Hello, readers! I’m back to recap Parenthood episodes two and three for you real quick, because another one airs tonight.
In these episodes, the Braverman clan continues to parent their children in Berkeley. Homes continue to be beautifully messy, abdominal muscles continue to be surprisingly toned, and hairstyles continue to be surprisingly well maintained for people who recently had children. That said, there are many story lines here that reflect honest-to-goodness real life with kids. I am going to rank three of them here, from really good to totally freaking great, because everyone loves a list.
1. Act Three. Zeek, patriarch of the Braverman mishpucha, and Camille, his long-suffering strong- but-silent-type wife, have a gorgeous ramshackle estate (in Berkeley, where else?) that Camille wants to sell. Zeek doesn’t want to. Everything he’s ever wanted is “right here.” Camille wants to travel, see the world, have an “act three.”
Here’s the thing: I can’t comment on this scene from the perspective of retirees—but I can comment from the perspective at the tip of my nose: on the nights when we’re most exhausted, and we fall into bed and stare at the ceiling and ask each other when it gets easier, Jon and I often spin great yarns about what we’ll do when we retire. On the list is plans for travel, a footloose approach to life that is obviously not our reality right now. I know that when this time comes, I will long for the sounds and smells of my girls and I will miss the busyness and the knowledge that I am needed, that my presence is essential to someone.
But man, I hope I manage to strike a balance between enjoying my life and being present for my kids. As an adult child, hearing details of my parents’ latest plans for a trip, a conference, a dinner with friends, a weekend away–experiencing the joy they found in their own lives allowed me to relax into my present and continue separating from them in a healthy way. The Braverman kids need to shout arrivederci at Zeek and Camille (and then split the profits from the sale of that homestead).
2. Crosby is a new dad. Played by Dax Shepard who is ever so goofy and adorable, Crosby has a kid who’s already in elementary school but in the early years of Parenthood we learned that Crosby wasn’t around for the first five years of Jabbar’s life, so the birth of his daughter Aida is really his first taste of the hell that is being a parent to a newborn baby. Crosby doesn’t feel connected to his kid. She cries all the time. She’s “the worst.” Her crying “hurts my bones.” (Was anything ever more true?) Crosby’s not so into his baby. We see Crosby and Jasmine’s house in disarray. We see Crosby bark at his older son. We see Jasmine’s (gorgeous) face set in an expression of exhausted dejection. We see Crosby tell his dad and his brother that he’s not so in love with his kid, and that she kind of, well, sucks.
It sure is nice when art reflects life. When my girls were born, there were many, many, many people who (with the best of intentions) said things like, “Oh my god can you even IMAGINE life without them, now?” Or, “do you even REMEMBER what it was like before they arrived?”
I hated these moments because they made me feel sheepish and crappy. Dude, I TOTALLY REMEMBERED what it was like before they arrived. I was well-rested! And went out to dinner! And slept till WHENEVER I WANTED on the weekends!
And could I imagine life without them? Um, yes. That’s not to say I wanted to go back to that life, but you know what? Sometimes I even did. This, however, was a socially inappropriate response and so I usually grumbled something about how my life was now complete and strapped on my pumping bra.
(In episode three, Crosby bonds with Aida when she finally takes a bottle from him [another reason I love this show–they didn’t make Jasmine into a take-no-prisoners breastfeeder–she just wants to sleep]. This moment was sweet, but canned. See the next bit for the real fireworks.)
3. And by fireworks I mean tears, the driving force behind this awesome show. How about Amber and Sarah in episode two, huh people? Amber is the early 20-something daughter of Sarah, a single mom who sort of wanders through episodes with excellent comedic timing and a lot of heart. Amber wants to marry a cute soldier who suffers from PTSD and just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. At first, Sarah balks at her kid’s announcement that she plans to marry so young, so fast. Sarah’s been there, having also made the mistake of marrying too young, and she knows that Ryan has “issues.”
Sarah goes back and forth–should she tell Amber how she feels? Should she just be supportive? (I’ll cop to the fact that it’s highly unlikely a mother would show such restraint and wait several days or even a week before she spoke to her child about something this big, but Sarah’s not playing a Jewish mother, so maybe it’s not so far-fetched?)
All of that said, the #1 parenting moment of Parenthood over the last few weeks, by a unanimous vote of one (me), was when Sarah’s brother Adam advises her not to do anything that will “push Amber away.” This is when I teared up. Sure, the scene that follows, where Sarah goes to Amber’s apartment armed with bridal magazines and Appletini ingredients and promises to throw her little girl the best wedding in the world, is built for waterworks. But I loved the Adam-Sarah conversation. Firstly, because I love the idea of a sibling advising another sibling about raising kids. And second, because embedded in Adam’s comment is the truth of all parenting–support your kids through the hard stuff, the dumb stuff, the awesome stuff.
As a great therapist once told me, “being loved by your parents too much is rarely the problem. It’s when you’re loved too little that you really suffer.” Who knows if Amber should marry Ryan (she shouldn’t). The point is, if she messes up, her mom will be there for her, with the cocktail mix and the trashy mags and the too much love.