In Defense of Caillou

Parents loathe Caillou, and I’m no different. But while his issues are banal to adults, and his whining maddening, to toddlers he’s a comforting retreat.

Parents loathe Caillou, and I’m no different.

Everything about that show makes my skin crawl. The characters consistently pronounce his name two different ways (Is it Ky-YOO or KY-yoo?). His whiny voice adds unnecessary noise to an already buzzing house, and the primary colored backgrounds make me feel nauseous.

Even my computer doesn’t want to talk about Caillou. It keeps correcting his name to “Callow,” confirming my hunch that no one likes him, except my daughter and every other kid under five years old.

Actually, she doesn’t just like him, she needs him, and so I reluctantly press play on the DVR when my daughter asks for him. I know a few parents who have banned the show like contraband, and I get that, but hear me out because your kid might need Caillou, too.

Screen time is alive and well in my house, so I’m well versed in most mainstream children’s programming. I can say confidently that Caillou fills a niche few other shows do. Caillou’s world is realistic and relatable for kids, despite his hairlessness and his parents’ never ending patience for his whining.

His storylines are grounded in a world absent fantastical details, and that’s surprisingly unique. His world doesn’t have speaking animals and objects, aliens or magic. He simply goes to preschool, plays and fights with his little sister, visits his grandparents and navigates friendships.  Children get to watch him experience the emotional roller coaster that it is to be a little kid. While there’s certainly a place for more imaginative shows, Caillou’s recognizable world doesn’t distract kids from its main purpose, helping them process their confusing emotions.  He’s a safe place. He just gets them.

His importance in my daughter’s life really came to light when I tried to watch Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with her. Since she’s obsessed with the Disney princesses, and the Snow White storybook is a regular in the rotation, watching the movie was the next logical step.

It turns out that the Evil Queen and Huntsman are terrifying to an almost three year old. Looking back, this seems obvious, but it had been a while since I’d seen the movie, too, and I forgot just how creepy it can be to see that kind of evil brought to animated life.  As soon as the queen hatched her plan for cold blooded murder, my daughter started screaming, “I want to watch Caillou! I want to watch Caillou!” That’s when I realized just how comforting he is to her.

Caillou’s issues are banal to adults; his whining is maddening, but to toddlers, he’s a retreat. My daughter’s daily routine is punctuated with new and scary things that I take for granted as a grown up, and she relies on Caillou to say, “It’s not just you. I feel the same way.”

He’s her buddy. He’s her security blanket. He’s like comfort food that hits the right spot. He’s a warm hug that calms her down and lets her relax, even if he gets on my last nerve. Sometimes she’ll go a whole week without requesting him, and I don’t take this respite for granted. Not only because it means I don’t have to listen to the quivering voice of the show’s narrator, but  because it signals that my daughter is having a really great week, and, for whatever reason, she’s feeling confident navigating her world.

While I’ll always encourage her to watch Sofia the First or Doc McStuffins or really any other show besides Caillou for my own sanity, when she needs him, he’s invited to keep her company.

I may shudder every time I hear the catchy but irritating theme song, but I understand how he helps her, so I’ll respect her choice.

I won’t disparage him to her, and I’ll consider this practice for the first time she brings home a boyfriend that I don’t like.

 

What Really Happened When Our Family Cut the Cord

I have a secret and I know I’m not alone. I love TV. So does my husband and my four sons. Despite this, we recently decided to cut the cord.

I have a secret and I know I’m not alone. I love TV.

It’s not particularly PC and definitely not cultured to admit it, but I’m smitten. What’s even worse is my penchant for reality shows. After a long day of work and wrangling kids there’s nothing better than donning sweats and taking a front row seat to the twisted, bald-faced cray cray of humanity. From “Sister Wives” and “Catfish” to “Dance Moms,” “19 Kids and Counting” (who isn’t weirdly obsessed with the Duggars?), “Long Island Medium,” and the earliest episodes of “Jon and Kate Plus 8” – I loved them all.

Yet despite this love, and ability to access seemingly endless channels, most nights my husband and I found ourselves saying, “There’s nothing on!” Shows like “Sex Sent Me to the ER” and “My Strange Addiction” drew us in and we realized that despite being freakishly fascinating we had really hit rock bottom.

We were officially staring down the slippery slope of voyeuristic mindlessness to a degree that begged us to ask a few questions: “Why were we paying so much for this?” “Would we want our kids watching this?” (um NO!) and “Should we be watching this?” (another NO).

