L in the Southeast

L in the Southeast
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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Birthday
November 04
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Retired PR Director
Bio
I am a retired Public Relations professional who now writes purely for fun and catharsis. I covered most of my memoir-type pieces in the first three years here. Lately I have dabbled in politics, current affairs, pop culture and movie reviews. Life is my muse.

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JANUARY 20, 2011 3:48PM

Parenthood: Where's the Manual?

Rate: 34 Flag

Here's a question I'll bet you haven't pondered lately:  What would you do if your brilliant and somewhat precocious 16-year-old daughter was dating and becoming serious about a 19-year-old recovering alcoholic?

This was the situation explored on Tuesday night's episode of NBC's dramedy Parenthoodone of my favorite television hours.  If you haven't checked out the Braverman clan, headed by the incomparable Craig T. Nelson and the luminous Bonnie Bedelia, I highly recommend it. 

Granddaughter Haddie met Alex at a food bank where she is a volunteer and he is a volunteer coordinator.  The product of a very rough childhood with little parental guidance, Alex shared the fact that he is an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous as soon as their attraction to one another became undeniable.  The fact that he is African American was not an issue to Haddie -- her uncle is the father of a five-year-old with a black woman -- and it goes unacknowledged in the script until Alex goes to Haddie's house for dinner.  Her little brother, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, blurted out "You're black," when the two were introduced.

Alex knocks it out of the park with Haddie's parents -- he is handsome, charming, mature beyond his years and uncommonly poised -- until the conversation takes a turn that requires Alex to reveal his problem with alcohol.

This is the point in the program when my attention split between the action on the screen and the rerun in my mind's eye.  My sixteen year-old-self was faced with a similar dilemma in my real life.  The details were different, but the ensuing drama was almost indistinguishable.

Haddie's parents agonize over their next steps.  They recognized the dicey nature of the terrain they were about to tread.  What kind of message would they be sending to Haddie if they decide to disqualify Alex as an appropriate boyfriend for her?  Wouldn't that fly in the face of the ideals of redemption and second chances?  After all, Alex was currently clean and sober and attending meetings regularly. 

When her parents ultimately decided that Haddie was too young "to deal with adult issues" and ordered her to end the relationship, she went ballistic.  When her ranting and raving didn't change their minds, Haddie met Alex anyway and failed to tell him she was forbidden to see him anymore.

Of course she got caught. 

But Alex didn't make it any easier for her father to stay the course when he showed up at the Dad's office and discussed it like a man, told the stunned father what a great dad he was, and vowed to honor his wishes. 

Haddie did what any normal, pissed-off teenage girl would do under the circumstances.  She ran away to her grandmother's house.  That is exactly what I did!

The whole time I was watching this unfold, I was pulling for the young couple.  I thought her parents were wrong...ish.  I thought there were other ways they could have dealt with their concerns about their daughter's best interests.  But her parents had ruled, and I'm a parent, so...yeah.

It remains to be seen how the conflict is resolved on the show.  In my case, my boyfriend was a big-time athlete, two years older and a well-brought-up gentleman.  My mother objected to his tendency to want to keep me unattractive to other guys.  He didn't want me to wear any lipstick or perfume or tight-fitting clothes.  She also thought I was too young to be so serious about one boy.

So, when I was finally forbidden to continue the relationship, I ran to my grandmother and grandfather, who allowed me to stay with them for several months until my mother and I could reach a compromise.  Years later, he broke my heart.  My mother and I still have problems over this period of my life.  She resents her parents for "interfering" and taking me in.  I resent her for being so domineering, even as I readily admit that she was right about the guy.

No matter how much we wish for one, there will never be a How-To manual for raising children.  Like every other parent before us and those who will follow, we simply have to make it up as we go along.  Who's to say what the right decision will be for Haddie's parents?  No crystal ball will tell them if Alex will have a relapse and expose their daughter to substance abuse.  Sometimes it just seems like parents cannot win for losing.

