Thursday, October 11, 2012

Continuing Ed for Parents?

A few years ago there was a popular quiz making the e-mail rounds: which television mom are you?  I was very happy to be aligned with Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show. Television is far more often ridiculous than helpful or useful in its representations of families but every year or two there's one where the writing is just so perfect you stop in your tracks and wish you had said that perfect thing. Of course, we don't have the benefit of terrific writers who come up with our lines, or do we?

I think there is value in watching television shows and movies about families. Even the silly ones. Television parents have writers who craft words that say exactly the right thing when the important topics come up, can prepare you for those tough questions. If you pay attention, you can have the right words when you need them too.

Some of my favorites:
  • Glee: The parents don't appear much but Burt Hummel, father to Kurt who is gay, gives one of the best bits of advice about readiness for sex that I have ever heard. It would work for a son, a daughter, straight or gay. Brilliant writing, and really good advice.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond is built on family comedy yet often includes poignant moments that leave you with a lump in your throat and eyes welling with tears because of the truth of family they express. The episode where they decide to hold the twins back in school because one of them needs it articulates parental fears and wisdom with truth and whimsy.
  • Parenthood, my current favorite family show, hits a home run more weeks than not.  In just the last few episodes the families have tackled racism, cancer, job burnout, adoption, veterans issues, and salaries. Last week Jasmine's "Talk" with Jabar about racism is sensitive, compassionate, and way better than any parent could do on the fly.
  • Even shows that aren't actually about families, but which have families attached to them can sometimes supply words or ideas. The Suarez family of Ugly Betty shows us a remarkably functional family smack in the middle of a ridiculous industry and workplace.
Television families aren't real, but they reflect family life like a fun house mirror that makes us look a little taller, a little skinnier, maybe a little better. Comparing yourself to the Huxtables, the Barones or the Bravermans doesn't help your family in any way, but mining their experience for things you can do better or say more articulately might bless your family by making you a more prepared parent.

As with everything in life, the best preparation is prayer. And if you ask God to show you how to handle this phase of your child's life, and you get to watch Claire Huxtable or Adam Braverman do it well, then perhaps this is the answer you were seeking. Like the man on the roof in the flood who is so confident that God will save him  that he sends away two boats and a helicopter before drowning - let's recognize the answers when they appear. If I, a human parent made in the image of God, will use puppets to teach my children lessons they need to learn, why should I think that God won't use television to teach me?

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