To be honest, we weren’t a big TV family at all aside from our brief but nightly reality TV gorgefest once the kids were in bed.

We were genuinely concerned about our four boys, who range in age from three to 14, and what they were being fed via the boob tube when they did watch. Our older boys would sometimes watch the Disney Channel, which seemed innocent enough until I actually paid closer attention.

Just listen to one tween/teen Disney show from another room. It’s an eye-opener. Rude, bratty kids talking back to parents, and adults portrayed as bumbling, disrespected idiots. It was all sorts of wrong.

television graphic

 

Our Family Cut the Cord

My husband and I had talked a hundred times about cutting the ever-so-addictive cable cord but something kept preventing us. With four kids and a busy life, by the time everyone was in bed our nightly TV date was a much needed break for the weary parent mind. Admit it, who can resist a little bit of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” to put what you thought might be a bad parenting day in perspective? Just like a car crash, you don’t want to look but you just can’t stop. We are also news and political junkies and the mere idea of not being able to flip on CNN when something newsworthy was happening almost sent me into the shakes. It all came down to fear of the unknown, fear of giving up the addiction.

My husband and I talked and talked and figured we could always get it back if we really missed it, so we ended it cold turkey. That was almost three years ago and we were blown away by what happened. We didn’t miss it AT ALL. Yup, I’m stunned to admit it. And the even bigger shocker was that my kids didn’t miss it either. Our kids were far more adaptable than I gave them credit for. They just moved on to the next thing. The shows they watched were just fillers of time and a way to decompress after a long day at school. Kind of like it was for my husband and me.

We bought an antenna and were actually pleased and surprised at the channels we did get over the good old-fashioned airwaves; some oldies stations that aired classics like “Leave it to Beaver,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Brady Bunch,” as well as multiple PBS stations, and more. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad.

We were on a parental roll.

In addition to cutting cable, we imposed a school week TV and technology ban on the kids. Our three older boys had developed what I would consider a significant addiction to playing Minecraft. The minute they rushed through the door after school they needed their fix. Their coats were barely off before their faces were basking in the blueish glow of technology. We also noticed that their technology use resulted in horrible behaviors, bickering and a general orneriness.

What prompted the ban is a long story but it involved me, a big shopping bag, and anything considered “technical” thrown inside then buried in my closet. I think my “Mommie Dearest” “No… wire…hangers!” moment scared them, but they needed me to intervene.

My then 9-year-old was the most Minecraft-obsessed so I fully expected to find him in the fetal position on the floor, but nope. A few days into the ban he said, “I actually don’t mind this.” Granted these are kids who do spend a lot of their free time outdoors rollerblading, playing street hockey, making forts, riding bikes, and scootering.

We have slowly allowed some time in front of the TV but that is still pretty limited. When they do play video games on the weekends, within 10 minutes the bad behaviors, fights, and bickering start right up again. Confirmation that we made the right decision. Hubs and I still have our nightly TV date but are watching documentaries and more quality programs. Of course I’ll fully admit that “The Bachelor” creeps into the lineup, but a mom deserves a few indulgences, don’t you think?

5 Rules of Parenting According to “Fuller House”

The new Netflix series “Fuller House” is built on 60% nostalgia and 40% laugh tracks.

The new Netflix series “Fuller House” is a spinoff of the favorite after-school nineties sitcom “Full House.”

Its combination of 60% nostalgia and 40% laugh tracks somehow create something 100% awesome and totally addicting. DJ Tanner welcomes her sister Stephanie and friend/annoying sidekick Kimmy Gibbler to come live with her and help take care of DJ’s three sons.

The three unite to become a super parent while teaching us very important lessons about the job. The rules of parenting according to Fuller House are:

1. It’s okay to take credit for your elders’ parenting methods as long as you are significantly hotter than them.

Since the show is a continuation of Full House, it makes reference to the old Full House gang a lot. The girls are always considering what their dad or their Uncle Jesse or their Uncle Joey might do in a given situation. They even replicate identical solutions to the ones devised by their old parent figures.

But it works out because the girls are just way hotter than Danny, Jesse, and Joey were, so we forget that we’ve seen those exact scenes before most of the time. And when we remember, we have a moment of that precious, beautiful nostalgia I was talking about earlier and move on.

