Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | September 20, 2010

TV: A Tie That Bonds Parents and Kids

As The World Turns 2009 logo.png

Last week I watched the last episode of “As the World Turns.” That wouldn’t be that odd, I suppose, except that I don’t watch soap operas. (not that there’s anything wrong with that) I watched it because my mom did; it was her favorite soap. When I heard it was airing its last show on Friday, I thought I’d revisit that old friend in honor of my mom. She’s been gone a long time. Watching that last hour brought back a lot of memories and made me smile (Full disclosure, it also made me cry and miss my mom, even after these 30+ years of her having died.). Of course, I didn’t know any of the stories they were wrapping up but, unbelievably, the two main characters, Bob and Kim, have been on the show for like 50 years and were on the show when I was little. Back then, I watched the show, too. Since there was no VCR or Tivo then, my daily updates came from a much more personal source — my mom.

We didn’t have much in common, my mother and I. I loved her dearly but she didn’t really “get” me most of the time. But, oh, how we bonded over the soaps, and especially ATWT. Because we didn’t have much to share about our personal lives (I didn’t want to share mine with her and she really didn’t have much in hers to share with me), we wouldn’t have had anything to talk about had it not been for the soap story line. So, she filled me in each day and we talked about the plots and it was almost as if we were discussing family members and their lives.

My mom was a little embarrassed about watching the soaps instead of going out and living a life. But, she was sickly, she didn’t drive, and she really didn’t get out much. The soaps were her link to the outside world, although she didn’t like to admit it. In fact, she was horrified one year when a friend of hers gave her a gift subscription to “Soap Opera Digest.” So, in a way, that bonded us more, because watching these shows was kind of a guilty pleasure we shared. Maybe the main thing we shared.

My girls and I don’t watch the soaps in order to bond. We don’t need to because we do share our lives. Each of my daughters has chosen a level of sharing that she is comfortable with. I’m not sure how they decide what to share with me and what not to share. Sometimes I wish I knew more, sometimes I wish I knew less. But, we’ve made sharing a priority so that we can be close. It didn’t just happen, we worked at it.

I believe that television was one of the tools we used to develop our closeness. My girls and I have enjoyed some shows together over the years. It’s not than any of them watched that much television. But, some of what they did watch, we shared. We started with “Sesame Street” and continued from there. I thought it important to understand what they watched, partly to monitor, partly to share. Later, we watched “Ally McBeal,” “Freaks and Geeks,” and, yes, even “Sex and the City.” We talked about the plot lines and the decisions and issues facing the characters. We’ve shared books the same way. I think that sharing things like books, movies, and television shows can bridge a gap between parent and child. It makes discussing difficult subjects a bit easier because you’re talking about fictional people, not yourselves.

Plus, it’s just fun. What do you guys remember about watching stuff with me? Do you think this is something parents and kids should do? To what extent?

Alexis Writes:

When I used to watch “Ally McBeal” I felt a lot of parallels with Ally. She was lost and so was I, she lusted after a boy she couldn’t have (what teenage girl didn’t) and she was funny and loved music. I loved the idea of having a theme song and I think my sisters and I spent many moments debating which song would be our personal one. I felt like she was what I would turn out to be when I grew up. The fact that my mom watched the show and liked it made me feel like she understood me. If she could watch something that I related to personally and not judge, then maybe she could do the same for me.

Another show I remember watching with my mom was “My So Called Life.” While I wasn’t having quite the same life as Angela there were a lot of things I related to about that character. She was awkward and uncomfortable, and searching to find good friendship. She also wanted the absolutely unattainable boy (again who hasn’t?) and for a few fabulous moments she had him. I remember my Mom and I used to watch the show and we both hated Angela’s parents, Patty and Graham. I had friends whose parents wouldn’t let them watch the show, let alone sit and watch it with them. The fact that my mom could understand why the parents were so annoying to me made me think she could understand where I was coming from.

I think it’s great for parents to find common interests they have with their children. Sometimes plot lines from TV can be a great way to have a conversation about an issue you’d like to discuss with your child without having to be confrontational. Angela experienced a lot of things that were controversial during the show’s short run, such as homosexuality, runaways, peer pressure, sex etc. If my mom ever felt like we needed to discuss any of those subjects, that show would have a been a great segue. I think that almost any opportunity to connect with your child can’t be bad and everyone loves TV. I still can’t believe Dad watches “So You Think You Can Dance.” I wonder if our readers think that’s as cool as when he said, “Twix is a gate way drug.”