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Yikes. Our daughter is 17. Don't wanna think about it...
You know you do the best you can. I do not know how I would raise my kids in this day and age. All I know is if you tell a kid he cannot do something he will do it tenfold over..:(
rated with hugs
Parenthood was made exponentially more difficult if not impossible when they conned everyone into opening the book before applying it where it would have done the most good.
This is why our asses are typically the paddedest(like that new werd?) part of our bodies, said intention which is now being wasted while allowing them to run wilder than we ever did when the book was properly applied as intended.
It's a hard call. In my opinion, Alex sounds like a good influence, having apparently hit bottom and on his way back up, solid. My children are too young for me to have deeper thoughts than that just yet. I'm only speaking from the place of having been a sixteen year old girl and a woman familiar with the twelve steps.
Boy I'm glad I didn't have to deal with this one. That's a tough call. But I would probably be the strict one. -R-
That's what I've said around my house through the years to my two daughters..."You didn't come with an instruction manual." Raised them both the same way, but they're two completely different personalities. I like what Meryl Streep said about being a parent, "It's expertise on the fly." Great post!
rated
Oy, I have two daughters and a past like yours. What to do?
This is a great show, Lezlie. I just finished (sort of) raising 3 daughters and boy...I'd pay a million bucks for that manual. Great post.
Maybe you should sue the show for copyright infringement. Loved this.
Real life and TV life mesh. I believe in letting kids go on their own journey and let the lessons hit them while they still live at home and you can help them.

I never understood protecting kids and then having them leave the nest only to find the cruel world beyond their comprehension. You find your way in this life the best you can. Parents cannot and should not try to protect their kids from heartache. It is a natural reaction but the young have to learn the lessons over for themselves or the answers will not be their own.
You're right, we don't have manuals or crystal balls; but I think even if we had crystal balls, we'd made different mistakes.
Nice post, Lezlie, I like this show too. Those parents of Haddie's seemed so over-authoritarian, they really were off base to me in their handling of the situation...and their reasoning for forbidding Alex to see her was that they wanted their 16 year old to stay an adolescent longer, to not have to deal with an adult life so soon. Surprise! Haddie will be not be staying where you want her to stay, she already has stepped toward adult life, regardless of being allowed to see Alex or not. That's what it seemed like to me.
My own experience? At 17 I met a 24 year-old pro hockey player and we dated for 7 years. I realize now that I was kept on the right path because of that relationship more than I might have with a less mature high school boyfriend. While watching Parenthood, I found myself asking Haddie's parents," Would you rather her be with a doofus drinker/partier-type who's a high school senior?"
I say those parents are asking for trouble with that parenting style they have...control freaks. : )
Husband thought the parents missed by not saying, "Okay, you can see Alex...he can have dinner with the whole family, he can join our family gatherings, you can be chaperoned, until you are older."
That would be...'My husband thought...'
Our daughter was serious about a young man who came from a highly disfunctional family and was continuing the pattern. She thought she could save him and he said he wanted to be saved. We agonized about it and did what we could to remain open to the possibility of redemption and offered opportunities, etc. Eventually he crossed a line she couldn't accept and it was over. That was one of the worst years of my life.
Matt: I know. Maybe you got lucky and have a daughter her won't be such a challenge as I was.

Flower Child: It's a tough one. I'd just expect parents who don't have hangups about silly things like race might be a little more creative about dealing with their worries.

Linda: That's certainly the way I was.. and my little prince, too.

XJS and ME: Spare the rod and spoil the child?

Heidibeth: I'm in your camp on this one, I think.

Kate: lol. Love that Meryl Streep!

maryway: Pray? :-)

trilogy: I feel like I lucked out by not having a daughter. With my luck, she would have been just like me! lol

Sarah: LOL! Nah. It's a universal story.

Zanelle: I tend to agree. She isn't too young to learn the real deal about addiction and recovery. I would have suggested she go to Al-Anon while he attends AA meetings. She would learn things that could save her from the same fate.

