After months of waiting patiently (for me, anyway, which admittedly is saying very little), the best show on television, Parenthood, returns tonight. While I'm thrilled to welcome the large Braverman family back into my living room, their return is bittersweet as this is the final season of Parenthood.
* Parenthood depicts tween and teen parenting in a more realistic, honest way than any other show on television.
We all know that parenting isn't glamorous, and even when you're past the stage of being covered in spit up, there are some awkward and uncomfortable moments in tween parenting that don't often make it into the scripts in Hollywood. That's where Parenthood is different.
- Issues with tween body odor and needing to get through to them on the importance of proper hygiene?
Parenthood covered it, with a child who has Aspergers, no less, and they handled it with dignity.
I know dignity seems like perhaps a strange word, but it didn't devolve into a bunch of bathroom humor jokes. It is an issue parents must address and handle and it isn't easy. They showed how to do it with grace and dignity.
- Dealing with when to get your child a cell phone and the peer pressure that parents, not just kids, often feel when it comes to that decision?
Parenthood tackled that, too, and with the complication of separate parents not on the same page. Been there, done that, didn't think I'd see it on tv.
- Getting screwed on the school volunteer sign ups? Student council elections? Birthday party invitations? Academic struggles?
These all seem minor, and while that may in fact be true, they all can make a really big impact on family life for at least a small period of time. The beauty of Parenthood is that it deals with the mundane, but it doesn't feel like it.
* The show makes me laugh, cry, and think.
My favorite quote is from Jim Valvano: "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day."
And Parenthood delivers on all of that, often at the same time, which ties in another favorite quote of mine from Truvy in Steel Magnolias: "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
Life is funny, complicated, messy, sad, joyous. And usually that's in just one day. I like that there's a show that recognizes that and does it in an hour. I feel a cathartic release at the end of the show. Life is a combination of comedy and drama, and I love that Parenthood represents that.
* It demonstrates that families are formed in all different ways.
We have a non-traditional family. I came from what is considered a traditional family. I could be a Braverman kid. Granted, they don't have my kind of family represented, but that's okay, because these characters all have come to the place of family from different starting points and encountered different bumps along the way.
There is no definitive line for forming a family and no one definition, and the various representations found in Parenthood make that point without beating you over the head with a 2x4 to do so.
One of my favorite episodes is when Joel and Julia formalized the adoption of their son in the judge's chambers and each and every Braverman was there and declared their love for him along with promising him something unique to the individual, like Aunt Sarah promising dating advice. I know the adoption logistics themselves were not realistic, but it makes me tear up just thinking about it, so it was effective.
Here that scene:
* It does not depict parents as stupid.
Maybe I'm too used to seeing how the Disney Channel in shows like Jessie portrays parents as bumbling idiots. While my tween may think this is true, I'd like to think that it's not.
Clearly the networks are playing to different audiences, and I get that. I still greatly appreciate Parenthood's portrayal of parents as people who mean well and want the best for their kids but who do not have all the answers. They are intelligent people who struggle to know what's right.
* Parenthood isn't easy, but there are a lot of ways to be a good parent.
Parents have a variety of approaches and Parenthood presents that diversity. It doesn't judge any of the numerous approaches it presents, nor does it act as if there are easy answers.
They are not perfect parents, but they don't have to be (and not just because it's television, but because in the history of the world I'm pretty sure there's never been a perfect parent.) In the end, it is possible to see that single, artsy mom Sarah, unorthodox Crosby, type-A Julia and steadfast Adam all try to do right by their family while also pursuing their own endeavors. What's not to love about that?
It is easy to empathize with the struggles of the characters trying to determine what is best for their children and families.
More judgment, humor and empathy for tween and teens parents is a great thing. Let's hope the show inspires even more of all of that.
While I'm very sad that this is the last season, I love Dax Shepard's characterization of the final season as a victory lap in this video:
Will you be watching Parenthood this fall? What shows about family life are your favorites?
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