2. Babysitters don’t actually require that much screening.

DJ does little to no work when it comes to choosing sitters for her boys. Did their mom live nextdoor to her as a kid? Does she know next to nothing else about them? They’re hired! (Cough cough Ramona.)

3. Don’t worry too much about your kids

Tommy is fine. He’s just completely alone in the other room for most of the show.

4. Electronics are the best because they are the only tool you have for punishing your kid

I loved Fuller House, but I definitely cringed at how often those kids were on their electronics. The on-going joke was that the kids would really only do what was expected of them if their cell phones were involved in the deal. Ramona only agreed to babysit so she could videoblog about it. Brilliant Max was devastated when uncle Joey took away his iPad on which he was watching a live stream of satellites on Pluto.

I know that’s actually how life is, but I don’t watch full house so I can watch how life actually is. Bring back Joey and the woodchuck puppet!

5. In order to be a good parent you must be lame.

DJ is the only good parent on the show because every time she even comes close to being cool she catches herself and turns right around. She’s pretty smoking hot, but somehow manages to be extremely awkward around men. Even Kimmy, annoying as ever, is interesting to guests and is also sort of a doormat when it comes to parenting and therefore her daughter totally digs her.

Stephanie of course is the present-day Uncle Jesse who no one expects to be a good parent because she just oozes cool. Lorelai Gilmore is rolling in her fictional (she’s not actually dead) grave.

The One Where We Learned Life Lessons from “Friends”

Over the course of a decade, the cast of Friends not only made us laugh, they taught us valuable life lessons along the way. Take a look.

Could a TV sitcom about friendship, love, and life be more relatable?

When “Friends” burst onto the screen in 1994, I immediately jumped on NBC’s must-see-TV bandwagon to follow the lives of six 20-something friends living in New York.

As a 20-something myself at the time, I wanted to live vicariously through Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, and the guys. Like millions of viewers, I grew so attached to this amiable gang of Manhattan buddies that I wanted to be their friend.

From the characters’ funny catchphrases (“How you doin’?”) to the show’s long-running gags (hello, Ugly Naked Guy), “Friends” wiggled its way into our hearts for good. After an incredible 10-year run, the show ended its successful, award-winning run with a generation of fans wanting more, including me.

Over the course of a decade, the cast of “Friends” not only made us laugh, they taught us valuable life lessons along the way. Take a look.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#1:  Good friends are like family.[/su_highlight]

For better (and for worse), good friends can love us, support us, and offer advice, as well as disappoint us, keep us grounded, and tell it like it is (whether we want to hear it or not).

Monica (to Rachel): Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna love it! 

Joey (who tried to pee on Monica to take away the sting of a jellyfish): That’s right, I stepped up. She’s my friend, and she needed help. If I had to, I’d pee on any one of you!

Phoebe: Yeah, I definitely don’t like the name Ross.

Ross: What a weird way to kick me when I’m down.

Joey (watching a home video of Monica when she was heavy): Some girl ate Monica!

Monica: Shut up! The camera adds 10 pounds.

Chandler: Oh, so how many cameras are actually on you?

Joey: Why do you have to break up with her? Be a man. Just stop calling.

Rachel (to Monica): Oh, are you setting Ross up with someone? Does she have a wedding dress?

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#2: Ask for what you want in life.[/su_highlight]

No matter how strong of a support system we have in our circle of friends and family, we also need to be able to stand up for ourselves and ask for what we want.

Phoebe (after she finishes playing a song at Central Perk): If you want to receive e-mails about my upcoming shows, then please give me money so I can buy a computer. 

Monica (proposing to Chandler): You wanted it to be a surprise.

Chandler: Oh my God.

Monica: Chandler, in all my life, I never thought I would be so lucky (she starts sobbing) to fall in love with my best, my best.. (more sobbing) There’s a reasons why girls don’t do this!

Rachel (to an over-zealous laundry bully trying to steal her cart): “Maybe I wasn’t being clear, but this was our cart.”

Lady: “Hey, hey, hey, there aren’t any clothes in it.”

Rachel: “Hey, hey, hey, hey, quit making up rules.”

Rachel: (as they continue to fight over the cart and Rachel finally climbs into it, sits down and stakes her claim): “Listen, missy, if you want this cart you’re going to have to take me with it.”

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#3: Love your friends in spite of (and sometimes because of) their shortcomings.[/su_highlight]

Self-centered Rachel, control-freak Monica, eccentric Phoebe, dimwitted Joey, judgmental Ross, and smart-aleck Chandler all showed us how to overlook each other’s weaknesses.

