Who's Your TV Parent Spirit Animal?
It's possible that there are currently half as many children in the world as there are words written about raising them. With so much information being thrown at us, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Sure, you can attempt to dissect the commentary on any given subject and boil down anecdotal versus scientific evidence to find the answers you're looking for. Or, you can put those complex little creatures to bed and fire up the television.
For decades, we've used fictitious families to help take our minds off our own. Inserting ourselves into the day to day struggles, triumphs and fumbles of mothers and fathers with problems we have no ownership of, can be a welcome diversion from the ones we do. Yet if the subject matter is relatable, it's impossible to step outside yourself completely. After consuming enough hours of imaginary people's lives, I've realized I find it way more fun to take parenting inspiration from fake people I can see rather than real ones who write books.
The families I grew up watching in the 80's and 90's took on the tough stuff and tied it up with some cheesy music and a bow in less than half an hour. Danny Tanner, Roseanne Conner, and Clair Huxtable, were the sort of parents who really listened to their kids. Skipping school, sneaking around, getting caught with drugs, driving a classic car through the kitchen
(listen, I never said these shows were completely realistic), it didn’t matter the offense. There was a baseline of mutual respect and admiration which proved believable no matter how far fetched the plotline. For those of us who spent childhood alongside these kids, would it be so far off to suggest that maybe we are better parents because of it?
When I was pregnant with my second, I spent countless (pantless) hours on the couch watching Friday Night Lights. While Tim Riggins was reason enough to go on a Netflix bender, it was Tami Taylor, the series (almost sole) matriarch, who really ignited something in me. (Ok, fine. Riggins ignited something too. What am I? A robot?)
At the time, I had no idea if the tiny person robbing me of every ounce of energy would be a brother or sister to my 5 year old son. I always imagined having a little girl, and while I truly had no preference the first time around, I also had no plans of having more than two kids. I tried to maintain the attitude of not caring either way, though it slowly became less and less convincing. Until eventually, I shouted at strangers who gazed in my direction, “I’M FINE IF THIS KID IS A BOY, REALLY. THAT WOULD BE OK. I MEAN, I’D GET USED TO IT AND STUFF.”
I tried to mentally explore all the angles of why, should I go on to live a daughterless existence, that I would be totally fine
. Maybe even relieved. For one thing, I’d never have to navigate the world of raising a teenage girl and from what I remember of being one
, that alone should have been enough to close the case. And yes, I know I would have been thrilled/lucky/blessed, all of that, to have another boy, yet I feared for the rest of my life, I’d be haunted by a tiny nagging feeling that something was missing. And that’s the cold hard truth.
I never expected my desire would grow even deeper by becoming immersed in a show about high school football. Hell, I never expected to become immersed in a show about high school football, period.
However, there was no way to avoid being sucked in by the drama in Dillon, Texas. And with each episode, my love for Tami grew out of control. She didn’t always have all the answers, but was never afraid to admit it either. She threw out nuggets of wisdom like candy in a parade.
"The most important thing to me is that my daughter be able to talk to me. A girl is entitled to that with her mother."
gonna win… or you’re
gonna lose. Either way the sun’s still
gonna come up tomorrow morning."
"I would tell her to think about her life. Think about what's important to her and what she wants. And I would support every decision she made."
She imparted her glorious wisdom on an entire student body, in addition to her own kids, and in so doing, inspired and encouraged them to be the best possible versions of themselves. Tami saw in them the potential they often had yet to notice. I wanted that. I’m from the northeast, and she even convinced me that “y’all” was a necessary addition to my lexicon.
Because there’s clearly more to developing my own brand of parenting than watching tv, like, say, real world application and working without a script, I’ve developed a simple way of compartmentalizing this inspiration.
I think of the (fake) women I admire as my parenting spirit animals.
For me, it’s really a hybrid of Tami Taylor and Clair Huxtable. They are authoritative yet loving and approachable. Kid comes home drunk? Stage a family drinking game, 10 year old sister included. Come ON! That's FANTASTIC. This could have been one of my subconscious reasons for having my own kids 6 years apart. I have no desire to become the principal at my kid's high school, but I'm going to hope that I'm the understanding mom my kids and their friends can trust to pick them up late at night, judgement free, when they're in over their heads. I don't have teenagers yet, but I'll have these ladies in my back pocket when I do.
Who are yours?