My Family (a long time ago)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Kind of Family

My wife and I were talking to some friends the other night about the content of TV shows for kids today and about how family is portrayed in general on TV. These days, family is mostly portrayed in a negative way and usually as dysfunctional. Family members don’t even try to get along with each other, they talk rudely to each other and they are totally disrespectful to one another. There is also disrespect toward the parents and between the parents. What’s a parent to do? Unless you want your kids to hate you, you can’t just ban TV.

Well, there is a cable channel called ABC Family, so they must have family shows scheduled, right? Not so much. ABC Family is nothing close to a family station. Here’s the titles of some of the shows you can see on ABC Family: Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, The Secret Life of the American Teenager and 10 Things I Hate About You. When you read what the shows are about it is plain to see that not one family is even semi-normal, and I wonder if any character on any of the shows are well-adjusted. Yeah, it’s “A new kind of family” alright. I’ll stick to the old kind.

I’m not even going to try and convince you that my family always got along with each other. There were nine kids in a fairly small house, including seven boys. Even if I just think about the times I remember most, when the three older ones were married and there were just six of us, there was conflict. However, when there were arguments or fights (not a fist fight, but a war of words) the expectation was that we would work it out. If we couldn’t, or wouldn’t, work it out and get along with each other, Mom had her last alternative – sitting on the couch and facing each other until we were ready to get along. Talking rudely to each other was not allowed – at least not in the presence of Mom or Dad. Disrespect toward our parents? Ah, no, that would not have been tolerated.

We did stuff together, like playing games or playing cards, so we had lots of fun times. But Friday night was a special night in my house when I was growing up. We sat together as a family (maybe after arguing slightly over who got what seat) and watched The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. These were two good shows about families where people truly cared about each other and yes, even loved each other. They had their fights and arguments and didn’t always agree with each other, just like in real families. But by the end of the show, they had resolved the conflict, made up and moved on. Is it any wonder that people still love the Brady Bunch today?

While we watched the shows, we were munching on M&M’s. We must have gone through a ton of M&M’s! Each of us got a Dixie cup and Mom would count out a specific amount of Plain M&M’s and a specific amount of Peanut M&M’s. It may seem silly to count them out, but it was the only way to make sure that we all got our share. I say specific amount because I’m not really sure how many we got. It may have been 15 plain and 10 peanut, or 20 of each; we’ve talked about it at family parties and there is some disagreement as to the quantities. I don’t remember if the older guys got more than the younger guys, or the same amount. However, we all still remember eating our M&M’s while watching the Brady Bunch.

The hard part was making them last as long as we could. I divided mine up by colors and ate the color that had the most first. I’d eat them one or two at a time and I didn’t chew them, but would let them melt in my mouth (not in my hand!). I have to admit that I had a habit that most people would think is pretty disgusting. When I ate the Peanut M&M’s I would let all the chocolate melt off, then I would put the naked peanuts back into my Dixie cup to be eaten after I had finished all the M&M’s. Pretty gross, I know, but I never had to worry about anyone eating any of the peanuts!

Today, M&M’s are a necessity for any family party or gathering. Of course, there are more than just Plain and Peanut these days, but those are the staples, along with Pretzel. Mom doesn’t count them out for us anymore, but anyone who is taking more than their fair share gets some good-natured ribbing. Nothing disrespectful or rude, just a little reminder that there’s a bunch more of us who want some, too.

It may seem corny or old-fashioned that we sat around together on a Friday night and watched a TV show together, and the Brady Bunch at that, but we all have fond memories of those times. We weren’t the Brady Bunch where everything always turned out just right, but we actually liked each other and being together. We got along with each other for the most part, and when we didn’t we worked it out. I’ll take the “old kind of family” over the “new kind of family” any day.

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