Joey (trying to use words he doesn’t really understand): Rach, you gotta find out if he’s in the same place you are. Otherwise, it’s just a moo point.

Rachel: A moo point?

Joey: Yeah. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.

Rachel: Have I been living with him too long or did that all just make sense? 

Phoebe (apologizing to Monica after giving her a haircut that looks like Dudley Moore)

Joey (confused as usual): Awright, when was 1990?

Chandler (always amazed at Joey’s obtuseness): OK, you have to stop the Q-tip when there’s resistance.

Joey (dressed in all of Chandler’s clothes): Look at me. I’m Chandler. Could I be wearing any more clothes? 

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#4: No matter how old you are, never lose touch with your inner child.[/su_highlight]

The crazy antics of the sometimes child-like girls and often sophomoric guys regularly reminded us that being young is a state of mind.

Ross: What are you doing?

Chandler: Making chocolate milk. You want some?

Ross: No thanks, I’m 29.

Phoebe (joining Rachel for a jog and running like a joyful, carefree child)

Chandler: We’re getting a house.

Monica: We’re getting a baby.

Chandler: We’re growing up.

Monica: We sure are.

Chandler: So who’s going to tell them?

Monica: Not it.

Chandler: Not it. Damn it!

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#5: Parenting is hard work. Do whatever it takes to make it work.[/su_highlight]

Whether they’re trying to decide on their baby’s name, figuring out childcare arrangements or getting their baby to laugh, Ross and Rachel showed us that parenting is hard work. It often requires compromise, trade-offs, creativity and, of course, a sense of humor.

Ross (trying to agree with Rachel on a name for their baby): OK, how about Ruth?

Rachel: Oh, I’m sorry, are we having an 89-year-old woman?

 Rachel (trying to make arrangements with Ross to watch their baby while she goes back to work for the first time after her maternity leave): Can you take care of Emma just for today?

Ross: Sure, just lend me your breasts and we’ll be on our way.

 –

Rachel and Ross (singing “Baby Got Back” to make Emma laugh)

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#6: Keep your sense of humor—it will get you through a lot of life’s rough patches.[/su_highlight]

Whether dealing with death, divorce, dysfunctional families, gay parents (or ex-wives), infidelity, broken hearts, or infertility, “Friends” found a way to find the funny in life’s biggest struggles.

Chandler: I’m not so good with the advice. Can I interest you in a sarcastic comment? 

Ross: If you’re going to call me names, I would prefer Ross, the Divorce Force. It’s just cooler.

Rachel (after learning Ross brought home a new girlfriend from his trip to China): Well, isn’t that just kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic?

Spray Tan Worker (giving instructions): Alright Mr. Geller, right this way. So, how dark do you want to be? We have 1, 2 or 3.

Ross: Well, I like how you look. What are you?

Spray Tan Worker: Puerto Rican.

Ross: Two, I think a two.

Chandler (to Ross): Three failed marriages, two illegitimate children . . . the personal ad writes itself.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#7: It’s OK to fail.[/su_highlight]

Whether they were getting fired, getting dumped or just getting your teeth whitened, our favorite friends showed us how to handle the big (and not so big) bumps in the road.

Ross (to Joey on the phone, as he’s freaking out trying to get his leather pants back on
in the bathroom of his date’s apartment): They’re still not coming on, man! And the lotion and the powder have made a paste.

Monica (mad at everyone and pointing at each friend with accusations): Fine! Judge all you want, but married a lesbian, left a man at the altar, fell in love with a gay ice dancer, threw a girl’s wooden leg in a fire, lived in a box!

Joey (apologizing to Ross with “air quotes” for accidentally proposing to Rachel)

Rachel (to Ross): Just so you know, it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy and it is a big deal.

Chandler (to a model he’s stuck with in an ATM vestibule): Gum would be perfection.

Ross (to Rachel): We were on a break!

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#9: Embrace your own quirkiness.[/su_highlight]

Although Phoebe played the most eccentric character on “Friends,” everyone on the show brought their own brand of crazy, which is one of the things we loved most about them.

Joey (after eating an entire turkey): Here come the meat sweats.

Monica (being overly competitive) 

Ross (trying to direct friends helping him move a sofa): PI-VOT! PI-VOT!

Phoebe (official video): Smelly cat, smelly cat, what are they feeding you?

