Screening your parents
Outside the sun is shining, but inside the local Pick ‘n Pay, an all too familiar drama is playing out:
- 7-year-old: “Mom, I want that pink jacket.”
- Mom: “No my dear, you already have ten billion kazillion pink jackets. Anyway, we are actually here for groceries.”
- 7-year-old: *tearing up* “I don’t have ten gilli-billion jackets. Janet has that jacket!”
- Mom: “All the more reason why you shouldn’t have the exact same jacket.”
- 7-year-old: *Squeezing out fake tears and stomping her little feet* “You don’t love me. You never give me what I want!! I wish Princess Sophia’s mom was my mom!”
- Mom: *Fake crying and stomping a bit louder than intended* “Oh no, poor you. Your life is so unfair. You don’t get delicious food for dinner. You don’t have a soft bed to sleep in. Boo-hoo my life is so horrible.” *Fake pulling her hair and non-fake pulling her face in a terrible scowl*
- 7-year-old: *Horrified look, frozen in shock*
- Mom: *Brushes my… I mean her hand over her messed up hair and flashes a friendly smile at the other shoppers.*
- Other shoppers: *Frowning judgementally…*
As we were driving home later with the little monkey eating Smarties (to make up for the jacket) (and the scene), I was rethinking my little production. We’ve already established that I’m not a perfect parent, but being an embarrassment to your kids is a whole different story. Was she right – should I be more like Princess Sophia’s mom? For those of you that don’t have daughters under 10: Princess Sophia is a little princess who lives in Enchancia with her talking bunny and her flying horse. That is pretty much the realistic part of the show. Princess Sophia’s mom is always perfectly groomed with every animated hair in place. She never oversleeps and she never makes her kids wear socks that don’t match. Furthermore she is always patient and kind and never throws a scene in the local Pick ‘n Pay. But nobody is perfect… her daughter owns one purple dress and she wears it every day. Maybe she is the one who should visit the Pick ‘n Pay clothing aisle and get Sophia a pink jacket.
We all have some good and bad traits when it comes to parenting. I shouldn’t be judged on my penchant for dramatic scenes and Sophia’s mom is still a good mom even with her aversion to doing laundry.
Maybe there are a few other fictional parents out there who are getting judged unfairly. So here follows a reassuring list of some of my all-time favourite on-screen parents and why they are not as bad as you might think at first:
- Homer Simpson – The Simpsons, The Simpsons Movie
During my market research (aka drinking wine with my friends on a week night and asking them who the worst on-screen parents are), 9 out of 10 people kick off with Homer Simpson. Homer might drink too much beer and occasionally want to strangle Bart (be honest – which parent hasn’t been there??), but he loves his children more than anything. He spends a ton of quality time being silly with Bart and trying to answer his questions about life honestly. He is involved with Maggie’s upbringing and has her pictures in his office. And although he often struggles to understand Lisa, he realises she needs his time and puts in a lot of effort to connect with her on a personal level. Homer never works late (yes, that could actually be a good thing!) and the Simpson family spends a lot of quality time together: eating dinner at the same table, relaxing with their favourite TV show and going on random adventures.
Homer might not be rich or smart and he has a lot of flaws (as do we all), but he teaches us to spend less time worrying about what others think and more time being real and having fun with our kids.
- Felonius Gru – Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and The Minion’s Movie
Gru might be a super villain who once stole the Eiffel Tower (the one in Vegas), but that doesn’t make him a bad father. He might be the biggest baddest operator when he is at work, but when he gets home he does not hesitate to dress up as a princess for Agnes’ birthday party or make storybooks from scratch to read at bedtime. (I have it on good authority that he has a Pinterest account and shares his how-to tutorials with other villains and minions alike).
How often do we get home, exhausted after a long day at work, and tell the kids “Not now, mommy/daddy had a tough day.” If all of us could learn to separate our work stress and family time to the extent that Gru does, the world will be a much better place.
