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Watching Parenthood with My 13-Year-Old

Watching Parenthood with My 13-Year-Old

Laurie Ulster

“Hey Mommy,” my 13-year-old says. “Want to watch another episode of Parenthood with me?”

Of course I do! I stop what I’m doing and settle in next to her on the couch. Every. Single. Time. Sure, I’ve seen the show all the way through three or four times, but I’m always up for another viewing.

For newbies: There was a movie called Parenthood starring Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Keanu Reeves, Rick Moranis, and more that was a big hit and a lot of fun. But even better, I dare say, was the TV series inspired by the movie, which ran for six seasons on NBC, starting in 2010.

I’ve been LONGING to get my daughter to watch it. First of all, I can’t stand the play-to-the-camera shows she sees on Disney+. But most of all, it’s that the show means so much to me personally. It feels so real, so much so that I’ll find myself halfway through a story about someone I know and then realize, “Oh, I don’t know that person… that was a character on Parenthood. D’oh!” But that means the show has done its job: I feel as if I have experienced these life challenges, the highs and the lows, right along with the Braverman clan.

But I can’t sell THAT to my 13-year-old.

So I went the stealth route. I’m always somewhere in the show’s cycle anyway, so I just kept watching it as she wandered in and out, and finally (after what felt like decades), she asked, “What is this show?” and asked if we could watch it from the beginning. I wanted to be cool about it, so I just replied, “Sure. Whenever you want,” and we began with episode one.

We’re only in season 2, but so far, it’s been a delight. She doesn’t really understand Kristina yet—of course not, she’s such a MOM—but she will. She hasn’t gotten to the part where Haddie tells the family she’s gay, which is going to thrill her. It’s been so hard not telling her!She agrees that Michael B. Jordan is a breakout guest star, she absolutely adores Max and is fascinated by his Asperger’s, and, like me, can never decide who’s more gorgeous, Julia or Jasmine… or Joel. 

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Watching this show has allowed her to see more nuances in parenting and being a human being than will ever turn up on Girl Meets World. And of course, there was a dance party. They’re the Bravermans! 

And here’s one of the biggest reasons I’m glad she’s watching it: Parenthood is teaching my daughter that people who argue with each other can be looked at as more than just two sides, where one person’s right and one person’s wrong. And as that unfolds in front of us, we can talk about it, which might just open up her teenage mind to the idea that the same principle works in real life, too.  

The last episode we watched together had two characters in a fight about a dishwasher. And sure, they were fighting about loading the dishwasher, but they were also fighting over their wedding plans, how they took care of their son Jabbar, and her need for control vs. his need for freedom. Ultimately, they were fighting about having hurt each other’s feelings, and as we watched them start the argument that would lead to their breakup, my daughter kept trying to nail down who was right and who was wrong. But she couldn’t. My 13-year-old daughter, who calls everything “a mood,” who knows when she’s right (always) and when other people just don’t get it (also always), had to accept a whole new concept: Sometimes, everybody is right, and the conflict still exists.And this is what my daughter needs to see. I want her to understand that relationships are full of complexity, and Parenthood does just that, with its incredibly real characters, brilliant writing, compelling stories, and, every once in a while, a much-needed dance party.

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