 

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]#10: Friends make life better.[/su_highlight]

In the end, “Friends” taught us that, despite life’s hiccups, everything will turn out okay—if you’ve got good friends by your side. To give us their insights, the friends share their final thoughts in this interview as they wrap up their last season.

In this Warner-Brothers interview (also included in “Friends: The Complete Tenth Season” DVD), Aniston and Schwimmer reflected on the perfect casting of the show.

“They filled it the way I imagined it sounding,” said Aniston.

Schwimmer agreed, “Not one of us could have been traded out. It was like the six of us were like the perfect pieces of this puzzle, and it was great.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Why I Let My Son Watch (Some) Sports on TV

Its Sunday afternoon. Superbowl Sunday to be exact.

My husband is in the garage laying out recycled pallet boards planning the wall he will finish off in our basement. I am working on my freelance writing while thinking about how to create a label for my lip balm made from our beeswax. My six-year-old son is watching the LA Clippers play the Miami Heat on the basement TV.

One of these things is not like the other?

While my husband and I played sports when we were young and encourage our kids to do the same, we’re not big professional or college sports fans. We may joke about your Yankees vs. Red Sox household, but I can’t remember the last time we actually watched more than 10 minutes of a baseball game. For us, sporting events are usually limited to The Olympics and the occasional play-off or World Cup game.

So it has come as a bit of a surprise to us that our son likes to watch sports on TV. It doesn’t seem to matter which sport – today was his first basketball game, but he was hugely into World Cup soccer and will watch most other sports when given the opportunity.

I will admit that some of the draw for him is just the sheer pleasure of watching TV. We’re those parents who limit screen time to Friday night movies and the occasional PBS show. So when he does get to watch TV he zones out like he’s watching the moon landing or someone has cast a spell on him that blocks out all external stimuli.

But there’s something different about watching sports. He’s not that passive zombie. Instead, he’s interacting with what he is watching and with the people who are with him, and he can re-enter the world around him more smoothly than after other screen time experiences.

Here’s what I think is going on:

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]First, he’s active.[/su_highlight]

He’s a competitive kid so he enjoys cheering on “his team” (usually whichever team is winning when he turns on the game). He moves around in his seat or stands up and jumps up and down just like the adults who are really into a game, cheering when his team scores, waving his arms as they are getting close, and grunting when they are scored upon.

Moving his body instead of sitting in a trance on the couch keeps him from zoning out completely on the screen.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Second, he’s doing math.[/su_highlight]

My son loves math and is always asking us to give him math problems to solve. When he is watching sports he is constantly talking about the score – which team is winning and by how much.

We talk with him about what it would take for the other team to catch up and he learns how many points are awarded for each kind of goal, basket, touchdown, etc.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”][su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Third, he’s learning some pretty complex rules.[/su_highlight]

He doesn’t quite understand why a soccer goal is one point but a basket is two (or sometimes three). He wants to know why the whistle is blown or what kind of penalty was called. He wants to know who we are rooting for and why, or why they wear those kinds of sneakers or cleats.

Luckily we know enough to answer most of his questions. We can sense his brain processing new information, and we hear him describing the game as it progresses using the new terms he has learned.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Lastly, he is witnessing sportsmanship (at least we hope he is) and learning that everyone loses once in a while.[/su_highlight]

Being the competitive kid that he is, he takes losing hard – whether that’s in a board game or on the baseball field. We try to point out when players help each other up after tackling each other or shake hands after a match. And when players aren’t sportsmanlike, he usually sees them get called on it. Y

You should have heard the conversations about the soccer player who bit another player during the men’s world cup; that was not ok and he knew it.

So despite my personal lack of interest in most professional sports (except for women’s soccer – cause those women rock), I don’t mind that he likes watching.

That said, we do have two parental rules of thumb (both of which were confirmed by the Superbowl that happened later the same day):

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]First, we are cautious about football.[/su_highlight]

More than enough brain injury research has informed our decision that he will never be allowed to play, so we hesitate to have him exposed too often to the sport. Yes, I understand that other sports are also dangerous and do result in concussions, but most studies still list football as the most dangerous sport (see this summary by the CDC if you’re curious) and professional leagues seem to have a long way to go in making players’ safety top priority.

In addition, the sport seems ripe for unsportsmanlike conduct and sore losers, despite the many well-intentioned players that I am sure are part of the game.

