My childhood was good, don’t get me wrong. I mean, it wasn’t Huxtable-good, but it was alright. The other day I was thinking about how television has changed since we of the “MTV Generation” were kids, and how big a part of my life TV was when I was growing up. Do you remember it? Do you remember all of those popular family shows that we all used to watch and how those shows portrayed family life?
For example, one of my favorite shows growing up was Family Ties. Who could forget Alex and Mallory and whatever those other kids’ names were. I think they were the original dual-income family. The mom was some kind of business woman, as was the dad. Did we ever find out what they did for a living? Well, whatever it was, they made enough money to keep the kids in good clothes and to keep whatever out-of-town family member happened to drop by the house in spending cash until they left, usually after making a mess of home life.
The Huxtables were a favorite too. I think my parents liked the Cosby Show because it had actors from their own era, but I liked the show because they were well-off (AKA rich!)…and lived like it! Isn’t it funny how, 20 years ago we didn’t even think about race when we were watching that show? Seems like we’ve gone backwards a bit since then doesn’t it?
Who am I missing? Oh, man…Growing Pains! How I could I forget Growing Pains? Now this was the ultimate wasn’t it? Dad was a psychiatrist; mom was a…I don’t know what mom did, but she was hot! They lived in a nice ranch house with a basketball goal in the back. It was perfect.
Now, I knew in my heart that television wasn’t real life; but wasn’t there just a little part of all of us that thought that somewhere, life must be like that? And isn’t that view of family life what we all grew up with in our head?
So is it any surprise to us that we’re often dissatisfied with parenting? For certain, I never saw the Keatons getting up several times a night to comfort an inconsolable baby. Or, I don’t remember the Seavers sitting around the kitchen table stressing over whether or not they could afford to get rid of the 10-year old family car and get a new one.
Instead, according to our 80s television hero’s, life was supposed to be something like this:
- Everyone suddenly shows up downstairs in the kitchen fully dressed and ready for breakfast
- Dad sits at the table with a steaming mug of coffee in his hand and a newspaper in the other
- Mom busily–yet expeditiously–serves everyone a hearty breakfast, while herself looking perfectly made up and coiffed and ready for her busy day as a working mom
- Maybe dad works from home and while he does so, mom often pops in and out of the house and they have engaging, meaningful conversations about the family, work and life in general–all the while harmlessly flirting with one another.
- Whatever dad did for a living, he had a LOT of free time
- The kids would come home in the afternoon and fix themselves something to eat and disappear…off to do whatever they had to do.
- Homework miraculously got done, or barring that, if one of those rascally kids got a “D” on their report card, they were mildly admonished while grinning winningly, knowing the parents would never follow through with any kind of lasting punishment.
- At night, dinner was a family affair. Everyone sat down and ate whatever it was that magically appeared on the table. I don’t think anyone ever ate take-out and they certainly never went out to eat. Beef was good for you!
- And I don’t think anyone ever went to bed, or if they did, it was after the show went off.
- Vacations were European affairs, or at the very least, uber-exciting trips cross-country where everyone got along and traffic never hampered the schedule
- Oh, and nothing ever, ever broke in the house.
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Too bad it’s about as far from real-life as you can get. Maybe that’s why Roseanne was such a big hit..it was bawdy and rough, but it was a heck of a lot more like MY childhood than anything Silver Spoons ever televised.
I wonder what my kids are going to glom onto growing up? Right now, I can’t think of any television shows that portrays an “ideal” family life. Maybe that’s a good thing though. Maybe it will help them create their own ideal, and in turn maybe that will help me to remain cognizant of the fact that my actions are the only thing countering the cultural norms today that I don’t agree with.
That’s a tall order.