Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I am watching Parenthood on Hulu on J's Mac mini in our bedroom to escape for a little while because he was afraid my other escape from parenthood might be more drastic and involve a padded room, and that sounded expensive and messy. I'll come back to that later. More important to me in this moment, though, as a former arts and entertainment writer, I sit here watching something actually geared for my own demographic for one of the rare times in the last half a decade, and I find myself strangely compelled to do a little of my old schtick.

Maybe I felt a little time warp seeing Lauren Gilmore -- I mean, Lauren Graham -- with the same hair she had before I had children when we'd meet up on Tuesday nights on the WB to compare dysfunctional families. This time, her dysfunctional family has both more and less in common with my own family, but just like with Gilmore Girls, I can't stop drawing comparisons while I watch the show.

In the Gilmore Girls, I was Rory, the studious offspring of the antiauthoritarian mother Graham played -- I was the girl who deeply loved her grandparents, worked on the school newspaper, wanted to tackle the world. In Parenthood, I am Kristina Braverman, mother of two, increasingly overwhelmed by worrying about my son's special needs. I'm seeing lots of reactions to Parenthood within the online autism community, and while the reactions to the Asperger's storyline are mixed, the likeability of the overall show seems a common thread. I suspect it's because, like me, many people see themselves in one or more of the characters, who all seem familiar in an overly stylized kind of way.

Yes, TV shows oversimplify, follow a predictable arc, wrap everything up neatly in well under an hour once you take out the ads. Yes, they stereotype, and sure, everyone is kind of hot. Parenthood is one of a good many shows where you can't help get distracted thinking about the implausible math when you try to reconcile the ages of the characters and the casting. Those things are necessary ingredients in the recipe for Hollywood offerings. But here is my more nitty gritty comparison between The Braverman Clan and the Rooster Household.

- So, as I write this, Max's new behaviorist is offering him a chance to earn a lizard if he will play four square with a girl at the park. Now, the Rooster would take a lizard any day over whatever is the hottest game rocking the elementary world. But his response would to the quid pro quo would go something more like this: NO! NOW GIVE ME A LIZARD NOWWWWWWWWW. I'M NOT PLAYING WITH HER, BUT I WANT THE LIZARD. RIGHT NOW.
And let's say he did agree to the cupcake behaviorist's deal. They're going to need a few seasons and a few more specialists to help him figure out the coordination and focus to play the game.
- Now I'm watching a scene between Max's parents as they talk about their sex life. Okay, well, I think it's great they have time to talk about it, greater still time to do it. But the part that I can't relate to AT ALL? That Max's mom is going to tell the young, adorable, ABA chick who clearly has no stretch marks that Max's dad, and I quote, "has a good one." Or did I mishear that line? Please tell me I did. Because I'd be more likely to tell the new pretty young thing working long hours at my house that my husband has the smelliest socks in history and terrible morning breath. He doesn't, but I wouldn't mind her thinking so. Let her keep her eye on the little boy, not the big one!
- So now the episode is wrapping up, and everybody is playing nicely, adults and kids alike. The wayward teen has ulterior motives, but at least she's doing extra credit work on the literary journal. (I approve, and the title "Spectrum" was a nice touch.) Max wants some bugs, so he seems ready to do more social skills work at the park, no big deal. The single guy springs his biracial son onhis parents for the first time and they smile and break out the family bicycle so he can sail off down the road to new family cheers. The Type-A attorney accepts that another mama she loathes from the playgroup put the moves on her stay-at-home husband and even offers to put their daughters into a pottery class together. It's not that I mind the happily ever after, I even like living vicariously through it. But in the final scene, Max's mother remarks that she finally feels relaxed after two months.
Wow, the Bravermans went from diagnosis to relaxed thanks to ABA in less time that the Rooster clan managed to make it through the waiting list to sign up for the prerequisite parenting class before we could get into ABA...

I jokingly call us the Rooster clan, but really I envy people with a clan around. I envy the way the Braverman siblings check in on each other, the way the home of the senior Bravermans serves as a hub where everyone connects. Sure, they aren't real, life isn't that simple. But that's why I use it for escapism.

And why, are you wondering, do I need to escape? Well, I promised I'd get back to that. You see, yesterday, I took the kids to Rooster's school for Open House, and with several hundred kids around, my two stood out dramatically as the two worst behaved, to the point that I grounded Peach for the first time while she is a ripe old four years old. J had to drive them both to school today, because I woke up just as furious as I'd gone to bed. Then, today Rooster came home from school with a note that he'd been sent to the principal's office after having four time outs. He spit three times, called somebody a "jack @ss" and finally got the boot when he gave his teacher and aide his middle finger. Everything is being documented since parents started complaining about Rooster about a month ago, we have is IEP early in May, and we're wondering if we should be thinking about yet another school placement before too long. So you could argue that my escapist time would be better spent with something a little less close to home than a show called Parenthood that has an autism story line, but I was actually happier to spend my evening with Max and his peeps than with my own two tonight. And if you think that sounds mean and heartless, I welcome you to come over and demonstrate your best techniques for quality time at Casa del Rooster. If you can find the happy ending over here, you're a Braverman than I.


Gwyneth said...

Aw hon, that sounds like a horrible day. I'm sorry I've been out of touch lately, but I do think of you often. Sending you a big virtual hug.

Anonymous said...

It was the first time I've been a little frustrated with the show - the whole ABA stuff was WAYYYY too easy. I was kind of wishing Max would go ahead and throw that temper tantrum, but I figured they wouldn't quite get that right, so I thought they'd chicken out. And while ABA is definitely reward based, this seemed more like flat out bribery to me (which I admit, we do as well). I figured they'd at least be a little more ABA-ish at first.

When she said the line about her hubby, I laughed at loud and said, "Who SAYS that?" I don't know anyone who says that!!! What a weird line.

But as far as Rooster calling someone a jackass, I'm sorry, but I'm quite sure that person deserved it. Not to make light of it, but he probably called it as he saw it and I'm betting he was spot on...regardless, I don't envy you your upcoming IEP. I think we definitely need to bring in margaritas for you after that one, friend. The way you worded it, it sounds like they are collecting ammo...

redheadmomma said...

I'm so sorry... that truly stinks. I have had plenty of episodes of N getting into trouble, and know how crappy it makes me feel. Just know that it's a bump in the road, and keep moving forward. hugs & love.

Anonymous said...

Is this a common have other parents complain about your child and want them out of the classroom? I am in a similar situation and am flipping out a bit over it. You seem not super worried. What is your secret?

jen said...

I know it's a little too neat & tidy...especially the ABA - but I have to confess I have enjoyed the show....a nice little escape I guess. And when the ABA looked at them and asked, "Does Max have any friends?" - I teared up a bit knowing the familiarity of the response with my own little guy.

I'll be praying for you - I know how really awful & crappy it is sometimes....well, a lot of the time I guess...


Suzymom said...

Weel, I feel just like you a lot! Suzy's therapist helps us figure out ways of making Suzy learn routines that most other kids have grasped by the time they're 15 or so. For instance: you don't leave your lunchboxes (some of them with uneaten sandwiches in them) on the table in your bedroom for more than a day or so because they turn mouldy and it's even worse to have to clean them up then.
So, once more we came home with a sensible strategy. We tried to apply it, but of course if your daughter is a autie-adolescent such strategies never work.
I can't count the number of times that I told Suzy's therapist "Tomorrow always looks so much more like today than that it resembles the "dream" that you painted."
Script writers for movies should go and live the life they're making a movie about before they should be allowed to shoot their scripts...