[su_highlight background=”#f1c40f”]Second, we try to supervise and, when needed, intervene or distract during commercials and halftimes.[/su_highlight]

Why so much sex, beer, and violence has to go with sports is a topic for another essay altogether.

To put it another way, Parental Guidance is still required.

No doubt more questions will arise as he gets older. But for now we’re appreciating his innocent one-man cheering squad and listening to him enthusiastically describe his favorite play of the game, even if we’re sitting right next to him.

Who knows, maybe he’ll rub off on us.

7 Ways Nashville’s Rayna Jaymes IS Modern Motherhood

There’s a TV show you love. So much that you’re willing to watch one episode a week, even with – gasp – commercials. For me that program is Nashville.

There’s a TV show you love. So much that you can’t wait until the season is over to rent and binge. You’re willing to watch one episode a week, even with – gasp – commercials. For me that program is Nashville.

Each character is unique, complex, realistic, and constant, but one stands out as emblematically so. Rayna Jaymes isn’t just a mother. She personifies good motherhood. Not only in her interactions with her teen and tween daughters, but also as a country music artist, label exec, friend, boss, sister, and partner.

Here are the seven reasons Rayna Jaymes embodies modern motherhood:

1. She takes a lot of shit. Her daughters bitch her out in adolescent rages brought on by lovingly firm boundaries and disappointments at the hands of others, like their fathers and classmates. Her great love remains stoic when it comes to adoration and gratitude but suddenly has lots to say when he’s pissed off. The talent she’s signed hurl insults and accusations her way on the regular. And she takes it. She doesn’t submit; she sticks up for herself. But she also doesn’t sink to the emotionally uncontrolled level of those around her. She bears it.

2. She’s in every scene. How does she fit it all in? Funerals, performances, board meetings, award ceremonies, school events. She manages the impossible and makes it to everything for everyone.

3. Everyone calls her in a crisis. Everyone. It doesn’t matter what terms they’re on, when people need emotional or practical help, they call Rayna. And she answers.

4. No one ever asks how she’s doing. Okay, maybe they do sometimes. But when a character asks Rayna if she’s okay, it’s a breakthrough moment of selflessness for them. Ordinarily, it’s Rayna who is the calm in the storm. The rock. She’s the pillar supporting the whole damn everything. They all just assume she’s solid, because she always appears to be. So she almost always cries alone.

5. She’s the angel on your shoulder. Her moral compass unerringly points her in the proper direction, and her guidance does the same for others. What would Rayna do, y’all?

6. She never forgets her responsibilities. Unlike the show’s bad-mom poster girl, Juliette, Rayna doesn’t get plastered. She doesn’t indulge in passing passions. She never, ever loses sight of her status as a leader and role model. She sacks up and gets her many jobs done.

7. All sins are forgiven. Rayna sees the worst side of everyone and loves them anyway. She doesn’t hold grudges. She always offers absolution.

Actually, come to think of it, Rayna isn’t just an idealization of motherhood: the same behaviors make her a saint, a deity even.

Now what does that say about our expectations of mothers these days?

You Deserve The Truth About A Friends Reunion

Does the phrase “WE WERE ON A BREAK!” mean anything to you? Do you call your soul mate your “lobster?” Don’t get too hyped about this announcement yet.

Does the phrase “WE WERE ON A BREAK!” mean anything to you? Do you call your soul mate your “lobster?” Did you ever instruct a hairdresser to give you “The Rachel?”

Ever used this satisfying alternative?

Better yet, have you, in an exhausted, middle of the night wake-up stupor ever attempted to lull a baby back to sleep with “Smelly Cat?”

If so, you’ll likely be as excited as I was to read the headline “A Friend’s Reunion is Finally Happening.” (And also, I like you. You’re my people.) But if this is the first you’re hearing about it, let me save you the disappointment of that misleading clickbait.

Yes, NBC has locked in all 6 original cast members for a two hour special that will be aired on February 21. However, the special is in honor of legendary comedy director, James Burrows. And so far, NBC head Bob Greeblatt, can’t confirm that they’ll even cram Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, and Joey into the same room.

Listen, folks. It’s not like they’re the g-d Wu Tang Clan. First of all, none of them are dead. Second, they each made like eleventy billion dollars on those roles. We are not asking too much to just see them all in one place for five stinking minutes. Look how happy they once were to stand in front of the window together?

While the potential is there, I’m not doing this quite yet.

