Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Dad is Cliff Huxtable

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.


  1. I have no idea. I don't even know which really came first - the chicken or the egg. I know that reality tv and the reality of life make me want to lock my kids up for the next 15 years.

  2. Easy fix...SELL YOUR TV! Be your kid role model.

  3. The Cosby Show tops my list of favorite shows. All The Cosby Show seasons are worth watching. I usually watch The Cosby Show episodes online at The site provides unmatched picture and sound quality. You can download the Cosby Show Episodes easily from this site at amazing download speeds.

  4. I had to sit back and really think about it. I don't think there are any positive Daddy role-models on TV. Even the Family Channel is racy.

    Don't sell your TV. Then you'll turn into one of "those" people. You know the ones, the "I'm so much better than you because I don't own a tv" people.

    Reality TV - that's the real devil but I can't help but watch the train wreck - after Kaz is put to bed of course. Look at me, I'm so awesome.