I assume that most of us with parents who are part of our lives still feel like a kid. At least every now and then. And some of us probably more than others, no matter how old we are. I’m beginning to think, though, that that feeling must change quite a bit once the kid because a parent. In other words, I feel like in addition to being on the cusp of my entire life changing, my entire life is going to change. If you know what I mean.
Anyway, so, as you know, I’ve been watching Felicity again — from beginning to, well, right now I’m in the midst of the third of four seasons. I had kind of forgotten how intense this show was. Rewatching the show brings me back to my college days and it all still feels so fresh and familiar – the friendships, the relationships, the classes and finals, money problems, stress, blowing things out of proportion (though maybe they’re in the exact proportion they’re supposed to be in at that age). One constant on the show in particular, though, has been on my mind more than the show’s other themes.
On Felicity, parents aren’t just the humorous, clueless entity they are in many a show in the young adult genre, instead they are truly a force of negativity and a source of stress and problems in their children’s lives. Generally speaking, they are selfish, self-absorbed and weak.
For example, Felicity’s parents put ridiculous amounts of pressure on her to pursue medicine, attempt to micromanage her life and cut her off financially when they don’t get what they want. Then, when they finally decide to pay her tuition for college, they decide to divorce each other and place a significant portion of the stress of the separation on her. In fact, her father moves from California to New York and insists on insinuating himself in the midst of his college daughter’s new life, just as she is getting comfortable in it herself. Although I have been known to complain about my parents from time to time, I can safely say that my dad never showed up without notice in my dorm room in the middle of the day. Ben’s parents are no better. His dad is a lying, selfish alcoholic who manipulates everyone around him; his mom is a weak woman who puts up with his selfish dad until she doesn’t. Until she does again. Julie’s adoptive parents are sweet (though we don’t see them), but they are out of touch with what their (incredibly annoying) daughter is really looking for — her birth mother. Her birth parents ultimately just want to use her for their own gain, in the form of a kidney. Elena’s dad means well, but has trouble connecting with his daughter — not paying attention to her amazing accomplishments or, really, her. Megan’s parents are very nice, but have absolutely no idea who their daughter is – to such an extreme that Megan’s entire wardrobe changes when they’re around. These kids spend too much of their precious youth trying to protect their parents. And they spend too much energy trying not to disappoint their parents while attempting to finally be who they really are.
Then there is the part of the show that deals with the main characters and their contemplations on parenthood. Ruby decides to keep the fetus growing inside of her — and her parents, we are told, are supportive. Felicity declines to become an egg donor for Javier and Samuel because she is not ready to become a parent. And then there’s Ben…but I haven’t gotten to season four yet. These three, though, seem to go through a lot more soul-searching and thought about what it means to be a parent than their own parents ever exhibit themselves. Probably not a coincidence.
Anyway, my point? I don’t really know. It’s just that as I am about to enter parenthood — eeks! — my mind is full of about one hundred million questions and worries and hopes. One of them, one at the very top of my list, is my wish that I never let my little girl down in any of the ways these tv parents have let down their children. I know that there will be more times than I will care to acknowledge in which I do exactly the wrong thing. I know that part of life is sometimes feeling alone and alienated and misunderstood and that if baby girl feels these things at some point, it is normal. But I hope and hope and hope that I never ever make this baby girl feel she needs to protect me or feel she needs to hide from me who she really is. I don’t need her to tell me everything; I don’t want to be her best friend. I do, however, want her to know — and to always feel — that she is safe with me, that she is loved and that all I want is for her to be a compassionate, kind person who is quietly confident with exactly who she is.