TV is Terrified of Teens.

by Meredith O' Brien


This is the year in which my eldest two children – boy/girl twins – will officially become teenagers. And I’m, frankly, petrified . . . not because I think that the moment they turn 13 some switch will go off in their heads and they’ll suddenly become strangers who’ll hate me until they move out of the house, but because pop culture tells me I should be scared out of my mind.


While the show the Gilmore Girls attempted to convince me that a harmonious mother-teen relationship is possible (though there was a period of estrangement when Lorelai Gilmore’s daughter Rory was in college), most other TV shows tell me otherwise. In fact, they tell me that I’ll have little to no control over what my kids do at all.


Not that I can “control,” for lack of a better word, my kids now. For example, while I can make my 9-year-old take a winter hat and coat with him to school, the moment he’s at school, I realize that that’s where any “control” ends. I know this because I’ve sat in the drop-off lane at school and seen him remove his outerwear when he gets to the playground and thinks I can’t see him. When the admonishing e-mails from the school principal roll in pleading with parents to have their children wear weather-appropriate attire, at least I can say that I told him he should wear the stuff and made him take the items with him.


On two primetime shows recently, TV parents were flailing around trying to figure out how to do the right thing for their teenage children and, largely, failing. And if I have issues now with my 9-year-old, what’ll happen when he’s 17?


On NBC’s Parenthood, two conscientious parents, Adam and Kristina Braverman, accidentally found out that their 16-year-old daughter Haddie was dating a boy named Alex who ran the local community center/food bank so they invited him to dinner in order to get to know him. Haddie hadn’t told them she was seeing Alex and, in fact, lied to her parents one night prior to the big dinner together, saying she was going to a friend’s house when she was really heading to an AA meeting with Alex.


Alex arrived at the Braverman home neatly dressed, presented Kristina with flowers, said dinner smelled delicious, was extremely genial and spectacularly forthcoming about his life: He’d become legally emancipated at age 16 after growing up poor. His substance abusing father had been unable to care for him (his mother had died), he himself became an alcoholic but sobered up six months ago. He now lived in his own apartment, aspires to get his GED and works at the place that helped him out when he was in need as a way to give thanks.