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Parenting and Television – What One Teaches Us About The Other

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As someone who has worked from home while watching a young child, I understand the need for forgiveness, the desire to let bygones be bygones, and the need to start each day fresh. Some days the parent fails and some days the child fails. The key to making the relationship work is to just wake up the day after some sort of difficulty and say, "Today will be a better day, today I will listen better, play more, and try to be more clear about my expectations." Oh, it's not easy to do that, but it's important.

Honestly, I think that watching television somewhat obsessively prepared me perfectly for being a work-from-home parent.

You see, every television show delivers a bad episode very now and then, an episode that makes you want to pull your hair out, scream at the TV, and throw things. Rebecca gave Robin her password?!? Mike let Julie get away?!? Trump didn't fire Omarosa?!? Now, if you're not willing to let those moments go and choose instead to ditch the show entirely you're going to miss out on important things – Sam got the bar back, Leonardo DiCaprio joined the cast, Omarosa did get shown the door eventually. Good moments – no, great moments – can follow massive disappointments and you never know when those great moments are going to appear. If you're too angry at what occurred yesterday during bath time you're going to miss hearing your child quietly singing "Margaritaville" to themselves which just proves that she does hear what you're saying and take it in from time to time.

Let's not forget that the same logic can actually be used to go the other way too, to make a parent a better TV watcher. Think about it, you have a baby, they wake up four times a night – maybe five – for the first six months, they poop everywhere and on everything, they scream. You don't ditch them instantly because of that, do you? No, you give them time to develop, to learn who they are — you watch them grown and change and mature.

The exact same thing is true for a TV show. You don't write a show off after just the series premiere – they're still working things out at that point, the actors are still finding their footing, the characters aren't fully drawn, and the style isn't necessarily set in stone yet. The first Seinfeld episode didn't have Elaine, and if you thought Jerry was a bad actor at the end of the series, you should go back and see what he was like at the beginning.

I'm not suggesting that you go out and hug your television or comfort your remote in times of trouble – yes, I do that sort of thing, but I understand that it's not for everyone – I'm just suggesting that everyone and everything could use a little time, love, and tenderness on occasion. Whether it's a child or a child-like reality show contestant, you have to give them a second chance (and more in the case of actual offspring).

So, the next time your lovable little munchkin disobeys you and ends up drawing on the walls in permanent magic marker, just remember this – if NBC had canceled Cheers after one season we never would have met Woody Boyd. That's not a world I'd want to be a part of.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • Gerry

    I totally love this article. That whole starting over the next day thing–so hard and so necessary.

  • Jean

    I always believe on guarding our television at home when the kids are around. Television is a good teacher and a bad influence at the same time. By the way, there’s a new social networking site dedicated to parents and kids, it’s called – it’s a place for Moms, Dads, and Kids! Now, there’s even a chance to win a free iPod Nano! I’m inviting you to meet other parents. And enjoy parenthood to the fullest. Thanks.