Lessons in Parenthood

Every Tuesday night at 10 pm I settle in with a bowl of popcorn and a big glass of ice water for my television therapy. Rather than pay big bucks for psychoanalysis or to work through my marital grievances, I watch Parenthood on NBC. Somehow, I always feel more understood by 11 pm.

This week’s season premiere was perfectly timed. I was feeling overwhelmed with three freelance jobs, two volunteer positions, a company that’s based on volunteer work, children in two different activities, five blogs, and a husband who seems more and more resentful that my time is stretched so thin. Does anyone else’s chest feel tight all of a sudden?

But then here’s this scripted drama that’s so smartly written and that covers so many of my bases. Throughout the episode, the family patriarch says over and over again to the family matriarch, “I hear you and I see you,” as they have learned in marriage counseling. It’s creepy ... until it sinks in. And suddenly the theme emerges from every story told in the hour — and every part of our personal lives.

The son-in-law who finally breaks after his wife’s father continually treats him like an ineffectual and inexperienced moron. The sister who has to fight for the credit she deserves when her idea for a new shoe product is pitched by her brother. The father who has to scramble to prove his dedication to his company under the harsh glare of a demanding boss. The daughter learning to drive as her mother screams from the passenger seat.

And the storyline closest to my heart: The child with autism who melts down in the most heart wrenching way (complete with screeching and flying limbs and screaming with eyes shut) when his carefully laid plans for a sleepover are ruined. Oh, Max. You have my heart, buddy.

For each storyline, the closure comes not from the characters suddenly getting their way. Life doesn’t work like that. The closure is a result of the person on the other end — the father-in-law, the brother, the boss, the occupational therapist — saying in loud and clear voices I hear you and I see you. You exist. Your feelings are valid. You have every right to be upset and you’re right, this sucks.

This is a life lesson for me, for all of us. Rather than act out or shut down when the world starts spinning out of control and we feel like collateral damage, how about we just stop and give ourselves or our loved ones the same verbal massage that Max gets: “I know you’re upset. You have every right to be; it’s not fair. I know you’re upset because I’m upset, too. But this isn’t going to help. Let’s make another plan.”

I know. I hear you. I see you. We’ll get through this. Together.

I don’t have to feel stressed out and alienated. Neither does my husband. Instead, we can take the time to see each other. We can step back and find compassion for each other’s individual struggles. And then we can create a plan that works better. And we can do it together.


Do you watch Parenthood? Is there another television program that works as therapy for you? What lessons have you learned about yourself or your life by watching?


  • Corinne Cunningham

    I knew I should have watched... I love that show. They hit so many things, and they do it so well.

  • Kelly Miller

    You can watch it online if you have the time to spare. I love it so much!

  • TKW

    I haven't seen it, but now I'm intrigued! I'm a Peter Krause fan, so it's going on the TiVo list!

  • Katie Jones

    I love love love Parenthood. We came in the middle of last season and had to catch up on Hulu, and I'm so glad we did! I feel like I know those characters (characters? Um, those are real people in my mind!) so well and can completely relate to each one in some way. Saunders likes the show a lot, too ... but he hates two parts. 1) Being compared - by me - to Adam Braverman. 2) That show makes me want 4 kids!

  • Katie Jones

    I should've said "Being compared - by me - to Adam Braverman. Unfavorably." I think I'm crushing on Adam a little bit.

  • Kelly Miller

    Adam Braverman is pretty amazing. Tell Saunders that I don't think any real person can compare.

  • Justine

    I am SUCH a big fan of the show. And so's my guy. We both watch it and pretty much nod all the way through. Although I always end up crying at the end of the episodes for some reason. :)

  • Bibliomama

    I really like it -- but maybe you can give me some perspective on Joel and Kristina being such idiots about their six-year-old daughter wanting to know how babies are made. This seemed ridiculous to me and I was wondering -- don't know how to say this without sounding offensive -- if it was an American thing (vs. Canadian). Or just some really uptight writers?

  • Kelly Miller

    I took the vagina thing as normal for such an uptight couple. I imagine that conversation would've gone much differently if Sarah was having than conversation (and differently again if it was Crosby or Adam). Julia is the most uptight of all the sibs, so it seemed just part of her character. I don't think we really knew much of Joel until last night, so I'm not sure about him.

  • Shannon

    Oh man I missed it? I need to find it online and catch up. I saw a few episodes last year. Btw, LOVE your post on LWSN.

  • Rudri Patel

    Haven't seen the show, but must put it on the to-do list.

    Did you say 5 blogs? All I can say is Wow...

  • ck

    I've never seen the show, but I totally relate to the tight feeling in your chest. I feel pulled in so many directions that I can't catch up, even when I feel like I must be close, and then the guilt for not signing up for everything else people ask me to do. Basically, if you find the secret to completing even HALF of what you have to do, please pass it along. :)

  • a li'l bit squishy

    I haven't seen it, this newest episode but I LOVE THAT SHOW! It replaced ER for me and in so many ways is far more relevant to my daily life. AND we all need validation, to be heard, to be seen and to know that we are not alone is what keeps us moving forward. I *heart* this post!

  • The Drama Mama

    You know this was an awesome reflection. I haven't seen the show, but maybe I need to start. Maybe WE should start. THanks for the inspiration.

  • Jessica

    I've been wanting to watch this for awhile...now I KNOW what I'll be doing on Tuesday night at 10 pm! (PS: I have a new email and blog...come visit) :)

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