As far as what’s on this weekend, get real. It’s Super Bowl Sunday and you know it’s pointless to talk about anything else. I get that some parents have issues with the violence of football, and I respect that. So go read that evening/afternoon.
Otherwise, enjoy the game as a family, using it as a chance to expand the father-son bonding thing to moms and daughters, too. It’s on NBC this year, with kick off around 6 p.m., ET, 3 p.m. PT, cuz it’s actually live.
Also, I wanted to touch on something that I didn’t comment on when I read Lisa Belkin’s excellent New York Times parenting blog, Motherlode. Yesterday’s post was a little scary, about a study that claims mothers are extremely angry at their partners for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the guys still aren’t helping out as much and are still pretty clueless.
Now, if you scroll down, you’ll see that I pointed out the huge tradition of clueless dads on TV (which my husband just now pointed out probably began with Homer Simpson in the mid 1980s – and I mean the egregiously stupid ones that certainly have dominated sitcoms in the past few years). How much of that is the guys who write sitcoms reflecting their own sense of cluelessness, I don’t know. After all, the role of Dad has changed dramatically in less than two generations, and given how out of touch our fathers were, I can understand why guys don’t want to emulate that role. But that does give these new dads precious little to build on.
However, I’d also like to add onto that thought another based on one of the other comments the post received – that maybe it’s not the dads that the moms are all angry at, but the moms’ situation. Maybe, indeed. Because while I was tooling around on that site and some other mommy blogs, one thing came across again and again – this intense need to do everything right, to be perfect. To make sure our kids get exactly the right nutrition. To make sure they get the right amount of sleep. To make sure they get into the top kindergartens. To make sure they’re protected at all times from things like salmonella, which can be deadly, but far, far more often is just a miserable night hugging the toilet.
Is it possible that what’s got all of us with our respective knickers in a twist is this desperate need to be perfect? Could it be we’re actually depriving our kids of the chance to make mistakes and learn from them? Of allowing them the odd illicit pleasure of bending the rules?
I couldn’t help laughing at an earlier post on Motherlode, in which a parent asked about adjusting her infant’s sleep schedule so that her husband could have time with his daughter and the three of them could go out to dinner with friends a couple nights a week.
There were plenty of parents who agreed that it doesn’t really matter when a kid goes to bed, just that the infant get at least 10 hours a night and that bedtime is consistent. I not only concur, but from my own experience can tell you that I was anything but consistent and my daughter has always been a perfectly good sleeper – except when she got a hold of a book she couldn’t put down and turned the light on after we went to bed.
But at least as many parents insisted that babies not only had to go to bed at the same time every night, but that it had to be early, like 7:30 p.m. early. If Dad wanted to connect with his daughter, he needed to get up early. If they wanted to connect with friends, it had to be on the baby’s schedule or they had to sacrifice.
Oh, for crying out loud. I agree that being a parent does mean a certain amount of sacrifice, but giving up connecting with friends – especially ones with kids of a similar age – just so the baby can go to bed at a specific time that someone else found useful? What about the parents’ well-being? Isn’t that important, too? We all need connection with others. Community is critical to raising healthy children. More critical than babies going to bed at a specific time.
And one of the biggest complaints of the angry moms was not enough time for themselves. Could it be that they’re stuck in “being perfect,” with little time for anything else? Is it possible that perfectionism, this idea that there’s only one “right” way to raise children, is behind all this anger? Is it possible the idea that our kids come first to the point of hurting ourselves breeds nothing but resentment and spoiled kids?
I’m not saying parents don’t have to sacrifice at times. But so do kids. In a family, everyone must learn to work together and learn how to negotiate and compromise – fine skills for the business world, I assure you. I would even argue that the lack of those skills has been a major problem in our government since the Clinton administration. And to bring this back to television, which is, after all, the point of this blog, one way to build those skills is to have a single television in the house, which everyone shares.
So, okay, not everyone is a football fan in your household. Find a way to work it out so that everyone has something to enjoy this Sunday. Maybe even agree to flip over to Animal Planet for the Puppy Bowl during the half-time show. Or the non-football fans can disect the commercials, although those aren’t always that family-safe. Whatever.
The idea is that everyone gains when we all work together and forget about what is politically correct or perfect. Maybe muddling through as our best imperfect, clueless selves – moms or dads – is the best way to be present and loving and right for our kids. And if the family down the street does it another way, well, that’s right for them. So there.
Anne Louise Bannon
Your Family Viewer