Tamra Writes:

I remember watching a lot of things as a family, or with just mom. We watched “The Nanny,” “Ed,” “Ally McBeal,” and once I even watched a season of “Joe Millionaire” with Dad. It’s nice finding books and television you can watch with your parents. It gives you something to talk about (not that we ever had a problem finding things to talk about), but it also creates a time for you to spend with each other (even if you are watching TV). Just like Alexis said, it does open the doors to talk about different things, except you’re talking about fictional characters. Seeing which characters your parents like and don’t like is interesting and makes your parents seem like real people, instead of people who don’t do or think anything cool. I think this is important, especially for teenagers, who are often so “anti-parents.”

Once when I went to my grandmother’s retirement home, we ended up running into one of Dad’s friend’s parents. We went to their apartment where I discovered that this 80-year-old woman was so annoyed that she didn’t have HBO, because she wanted to watch “Sex and the City.” I thought that was hilarious. I wouldn’t have imagined any women like my grandmother needing “Sex and the City” to be able to enjoy TV. It seems lame, but TV is a good way to bond with people and find things you have in common.

Sometimes parents shouldn’t watch certain things. Dad didn’t have a good experience with “Jersey Shore.” Some things should be kept separate from parents…or you could end up in a “situation”…

Shira writes:

One of my favorite things to watch with Mom was “Freaks and Geeks,” a fantastic show about high school where the kids actually looked like high school students. The show was only on one season, but I remember how much Mom and I enjoyed watching it together. Since we were such fans of the show produced by Judd Apatow, it’s led to a bond over Judd Apatow movies. Most of his movies are based on ridiculous and kind of gross humor, things I would never have imagined watching with my mother, but we have fun.

I definitely remember “Ed” and “The Nanny,” I especially remember watching the second airing of the first season of “Survivor” with my dad. He insisted the entire time that he had somehow missed the media circus announcing the winner and that he had no idea who the first Survivor was. He didn’t tell me until we reached the final episode that he’d actually known the entire time. Hilarious, Dad.

It’s definitely important to share some common interests with your children, but I have to agree with Tamra that there are certain things parents don’t need to see. Dad probably should not have gone to the “Sex and the City” movie, and I’m sure both of our parents wish they could erase their memories that episode of “Jersey Shore.”

Ned writes:

A lot of this television watching seems like girl stuff to me and I am not a big TV watcher. I usually watch parts of an episode or an entire episode if I can stand it just to keep myself in the loop. I remember when the girls were in middle school and the show “Friends” aired. It had so much sexual innuendo that I couldn’t believe I let my kids watch it. By that time I had given up monitoring their television, as I would probably censor pretty much everything. Now I just like to have a taste of the culture so I can tell my kids that I think Snooki is a pig.



  1. Oh I so agree with this. I watched different shows with each of my parents (soaps with mom, sitcoms with dad). Some people say TV is bad and it can be. But from this perspective, it is a great thing that allowed us to bond in a low-key manner and I still laugh about these shows with my dad and discuss all-time favorite characters with my mom (Bo and Hope!).

    I am so glad that you got to watch the last episode of ATWT in honor of your mom so you could reminisce and remember her. And I am so impressed that Ned knows who Snooki is…I barely know myself!

  2. You’re right and we didn’t talk about how much TV is “bad.” But, I think, as with everything, it’s the balance that matters. BTW, Ned loves impressing you!

  3. TV, movies and books have always been a tool for bonding in our house. Certainly when I was small my mother was very active in keeping tabs on what I was seeing, and then she stuck around for the good ones. I still remember watching Lamb Chop over breakfast! I wasn’t excluded from programs aimed at adults, my parents judged which I could handle and gave me room to try them if I wanted. I recused myself from several R movies over the years.

    The best is when someone says, “I was watching/reading X and I think you would love it.” Books, particularly, make the rounds in this house. Sometimes the range of subjects surprises me! I loved that my mother read the books I gave her, and I loved when she also loved them. It confirmed my choices and gave me confidence in my judgment. When she didn’t agree she gave me food for thought.