H/T Time

 

Summer binge watch essentials: a non-comprehensive list

There was a time, before I became a parent, that I used to read for fun. I’d read and read and read and form opinions and feel competent and smart Nowadays (i.e. days when I use words like “nowadays”), with two young kids and the energy level of a slug, the reading doesn’t happen so much. I tried to get back into the joy of books but it felt like work, usually at a time when work was the last thing I wanted to do.

There was a time, before I became a parent, that I used to read for fun. I’d read and read and read and form opinions and feel competent and smart. I’d read fiction, non-fiction, memoir. I’d try to read Noam Chomsky, then just dive in to “The Red Tent” again instead. I loved that satisfying feeling of closing the book, slowly, after consuming the last line, and then just sitting for a moment to savor the experience.

Nowadays (i.e. days when I use words like “nowadays”), with two young kids and the energy level of a slug, the reading doesn’t happen so much. I tried to get back into the joy of books but it felt like work, usually at a time when work was the last thing I wanted to do.

But you know what doesn’t feel like work? You know what feels like the perfect escape just when I need it? And you know what can be done while cleaning the kitchen every night? Watching television.

So I thought I’d compile a short (read: non-exhaustive) list of my summer binge-watch essentials. This list is for anyone looking for the perfect entertainment/off switch for the thinking brain to be enjoyed at the end of a long summer day while you’re finishing up your chores or when you should probably be sleeping.

**NOTE** I don’t have cable. I stream a lot of TV from Netflix, Amazon Prime, network websites, and Hulu Plus. There are other ways, less “legal” ways, if you look hard enough. If you do have cable, I’ve heard On Demand is pretty comprehensive.

IF YOU LIKE BEACH READS:

1) Jane the Virgin : The CW is having another moment with this super well-crafted dramedy modeled after the crazy popular Spanish telenovela. It’s creative and quirky and features great performances and witty writing. Rogelio De La Vega will make you laugh every time he speaks.

2) Younger : This one comes from TV Land, which I seem to remember as a place to watch old-timey shows like “Green Acres” and shit, but then they made that “Hot in Cleveland” show with Betty White, so I guess times have changed. Anyway, “Younger” is about a recently divorced 42-year-old mom who passes herself off as a 26-year-old hipster to get a job in the New York publishing world. She instantly lands a hot 26-year-old boyfriend and I found myself watching just to see what would happen with them. I’d never want to be 26 again, but this show is a fun little voyeuristic look at the idea of faking it.

3) Grace and Frankie : Hot off the Netflix Originals press, this show, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, is charming in its irreverence. Plus, it’s really cool to see smart, creative, complicated, beautiful women in their 70s represented on television. The supporting performances are slightly lackluster (except for June Diane Raphael as Brianna), but you forgive them because Lily Tomlin is so fantastic.

IF YOU LIKE NOIR FICTION

1) Daredevil : Netflix is on a roll. It’s undeniable. And Daredevil is one of its most successful original series yet. I tend to get excited about comic book characters in movies but I wasn’t sure about this one. Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays the villain, literally scares me. Like, I try not to look at him. But Charlie Cox, who plays our hero, is really fun to look at and made me believe he was blinded as a child and now has crazy augmented other senses. I watched this one in blocks, rather than a true binge, because its world is so unhappy and there’s a lot of violence (“Sons of Anarchy” ruined me. I can only handle so much fake blood in one year).

2) Bloodline : It took me a little longer than usual to get through this one because it is SO DARK. But I stuck with it because Kyle Chandler. It’s twisty and sad and tragic and nobody is blameless, which can be tough to watch but is also pretty much how these things go. Follow the Rayburn family through some super intense shit and see who’s side you’re on in the end.

3) Orphan Black: Tatiana Maslany plays the main character, Sarah Manning, – and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HER CLONES – in this sci-fi-ish thriller from BBC America. She does this so well that you’ll forget she’s doing it. That is to say, the characters are so different and so three-dimensional that you take them each at face value and believe that they are indeed different people. I suppose you could say, “That’s called acting,” but I think it’s called “amazingly high caliber, next level acting that makes a show super fun to watch.” I think Alison Hendrix is my favorite.

 

IF YOU LIKE THE CLASSICS

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS : If you haven’t yet seen my favorite television show of all time, I’m jealous. I wish I could see it all again for the first time. I’ve watched this series three times through (five seasons, most of them short) and I will absolutely watch it again. And again. I will watch this show with my children as soon as it’s appropriate. You don’t have to love – or even understand – football to enjoy this show, you just have to be a human. Seriously, guys, watch it. It could even make you a better parent.