- Lorelai Gilmore – Gilmore Girls
In the Gilmore Girls, a vastly underrated TV series that ended rather abruptly in 2007, Lorelai Gilmore (brought to life by Lauren Graham) is a single mom to her daughter, Rory. The often satirical show painted a picture of small town life more poignantly than the much more popular (not sure why) Dawson’s Creek and the lead character made hilarious references to things no one around her understood a loooong time before Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.
So anyway, on the surface Lorelai was not your poster child for good parenting: she fell pregnant at 16, dropped out of school and ran away from home with her newborn baby. She is one of those parents we often judge mercilessly when we should be supporting her. (Flashback to the Pick ‘n Pay shoppers and their judgemental frowns). But in actual fact Lorelai is the kind of parent we should all aspire to be. You really have to watch all 153 episodes (Yes. Really.) But the main themes are all about pride, accountability, hard work and being your kid’s best friend and first port of call when they need someone to talk to.
After running away from her very privileged home, 16-year old Lorelai finds lodging in a small room at a local inn and proceeds to work her way up from cleaner to Inn Manager. Over the course of 18 years she continues her studies and through sheer hard work and determination she eventually manages to buy her own Inn: The Dragonfly. My admiration for her career path might be a bit subjective: as a hotelier myself, I also worked my way up from receptionist and cleaner to managing various departments. And finally, just a couple of months ago, I also got the amazing opportunity to become the owner and manager of my own guesthouse. In fact, my company is called Dr@gonfly Innc Properties (double “n” - geddit?) in honour of all that Lorelai’s character represents.
I am certainly no Lorelai Gilmore – and I would never fit in her tight jeans – but she shows us that our mistakes are not an indication of our future potential (as a parent and as a human being); that honour and pride are some of the most important qualities we should instil in our children and that you are never too old to sing pop songs at the top of your voice while jumping up and down on the bed with your kids.
- Juno Macguff - Juno
Another illegitimate mother, but this one decides not to keep her baby. Instead she finds a childless couple (who also turns out to be less-than-perfect) who will adopt and raise her baby to a much better life. Conventional parent? Nope. Good parent? Definitely.
- Shrek Ogre – Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the third, Shrek forever after
Shrek is an ogre.
“But how can an ogre be a good father?!?!” I hear you say.
Oh I’m sorry… did you not say that? Except you did, we do, every day of our lives.
- “He has tattoos and a bike. You can’t marry him. He won’t make a good father.”
- “No my dear, they live in another part of town where the houses are slightly smaller. Rather not play with those kids.”
- “Did you see their father’s hairstyle? Surely that is why they are always in trouble at school.” (Actual comment from a school mom, believe it or not.)
- “They have two mothers. Poor things.”
Who on earth are we to judge people’s parenting potential by their jobs, hairstyles or sexual orientation? Shrek is different from the social norm, he is an Ogre, but he teaches his kids all about being yourself, protecting others, taking risks and farting in the bath to their hearts content. I would honestly rather have that Ogre’s kids playing with mine, before sending them on a play-date to that judgemental hairstyle-obsessed mom at school.
Parents come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Some of us have strange green antenna-ears and some of us like being a bit dramatic. Some of us home-school and some of us have weird hair. Or tattoos. Or bikes. Or Bibles. These things actually make us better parents, because we are being true to who we are. Because the last thing this country needs is more brainwashed-carbon-copies who all follow the same rules.
Take the best from our on-screen idols and make sure you are a parent raising your kids with integrity, kindness and tons of fun. Everything else is up to you!
PS.: My initial list of unfairly judged on-screen parents was much longer, but I simply did not have the time or psychological insight (aka enough wine?!) to find any good parenting qualities in Red Foreman, Darth Vader, Walter White or Cersei Lannister… if you can shed some light please feel free to join in the conversation!
This article was first published on Master of Quills
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