by Meredith O’Brien
“I was running so much that I was falling short on everything.”
While I can’t exactly relate to a mom who, along with her husband and two teens, was suddenly granted superpowers after a small plane carrying her family crashed into a body of water, I can relate to her complaint that no matter how fast or much she tried to tackle all her responsibilities at work and at home, she couldn’t really keep up with everything.
Until she got those superpowers.
When that mom, the fictional Stephanie Powell on ABC’s new show No Ordinary Family , realized that with her new super-human speed she could accomplish all her tasks at such a rapid clip that she suddenly had ample time to be with her family (to help her son with his homework and have a nooner with her husband), I was envious. Super-envious. What I wouldn’t give to be able to complete my responsibilities well and with lightning speed and still be able to spend time with my kids and spouse at my leisure.
As the Powell family came to grips with their pre-superpowers inability to balance work and family – the dad, police sketch artist Jim Powell, felt like a failed artist although he was the parent who spent more time with his children – the children begged Stephanie and Jim to get their acts together, with the daughter saying, “This family isn’t broken, you are.” Maybe a little bending of the time-space continuum will help improve things for the Powells, as the superpowered parents will finally have time for everything on their plate. Wouldn’t THAT be amazing?
While I imagined myself vicariously living through Stephanie and possessing super-human alacrity, over on NBC’s Parenthood  this past week things were much more flesh and blood as mere mortal parents with feet of clay made fools of themselves while they pushed themselves upon their unwilling children.
I watched the cautionary tale in the form of Kristina Braverman, the mom of a teenage daughter who’d decided to run for class president, take over Haddie’s campaign, insist that Haddie create a campaign platform, harass Haddie about reading a book about speeches and provide her with unsolicited advice on what colors to use on campaign posters. In response to her mother’s hectoring, Haddie blew up at her and told her to buzz off. (Note to self: Do not micromanage my daughter’s possible foray into middle school journalism world, no matter how much I might be tempted to do so.)
As the episode -- ironically entitled, “I’m Cooler Than You Think” -- continued, the picture it painted of thoroughly flawed, distinctly unheroic parents didn’t cover the characters with glory.
Kristina’s husband Adam revealed a naked longing to connect with his son Max and became ticked that the boy, who has Asperger’s, constantly blew him off and didn’t want to hang out with him. Adam thought he could ask his son’s aide to make or “train” his kid to give a damn. “I’m his father, I would like him to be interested in me,” Adam griped. When Kristina accused him of making Max’s social interaction issues about himself rather than about their son, Adam replied, “What’s wrong with making it about me a little bit? I’m his father. I’d like him to take an interest in me.” (Note to self II: When my kids shake my arm off their shoulders or turn away when I try to kiss them – as they’ve all done -- I should swallow the hurt and remember that they’re supposed to detach from me and grow up to become independent, no matter how much it pains me and makes me gnash my teeth. They love me even when they’re acting like ungrateful little nitwits.)
Kristina and Adam were not in their finest form when they both admitted that how very much they wanted Haddie to triumph in her race for class president. “God I want her to win,” Adam said. “I do too, so badly,” Kristina added. (Note to self III: Don’t let the kids know, even though I was against the entire thing for a whole host of reasons, how much I want them to fare well in their try-outs for their sports teams.)
Parenthood’s coup de grace was when Sarah Braverman tried to prove to her teen daughter Amber that she was cool, as cool as Amber’s rich friend’s parents with whom Amber had been spending tons of time. It’s not like Sarah’s Lorelai Gilmore or something. Sarah being called “ma’am” by the bouncer at the club into which Sarah tried to get Amber and her friend, after she’d begged Amber to apply eyeliner onto her thirtysomething/fortysomething face so that it looked like her teenager’s, was distinctly uncomfortable to watch. (Note to self IV: Don’t try to persuade my kids that I’m anything other than what I am, which isn’t cool, hip or twentysomething.)
That being said, when and where do I sign up for those superhero powers? They’d really come in handy right about now.