Shoutout to 1980’s TV Sitcom Parents

All my social media feeds are full of chatter about the final episode of the TV show Parenthood.

My partner loves Parenthood. I think it’s sentimental and borderline corny. Yet I watch it with her every week. I appreciate the show’s earnestness, and how it portrays the messier aspects of marriage, raising kids, aging, and work.

What I like most about Parenthood is how it reminds me of the TV dramas and family centered sitcoms I watched as a kid back in the 80’s. Those TV shows (sitcoms included) continue to influence how I parent.

I know this seems insane. However, my actual parents were terrible, while TV parents provided for their family and interacted with their kids. Yes, they were idealized, mainstream and hokey. But they were also loving, loyal and forgiving. (They had to be, of course, in order for each episode to wrap up with a happy ending.)

Here’s a quick shoutout to my favorite TV parents of the 1980’s. These are the parents l remember liking the most back then, not necessarily the ones I  would like now. (All of my favorite shows now have horrible parents. I’m thinking of the Lannisters, the Drapers, the Whites of Albuquerque, the Sopranos of north New Jersey.)

– Mr Belvedere. Not really a parent, but close enough. He was awesome. Did that show have parents in it?

– The dad from Family Ties. I don’t remember his name. He was always just Michael Gross to me.

– The Greek dad from Webster

– The dad from Silver Spoons. Not because he was rich, but because he was trying to be a real dad instead of grown up child. When are they going to reboot this series with Ricky playing the dad BTW?

– John Goodman as Dan Conner on Roseanne. A working class dad. 

– Never did like Growing Pains or Alan Thicke.

– Ma from Golden Girls. The best, by far.

 

Football, Sportsmanship & Learning What You Teach

No one in our house is fanatical about pro football (we’ve never prayed for our team, for example.) However, hanging out with a game on TV is relaxing part of our winter weekends.

I (mostly) enjoy answering my six-year-old girl’s millions of questions about the game. “Why did he do that? What does that mean? What do you think they’ll do next?”

We’ve had many, many conversations about where the teams are from, their players, where they stand in the rankings, how many Super bowls they’ve won, and what their team emblems mean.

I grew up cheering for the Patriots. I was born in Boston. They’ll always going be my team. At first, our kid also loved the Pats, even though her mother is a 49ers fan.

However, this winter I noticed a dark trend: increasing chatter about the Green Bay Packers. Then, one day in December, she confessed. Green Bay is officially her favorite team. Why? Because green is her favorite color and because for some reason she’s obsessed with Wisconsin.

We joke about how we all follow different teams. We also talked about how important it is to enjoy the excitement of competition while also being a good sport. I’ve seen my friend’s kids cry, weep and fight over professional sports affiliations.  Unfortunately, many people fail to grow out of that behavior.

Six year olds are pretty much sore winners and losers by default. It’s kinda cute when they’re young, but quickly becomes obnoxious. Fortunately, watching sports together provides hundreds of teachable moments about sportsmanship. (Actually playing sports provides vastly more, of course.)

I’m not going to lie – as a Red Sox fan, I’ve yelled “Yankees Suck” at many games at Fenway Park. But around the kid, I consciously try to model good sportsmanship in five ways:

  1. Explain and discuss the concept of “sportsmanship” – don’t take it for granted they understand what it is.
  2. Recognize good efforts and good plays by both teams.
  3. Don’t put individual players down.
  4. Discuss controversial plays, but respect the ref when he makes the call (easier said than done)
  5. Cheer, clap, hoot and have fun when your team makes a good play or wins, but remember respect the fans of the other team. Don’t be rude.

As in many areas of modern parenting, I’m learning what I’m actually teaching as I go. Exemplifying good sportsmanship for my daughter has helped me become a better sport. I’ve supported my kids choice of football teams, and even cheered for Green Bay once or twice.

Totally different matter if she ever supports Yankees, of course.

FURTHER READING

Dads have the overwhelming influence  for how kids choose their sports teams.[stag_icon icon=”external-link-square” url=”http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/10/24/141649929/how-we-become-sports-fans-the-tyranny-of-fathers” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]

Some further tips on sportsmanship from PBS Parents [stag_icon icon=”external-link-square” url=”http://www.pbs.org/parents/food-and-fitness/sport-and-fitness/raise-a-good-sport/” size=”16px” new_window=”no”]