Prime Time Sympathy for Parents.

by Meredith O'Brien



The latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, entitled “Sympathy for the Parents” was all about, you guessed it, parenting: Good, doting, loving parents and abusive, withholding, cruel, absentee parents. It was about adults who fear that they’ll turn out to be lousy parents because their own parents were pretty abysmal. It was about the fear about what becoming a parent will do to your career. It was about when you and your partner aren’t on the same page when it comes to having kids, when, how many, if any at all.


It was, in essence, a show all about fear, coupled with serious qualms about inflicting life-long damage to another person who’s completely dependent upon you. While there are still many areas I hope Grey’s will traverse when it comes to parenting, I appreciated this multi-faceted examination of child-rearing.


The episode showed how, despite horrific deeds committed by abusive and mentally challenged parents, Alex Karev was able to tend to his siblings and become a successful doctor who remains fiercely protective over those about whom he cares. Sure, Alex is emotionally limited, flees from intimacy and can act like a complete jack ass, but he still has made a life for himself as a respected surgeon. It also demonstrated that, notwithstanding her own emotionally and physically absent parents, Meredith Grey is a kind and caring person who parents her friends and tends to their needs.


Then there were the patients in this episode, both women, neither of whom were mothers. One was dying of cancer. Her story was one of regret, where her husband mourned not only his wife’s pending death, but that they never had a family and he’d be grieving alone. (This prompted Derek to tell Meredith he doesn’t want to do that to her, leave her to grieve alone.)


The other patient was a police officer, shot in the line of duty, who had a history of rebuffing her husband’s desire to start a family with her. Upon learning that the gunshot wound to her abdomen had damaged her uterus and necessitated a hysterectomy to save her life, she and her husband wept at their loss, at what could have been. However in a subsequent scene, they’d become giddy about the prospects of adopting lots of kids and her decision to quit the police force. That giddiness faded, however, when her colleagues showed up at her bedside and her commanding officer told her they couldn’t wait for her to get back on the job. Her husband stood, back against the wall, a despairing look on his face.


Callie Torres was in that room. She saw the look on the husband’s face. She related to him as she too is yearning to start a family of her own. This is complicated by the fact that she’s in a relationship with a partner who has said she doesn’t want children. Uncertain of her next move, she sought out advice from Grey’s resident working mama, Miranda Bailey, who finally seems to have this divorced parenting thing figured out, at least for now. The question Callie posed, “When’s the best time to have kids?” sparked this thoroughly honest reply from Bailey, “The best time to have kids is never.”