Fusun: True. :)

JT: I would have never been allowed to date someone that old. But I believe what you are saying is true. It just makes sense.
Mime: I'll bet it was a difficult year. What I like about your story, though, is the decision to end it was your daughter's. She learned from the experience rather than harbor resenetment toward you and George.
After raising two daughters in this scary time, I faced similar issues. We teach them to be open minded and compassionate, then they meet a boy who needs these things, then we feel very scared. Natural to feel that way.
I haven't watched Parenthood much, though. I have enough of this drama at my own house lol.
Zinnia: Hahaha. I hear you.
I watch Parenthood. This was a tough one because I think 16 year olds can find true love. It seemed the parents were really worried that he had his own apartment and all the implications of that. He's such a good guy, but I think she's kind of a brat. More than anything I was appalled that the parents let her walk home alone at night in Berkeley. Now there was an error in judgement. Good post.
Those teenage years are dicey to begin with, then you add a serious relationship (with ANYONE) and the drama/problems multiply. I'm just glad those years are behind me...and behind my children!!
It would take a whole post to explain what happened with my son, us and his over bearing grandmother. Let's just say it didn't end well. I'll have to give the show a look!
Janice: Yes, she is a bit cheeky, isn't she? I'd be dead if I talked to my parents the way she did. :-)

Bell: Me, too!
Richie Cunningham ... or the loveable Opie that we grew up with seems to have the superb talents of writers who let Adam Braverman's crisis of concscience mind make the right things come to be in that family. Should be an interesting storyline covering all the bases when we just didn't see it coming. So much for the "Chloie" on the cell phone anymore, huh?

I smiled at Sarah Cavanaugh's comment to you and wish you and your mother to cut through chasms and hang on to what is good in the best way you can.

Otherwise, the former Loralei character is my fave for holding the "Procrastination Sale". Good stuff. ~ Absolutely*Kate
I'm raising three girls, and sometimes I wish it were as easy for me as it was for TV dads like Mike Brady - 22 minutes, and all problems could be resolved. Then we wouldn't need a manual, just a book of speeches that bore little if any resemblance to the actual situation at hand.
Lezlie, my mother was in her sixties when I was sixteen....she was tired of having kids after 40 years and was well into her Involved Atlantan phase...I think she just let go. It turned out to be the best thing to do -- the blame is all on me. : )
Absolutely Kate: Thanks for reading!

Andy: Oh my. Three girls. My heart goes out to you. :-)
Oh well... my mother and I tried to keep my sister away from a guy everyone knew was bad news... she was sixteen at the moment got pregnant and the guy robbed several things from our houses my mother´s and mine at the time... Thank God he was in her life for about six months after she had the baby ... we don´t see the guy ever but my sister always says... if it wasn´t for the way he convinced me to it I would be like a doctor or something right now... anyway.. there is no manual to raise a child to become a good successful person...
Rated with all my love
One of the best shows on television and the dealt with the honestly and realistically.

In my experience, it's nearly impossible to stop a kid from seeing someone. I think I'd have cautioned here and kept a close eye on the situation but stopped short of actually forbidding them.

Of course, that's easy to say when it's not my daughter.

Our 16 y.o. is dating a boy who is her own age, comes from a good family, honor student and likely headed to the Air Force Academy. He's smart, polite and resourceful and I still don't like it. They're just way too serious for 16. They have their whole lives for that.

It's just never easy and I'm glad that show doesn't pretend that it is.
You do what you can, live with the consequences, and understand that whatever you did in the past was basically inevitable because your experiences up to that point led you to your decisions. Worry about what's next, not about what was.
Love "Parenthood." This is excellent, a well-reasoned argument and you've got the personal experience to back it up. In this case, for me it's not about Haddie. I'm on Alex's side. He's on thin ice, only 6 months sober, not supposed to be in a relationship. The strom and drang dramatics of a 16 year old girl is the last thing he needs to support his recovery.

We have a son, no daughters. Either way, I also believe that unless there's clear parental abuse, grandparents should butt out. Their love is unconditional and forgiving, a wonderful counterpart to the family unit but not the best way to set necessary boundaries.
I had an uncontrollable 6-year-old female child when I got pregnant with the twins. I prayed fervently for them BOTH to be boys. I always say God gave me my youngest daughter for his amusement. Not really, she is a dream. My cousin had all boys, I envied her (except that she was trying for a girl each time).

I can't count the number of times I have lamented not having a manual. Then there was my mother who not only took in the runaway, but tried to keep me away. It was frustrating.

