Parenting Teens in Prime Time.
by Meredith O'Brien
I used to watch the Gilmore Girls (still do in repeats) and coveted the relationship between Lorelai Gilmore and her teenage daughter Rory. My 11-year-old daughter and I have spent many an hour bonding while watching episodes of the show, talking about how we’d handle the various situations that cropped up between the Stars Hollow ladies.
Sure there were times when Lorelai and Rory fought -- like the time when Rory and her boyfriend got busted for taking someone’s boat on a joy ride or when Rory temporarily dropped out of Yale and went to live with her grandparents over Lorelai’s vigorous objections -- but they always found their way to back to one another.
There really hasn’t been another chummy mother-daughter duo like the Gilmores since the show stopped airing new episodes in 2007. Surveying today’s TV landscape looking for shows which portray the challenges, joys and frustrations of parenting teens, I discovered that none depict a parent-child relationship like I’d seen on the Gilmore Girls. In fact, many of the currently airing shows have robbed me of the gauzy comfort I once derived from watching Lorelai and Rory cozy up on the couch together while cracking wise about bad TV shows and eating piles of junk food without getting fat.
Take, for example, the freshman NBC drama Parenthood. This show makes being the parent of a teen seem like a stomach-curdling, non-stop migraine of an impossible, Herculean task. It, frankly, scares me.
The “good girl,” Haddie Braverman, is 15. In the dozen episodes that have aired, Haddie had pot and lied about it after she and her cousin were detained by police. She had a secret Facebook account, a secret boyfriend and a sexy bra for said boyfriend’s benefit which she secretly ordered online (her mom Kristina thought it had been ordered by her husband as a gift for her). Haddie also racked up a huge cell phone bill, snuck to her boyfriend’s house after her father had told her she was grounded, and got into a shoving match with her cousin at school which landed them in the principal’s office. To cope with all of this, her parents, Kristina and Adam, have inconsistently vacillated between taking a hard line – grounding, taking away cell phone privileges, banning stuff – and a softer approach involving quiet, rational talking at night while perched on the foot of Haddie’s bed as they attempted to be empathetic. None of it seemed to be all that effective.