind.

Of course, I would be the perfect parent. Rule driven, knowing when to say yes and when to say no, with a Martha Stewart house, and meatloaf on the table every Friday. Something like that.

My baby will be ten years old in less than two weeks, and he has taught me that parenthood is a journey full of lessons. Things never go as expected, and the learning curve is wide.

Last night, my very favorite television show, Parenthood, returned to the line up. It's really the only show I watch on a regular basis. That, and reruns of Seinfeld with W. If you are not watching this show, you must. I am being completely serious. It's not just entertainment, but it reminds us of our jobs as parents, and supports us when things get tough.

The episode that just ran touched on many topics. Kids drinking underage, a young man who emancipated himself and is an alcoholic in recovery, a drinking alcoholic and drug addict father. Then there was the death of a bird that presented the concept of how we teach our children about death, and what our beliefs are on the afterlife (or lack thereof); and most poignant, at least for me, is how we become our kids parents, instead of being their friends.

Joel and Julia talk to their daughter about death. (Parenthood)

Crosby, played by Dax Shepard, didn't find out he was a father until his son, Jabbar, was five years old. He'd gotten a dancer, with whom he'd had an affair, pregnant, and she chose not to tell him until that point. Jumping in was tough for Crosby, who had to accept that he was a father, learn about responsibility, and figure out how to be a dad. It was a process for him, and had been slowly progressing. Now living with Jabbar and Jabbar's mom, Jasmine, who is now his fiance (and that came about in a really honest way), he is having a hard time with discipline. At one point, she is telling their son, Jabbar, to clean his room, and the son, unsure, looks to Crosby for direction, who says something to him like, "Your mom wants you to clean your room." After Jabbar leaves the room, Jasmine talks privately to Crosby and reminds him that they are a team, and that both need to be disciplinarians, and be on the same page. Oh, and that his job is to be a parent, not a friend. A good lesson for us all.

Crosby talks to Jabbar about responsibility. (Parenthood)
Applying these lessons to everyday life aren't as easy as watching the show and changing, just like that. Or maybe it is that easy, but we need a process to do this, and constant reminders that our job is to teach our kids independence, respect, responsibility and kindness, and to allow them the space to be who they are within the confines of society.

We have a few rules in our house, and have added two new ones. The newest two: always clean up after yourself; and be respectful. The reminder is constant, and comes before a slip up may occur. My son, for example, sits down to do his homework. Homework time usually causes some degree of friction. I say, Remember, we must be respectful and kind. If I see that he is starting to get crabby, I say, Speak with respect. So far, it's worked. It's harder in big groups where the follow up is more uncomfortable to enforce (uncomfortable for others to witness, more than anything). Cleaning up has been easy. He's had a tough time with this for a long time, so I finally said, You must clean up after yourself, and that's the bottom line. No threats of punishment, just that fact. I explained that living in a home with others requires teamwork. That was enough. 

Who knew?

Parenthood is on NBC, Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. EST


  1. Although parenthood is still a dream for me I absolutley love this show. It not only touches upon parenting but all the relationships with in a family. I'm w/ you Tiffany it's a must watch!

  2. books about parenting as a coach rather than a friend and the importance of being a parental team. You can read about her on Wikipedia ( and find her books at libraries and wherever else good advice lives. Thanks for the post. ~e

  3. ACK. Previous comment should have started: "My Aunt Simi (Sylvia Rimm) has written a ton of..."

  4. Awesome, E. Thanks for the info. I will check her out now...

    And Tray, you don't have to be a parent to love this show. I think it deals with relationships on all levels. Wouldn't you agree?

  5. I def agree, it touches upon all members of the extended family & their life experiences & relationships.

  6. Thanks ~e,

    I am going to get a few. These are most pertinent for me:

    How to Parent So Children Will Learn
    Dr. Sylvia Rimm's Smart Parenting: How to Raise a Happy, Achieving Child
    Growing up Too Fast: The Rimm Report on the Secret World of America's Middle Schoolers

  7. Sounds like it was a great episode. I can't wait for season two to start over here it really is a wonderful show. I like your bottom line approach I am always faced with the "why" and some times want to go the "if you don't do this..." route but when you say it like this it does allow you walk away and let them just get to it.

  8. Yes, the episode was one of my favorites. My son is old enough to understand why, Katy, and he's heard the "beacuse..." for long enough. I believe that "why", at least here, is just a stall tactic. He gets it done, though he doesn't like it, and that's that.

  9. I thought that "Zeke" handled the situation with the boys drinking just right. Firm and loving so that they knew he was the boss and it was unacceptable. But not freaking out like the boy's mother would have done.

    Question...where was "Camille"? They didn't even talk about her. Shouldn't she have been the one at the girl's night instead of "Zeke"? That was awkward.

    I'm afraid that NBC is just coasting thru to the end and have already decided the fate of this show. :(

    Have you seen "Save NBC's Parenthood" on Facebook? If FB can bring Betty White to SNL, maybe it can save this awesome show!

    Thanks for this blog.

  10. I wondered about Camille, too. It was strange that she didn't even exist in the show, and I did agree with how Zeke handled the whole thing. I hope that NBC commits to this show. It's the best show television has aired in years, and I'd hate to see it get cancelled. I will go to Save NBCs Parenthood and share it with friends.

    Awesome. THANK YOU!