    And, really, that’s what all this media sharing should be about. My mother and I would talk about what was happening on Lamb Chop, the way characters were behaving. That has evolved over the years to more complex scenarios, but we still talk about such things. It’s a way of getting to know the people you love.

  4. Absolutely. Bonding over books is fodder for several posts. My girls and I “eat” books and the best is when all four of us finish and can finally talk about it. Recently, Tamra’s school district has been suggesting books for summer reading (optional) for teachers. We’ve had some terrific discussions about those books as we’re all educators and all interested in related topics. This summer we all read, “House Rules” which is about an autistic teen. We had great follow up chat. It reminds me of the tv shows we used to talk about. I guess as the girls got older and more mature, so did our bonding materials.
    BTW, thanks for the Lamb Chop memory. I loved her and the highlight of my childhood was meeting Shari Lewis when she visited our town.

  5. My daughters and I bonded more over movies: the Walt Disney movies, Gone With the Wind, Seven Brides for Seven Bothers, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, etc. We still play a game, whether it be in person, texting or on fb, where we quote a line and the others have to name the movie. I know it’s lame, but we have fun doing it.

  6. LOVE your game! I’m definitely going to start that.

  7. TV is definitely a source of bonding in our house. I’m 21, I have an 18 year old brother, and a 16 year old sister. My parents are here as well. There is something amazing when we can all sit down and watch a show together. “American Idol,” and “Big Time Rush” are two that we all watch. That and some game shows. Nice topic!

  8. This is the neatest blog! Saw you on SITS today. I hope my three (BOYS) will want to add a blurb or two to my blog one day.
    Like: “D, D, & D were here.” (about all most males could muster LOL)

    But, the TV does bind us these days. This week we are stuck on the Three Stooges. Kind of fitting don’t ya think?

    • HA! The stooges are perfect. And you are one funny lady. (That probably keeps you from losing your mind in a house of all that testosterone!) I love your prediction about what your boys might someday contribute to your blog. As you can see, my girls have the opposite problem… we can’t shut up! I’m off to check out your blog.

  9. Yeah, I think that one of the best things about “Idol” is that families can enjoy it together. Thanks for checking in. I’m glad you like the topic.

  10. My sisters and I bonded over T.V. I don’t remember my mom watching much T.V. Stopping from SITS!

  11. Well, at least you and your sister had the bond. Do you watch with your kids? It’s never too late to start!

  12. Hi, thanks for following, I’m following back! I love that your family co-writes the blogs, SO awesome!

  13. Thanks. And thanks for checking us out, too.

  14. When my boys were teens, I used to watch Felicity with Justin, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer with Myles. Felicity took herself SO seriously and was filled with angst over every decision and Buffy didn’t take herself or anyone else too seriously. There were no discussions that came out of watching together, in fact I think they barely tolerated my presence and only if I didn’t ask any questions, like is she still sleeping with him or what kind of demon is that. But the choices themselves were very telling.

  15. Absolutely. And, I think that for some parents, even that much of a “message” about what their kids are interested in is enough. Plus, they may not have said as much, but at least your boys knew that you were interested in what they were into and I suspect that resonated with them at some level. After all, there are some parents that don’t care at all what their kids are doing and those kids would be thrilled to have Mom hanging around!

  16. Funny! I meant to watch the end, but forgot to record it. My mom used to watch all the time too, but she abandoned them a few years ago for Young & The Restless.

    Thanks for visiting during my SITS Day!

  17. And, thanks for stopping by and checking us out! My mom actually watch Y&R, too, back in the days when David Hasselhoff was on.

  18. I used to watch soaps with my grandma. They are honestly fond memories.

  19. […] media we consume. The family that posts on Raising Amazing Daughters has put up an entry about how they shared time and interest in TV shows. It immediately evoked similar memories in […]

  20. What a great post. I checked out your blog after you left a comment on my post about watching the Academy Awards with my daughters. Your blog is amazing, what a great family. All the best to you.

    • Thanks so much. I remember your blog and I thought it was wonderful. Thanks for checking us out, too.

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