I've been thinking a lot lately about how we learn to parent.
In a conversation about television families once, someone remarked that The Cosby Show was an unrealistic portrait of American family life, and that Roseanne was how "real" families interacted. I remember being annoyed and a little offended at this comment because it was probably mostly true but....
Well, I was a little offended because, well, because my parents sorta were like the Cosbys, and the comment seemed to discount my upbringing as unrealistic and therefore invalid. The implication was that since our parents were able to give us more, we hadn't worked as hard for what we had. It had just been given to us (which is untrue, btw). We were way more like the Cosbys than the Conners, and it had more to do with my Dad than with money.
I was in high school and my father and I were in a grocery store at 11pm one night when I think I realized it. I had left him to go find something, and when I found him, he was in the cereal aisle by himself, doing what can only be called the Cliff Huxtable dance. You know, the one in the opening montage, where he bends his knees and juts out his chin and sort of spasms to an internal Count Basie. Dad was doing this in front of some Raisin Bran, and that's when it hit me: my dad was a cross between Cliff Huxtable and Howard Cunningham.
When I thought about it, it made sense. My father immigrated to LA in 1969, leaving his parents behind in Taiwan. He now likes to give me little mini-lectures now about things like tooth care, as he now deals with the consequence of things he says his parents never taught him (i.e. the importance of good dental hygiene - in fairness, I don't think it was their top priority in China in the 1940's). When we were kids in the 70's and 80's, my dad didn't have any family in California, much less his own parents, and well... he was in the United States. My dad learned to be an "American" parent from tv.
Is it really that bad when you think about it? I mean, he could have had worse role models. If we're looking to tv now for guidance, who is there? I'm seriously asking, I don't know. My television habits are now extremely adult (Criminal Minds, Fringe) or Ni Hao Kai-Lan and Yo Gabba Gabba. Sitcoms aren't the same anymore, so what family role models do we and our kids have? Reality television? The Hills and Gossip Girl? God forbid, The Jersey Shore?!?! Here's my other question - chicken or egg? Is reality tv a reflection of how kids are really growing up, or are kids trying to be what they see on tv? These are things I think about as I try to limit the amount of psycho therapy my kid might need in the future to a year or two, instead of a lifetime of Prozac.
Granted my Dad wasn't always camera perfect. After all, I never saw Cliff slam his fist into the wall next to Theo's head, and Dad's "sex talk" (yes, I got it from my dad, not my mom) basically consisted of three sentences: Don't get pregnant. Don't get any diseases. If you don't, come to me; don't tell your mother.
But given the choices we seem to have these days... I'll watch reruns all day long.
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