Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Talk

Parenthood Season 4, Episode 4 – “The Talk” [Original air date: Oct. 2, 2012]

Communication is the key to a successful relationship. When we have trouble properly communicating, or if we fail to effectively communicate – not sharing how we feel, purposely withholding information – relationships which otherwise would flourish, or relationships with great potential, suddenly hit a rough patch. Communication is based off understanding, awareness, and connection. Unless two people are on the same page, they are unlikely to fully understand each other. If one person in a relationship is more or less aware of the other in the relationship, it shows that the two parties are bringing varying levels of effort to the table. No relationship is perfect, because if it were life experience would never allow those in the relationship to learn and grow. Therefore it takes personal desire and natural chemistry to connect two people in a bond that may at times feel like perfection. When understanding, awareness, and connection are aligned communication is a given, but as we see in this episode of Parenthood, finding this alignment is far from easy, especially when trying to communicate with those of a different age level.

The world is quite different today from when our parents grew up, yet a great deal is similar even if people do not always see it this way. Joel and Julia desperately want their son Victor to get out and do something fun and physical where he meets and interacts with others kids, as Victor is quite stubborn, not fully adapted since being adopted, and basically plays videogames all day long, perhaps because he feels very much in his comfort zone while doing so. Technology is a barrier parents all over have to deal with when trying to communicate with their children, and parents may never understand the videogame craze of this generation – Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular even added a technology and videogame component to its famous holiday show this past Christmas season. Joel tries to find common ground with Victor by introducing him to a hobby he grew up loving: baseball. But nothing comes easy, especially when trying something new. Parenthood shows the struggle a child faces while being the odd-ball-out, and it sheds light on the often hard to deal with situation of raising a child which isn’t biologically yours. The line “You’re not my real Dad” is never something a stepfather, foster father, or adoptive father wants to hear, but the reality he probably will hear it as both kids and parents have a hard time finding where they belong and how they define “family.” Until it is realized that family does not have to mean blood-related, tension is bound to get in the way of allowing relationships to fully blossom.

We all know people who constantly put others before themselves. This is great, but these people often lose out and fail to take care of themselves. Physical and mental health is extremely important, and it is not selfish to put yourself first every now and then. Kristina is forever putting her family before herself, as many parents do. However, what good are you to your family and kids if you are no longer there? We are not the Energizer Bunny, and we will eventually breakdown if we do not give ourselves a break and treat ourselves once in a while. Kristina wants to be there for her son Max. Adam is concerned though, as Kristina puts dealing with Max’s Asperger’s in front of trying to beat her breast cancer. As a parent though, there is really only so much you can do before you give up your life and stop fully living. Max needed 25 signatures in order to be eligible to run for student council. What is challenging for one person may seem like nothing to someone else. Max got 25 “signatures,” yet some students didn’t actually sign their name, but wrote inappropriate or offensive slurs instead. One student wrote “Retard” on the signature line, making fun of Max’s handicap. Parenthood arguably joins the “R-Word” Campaign in the episode, and the pledge to Spread the Word to End the Word. Adam and Kristina really can’t talk to Max about this, as he won’t understand, but they struggle to decide on whether or not Max should still run for student council. Getting those signatures, whether they were actual signatures or not, was a huge effort on Max’s part. Would Adam and Kristina be setting their son up for failure by letting him run? Is it wrong to let kids learn to lose? When do we let go of their hands and allow them to fail on their own? Do the answers to these questions change if the child in question has a mental disability? Many questions are raised here. Max’s teacher advises against letting him run, telling Kristina that it’s hard for a “kid like Max,” implying that it’s hard or someone with a disability to be like the other kids, to do what they other kids do, and to be accepted as normal.

Crosby is white and Jasmine is back, making their son Jabbar biracial. This episode of Parenthood dives into the loaded topic of race, the differences between whites and blacks, and playing the race-card. Do blacks and whites not understand each other? Will they, or can they ever understand each other? How we think and speak about race legally versus socially is like oil and vinegar. The conversation of race is brought up thanks to music. Music, especially in today’s world, uses all types of violet, foul, and offensive language. Though this may not be the most ideal way of a child being exposed to these topics, sometimes this is how our children are exposed to more “adult” language. Perhaps we can think of foul language, and the definitions of words, to be like the topic of “sex” – if kids are old enough to ask about it, they are probably old enough to know a little about it. Would this be shattering our children’s innocents? Maybe. But as Jasmines sees it, she’d rather have her kid hear it from her first, before he hears it from someone else. Today’s world almost leads itself to forcing children into growing up faster and leaving their childhoods behind (rather opposite of the Peter Pan and Never Neverland teachings), and it isn’t until later in life where we wish we could get back your carefree childhood mentalities.

Parents cannot possibly understand and relate to everything their children are going to experience. Because of things like race, gender, ability, background, and age differences, no two people are the same. We are all different, and may all feel helpless at times. Crosby mentions that he felt “invisible” when Jasmine spoke to Jabbar about the N-word, saying he could not relate and was scared he would not be able to relate to other aspects of his son’s life in the future. We learn of this after Crosby tells Jasmine he had nothing to add to Jasmine’s talk to Jabbar. This is not unlike Adam’s situation where he had a hard time telling Kristina he didn’t want her to push back her operation; through these two storylines we see the importance of communication in a relationship. Though it is a relationship outside the Braverman family, Hank has to deal with trying to connect with his daughter Ruby even though he and Ruby’s mother are separated. Divorce puts a great deal of strain on a family, and all relationships related to that family. With the help of Sarah, Hank is able to reconnect with Ruby, even if Ruby is entering her teenage years, feeling she needs more independence, and thinking she wants less parental guidance. Not forcing your children to do anything they don’t want to do, and letting them be themselves is a strong message from Joel in this episode of Parenthood. Doing things you’ve never done before takes a sense of courage and bravery; no one likes being “the new kid.” Victor’s baseball storyline and Max’s run for student council president are very similar in this sense. We all strive to be normal, but what is normal anyways? We all look to assimilate in order to fit in and feel accepted. But as Parenthood brings to our attention: maybe we can be something different; something new.

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