I don't watch the show, but I watched the clip and as soon as the word "forbid" came out I knew those parents were in trouble. The easiest way to have a child do what you don't want them to do is to forbid it!
I always hold my breath when my children bring home their companions for lack of a better word. Outright insistence they stop seeing them seems like a sure fire way to insure they get driven into the arm's of the undesireable.

I have held my breath a few times. One in particular can still trigger involuntary twitches to consider. Off the wall crazy. Certifiably so as her parents informed us at one point.

And my daughter is but 12 and yet to show interest.

Sweet Jesus.

All agree it is a fun show to watch.
Ahh, it's easy to raise kids, you throw them into the closet, lock the door, and let them out when they're 30ish onto an unsuspecting world!!!

NBC is already buying up the television show rights on the book. 'CRAP MY KIDS WILL SAY TO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES TO GET OUT OF DOING HOMEWORK!'

Hahah, those kidders!!

:D

Rated.
I can't watch shows like that anymore, since my 14 year old daughter provides all the drama I need. I'm wondering if there are boarding schools in China.
This really is a tough issue. How can we know who's right or wrong for someone, and what the future holds? But when we love a person so much, it's hard to just let things happen and be hopeful for the best. I could say your mom was right - further proof that parents know best. But then again, you must have had some happy times with this guy, and got to experience being in love, even if it did end badly. All this is so hard.... I am terrified to become a parent.
I try to take a proactive approach re family dynamics. My spouse takes the reactive approach. We're working on bettering our lines of communication re parenthood/family matters.

We're far from perfect and yet our worst imperfections can be seen when our children are disrespectful to our wishes.


Even if there were a manual for parents, I would't adhere to every word in it. I certainly couldn't live life without the benefit of making a few mistakes.
Nice parallels! I've caught a few episodes online, and agree that it's a worthy show. That last episode had me wanting both sides to come to some kind of compromise . . . but it seems that there's a great deal of truth in the lack thereof . . . at least so far . . .
haven't seen this but i love your composition here r.
Lezlie, I have not seen the show, but love what you've written. I am so glad the 19 year old I wanted to marry when I was 16 broke up with me! ~r
I don't have children yet, but I've been in a similar relationship before. I think forbidding your kids to see someone or saying that 16-year-olds aren't able to handle a serious relationship by definition just doesn't work out and it's not fair. However, I totally understand the concerns a parent would have - and I bet so do your kids :) So how about setting up rules like: no "dating" allowed, but courtship (whatever that means considering the individual circumstances)? I think what matters is not the boyfriend's diagnosis(i.e. alcoholic, depressed, whatever), but the way he chooses to handle it. Oh, and about the serious problems: children will be exposed to them anyway, often at a much younger age.
I've been exposed to so much alcoholism and drug abuse in my family that if my daughter took a mind, at 16, to getting involved with someone with that kind of history, I know I would be against it. But then we all know what happens when we tell kids what not to do at that age. Parenting is hard, hard, hard work and as you've said, we're all amateurs at it.

I have vowed not to add any new shows to my DVR list since I'm trying to cut back on TV time, but since the recommend is coming from you, I might have to squeeze one more in--Parenthood season one, here I come :)
Yep. Motherhood=the toughest multiple choice test I've ever taken...and the practical part is killer too. xo Right on. I just hold my breath and pray like crazy...I should buy stock in candles; I burn enough of them. Rated!
I like this post, L.
I had a similar situation at 17. I appreciate that my parents didn't cause me any shame about it or even suggest I end the relationship. They allowed me to have the experience and trusted me to learn from it.
Thoughtful post, Lezlie. As for: "After all, Alex was currently clean and sober and attending meetings regularly" - that's great as far as it goes. Unfortunately the addict's efforts can easily get derailed, as I learned the hard way, with a "recovering" boyfriend, many moons ago. Even if he doesn't start drinking again, the underlying problems are still there, causing other anti-social behaviour, such as playing computer games all day instead of looking for work, as just one example. When drinking isn't happening but the bad behaviour continues, addicts call it a "dry drunk." Hard to deal with someone like this.

As far as the parenting aspect goes, I'd remind myself that what is forbidden usually becomes all the more desirable when hormones are involved, unfortunately. But since the girl is a minor in this instance, I would have to agree that some kind of intervention is warranted.