Parenting: Level – Top Secret

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My son is 11 years old, just a couple of months shy of 12 as I write this. In those 11-plus years, I have of course loved him with all my heart, as well as done my parental due diligence: fed him, clothed him, hugged and kissed him, dried his tears, caught his barf, wiped his butt. Took him to preschool where parent volunteering was required, and thus spent an inordinate amount of time wiping complete strangers’ kids’ butts. (If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.) Read to him, then helped him learn to read. Took him to see Santa and the Easter Bunny. Assisted a couple of days a week in his elementary classes. Schlepped him to innumerable birthday parties and even hosted one, his seventh, at our house. (Once was quite enough, thank you. After that, Chuck E. Cheese was my homie.)

Of course, now that my son is closing in on the teen years, my job has changed somewhat. Once the driving force behind the Cub Scouts pack, moms like me are not quite as welcome in the Boy Scout troop. I now merely wave goodbye and remind him to take his phone as he leaves the house instead of driving him to his friends’ houses. I’m supposed to honor his request that I don’t embarrass him in front of other kids. (Yeah, like that’s going to happen while I have breath in my body.)

But there is one element of his preteen life that I must direct in order for my child to develop into any sort of well-rounded adult—Okay, wait. Let’s bring this in; we don’t want it getting out to just anybody. This is top-level, double-secret-probation type parenting here. Not the kind of thing you read about in parenting books. You ready?

My job lately has been to…guide my child’s cultural education. Yeah, art, music, literature, blah blah blah. More important than all that…I’m talking television, people! Good old-fashioned TV shows. You can’t be too careful these days, or our impressionable youth will grow up on a junk-food diet of The Voice and three thousand flavors of CSI.

As a pop culture maven myself, I cannot—will not—stand for that.

My son prefers to binge-watch entire shows via Netflix or DVD set, and actually asks for good TV shows to watch, which makes my job easier. Since he’s asked for recommendations I’ve loaded him up with plenty. Some were fails. Most, however, went over well.

• King of the Hill – Long-lasting, goofy, sometimes obnoxious, always moral. Big hit, ended up being a rewatch.

• The Simpsons – Please. Instant addiction that has carried him into live viewings. It will never die.

• Futurama – I consider Futurama, The Simpsons, and King of the Hill the trifecta of late twentieth/early twenty-first century animation. My son concurs. Even if the racy stuff goes right over his head at his age. (I’m okay with that. Someday all too soon he’s going to look back and go “Hey…”)

• The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Yes, the BBC TV show, not the feature film. Not as good as the books (which he read first), of course, yet the super-low-budget special effects actually make it endearing.

• Fawlty Towers – A twelve-episode master class in biting British comedy. When my son declared it genius, I wept proud mama tears.

• Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Surprisingly, a little too uneven for his taste. And a reminder that it’s not as easy to binge on the surreal variety show as it is other shows that have storylines. He dips in now and again, though, which is fine. As long as he’s seen the “Dead Parrot” sketch, I’m good.

Source: Hulu

Source: Hulu

• WKRP in Cincinnati – More proud mama tears as my son embraced the radio station–set sitcom’s insanity despite its early ’80s look and feel and live audience guffawing, which he was not used to. Now we can simply say “phone police” or “Hallo, we’re the Scum of the Earth” for an instant family laugh.

• Enlisted – One all-too-short season of a brilliant comedy about three brothers in the army. Hilarious and touching, with tons of heart. If you haven’t seen it, seek it out. You won’t be sorry.

• Doctor in the House – A rare fail. I thought if he liked Monty Python, he’d enjoy this medical school comedy written by some of the same comedians. Not sure why he drifted from this. I hope he’ll go back to it.

Dilbert – Back to animation. Not as stunning as the famous trifecta, but solid office-based humor that veered into the surreal.

Taxi – Couldn’t lose, not with Latka and Reverend Jim Ignatowski in the mix. Sure enough, two thumbs up from my spawn. I kinda figured he’d fall for it—he’s got a thing for goofballs and burnouts.

Community – Only a handful of episodes in and he’s already hooked, even though it’s still behaving like a conventional sitcom. I keep saying, “Just wait till it goes off the rails.” He’s going to adore it.


• On deck: Chuck and Scrubs. Perhaps some Star Trek? List still in progress.

And somewhere in between we have to squeeze in This Is Spinal Tap. Because pop culture is so important, a parent just can’t leave it to chance.

Have you guided your children’s pop culture education? What have you nudged under their noses in the hopes that they’ll take to it? Which TV shows? Movies? Music? Share in the comments!

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here. 

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20 responses »

  1. Pretty much anything English. My eleven-year-old (nearly twelve) loves Monty Python. He also likes dramadies like Death in Paradise. My husband got him hooked on the Naked Gun movies, which, while not my favorites, I approve of, because they’re classics. The shows that most surprised me, though, were the PBS series. He loves to watch This Old House and Antiques Roadshow with me. WEIRD for a kid that age. And he never missed an episode of Call the Midwife or Poldark, two shows that provided a few decidedly uncomfortable moments for me as I watched with him sitting next to me. But he didn’t seem bothered. He’s an old soul.

  2. Great list! Wish my mom had been that cool! Of course, when I was a kid (100 years ago…) *no* sitcoms went off the rails. And the cartoons were all just straight up cartoons! 🙂 (Is Arrested Development too racy for his age? Maybe in a few years…)

    • Too right—my kid would think the shows I watched were completely hokey. I mean, The Brady Bunch? Way too saccharine. And he hates overt “lessons,” so a lot of Saturday morning cartoons would be out of the running immediately. Heh—I enjoyed Arrested Development (didn’t get around to watching the new season though). Perhaps someday soon!

  3. Wow: from the TV you list, I’m only really familiar with Fawlty Towers. So glad he loved these, they are indeed a classic. The other that springs to mind (not sure if this is age appropriate) would be Only Fools and Horses.

  4. Guiding your child’s cultural education . . . Love it! (And hey, if you don’t, who will?)

    I once caught my husband sharing a bowl of Fruit Loops (his childhood favorite) with our then two-year-old daughter. He was teaching her how to drink the leftover milk, how to chase down certain “loops” by color, how to hold the spoon in your fist (so not the correct way to hold a spoon).

    When I asked him why he was introducing a high-sugar cereal to our precious daughter at the tender age of only two, he informed me that “his” kids will know about ALL of the cereals AND be able to talk about them on the playground. Like this was something they needed to master before growing up. Then he listed all of the cereals he intended to introduce her to. Nothing but high-sugar, pop culture brands. (They’d pair nicely with your son’s shows!)

    Not exactly fresh fruit, not exactly egg-whites with seven grain toast or some other such thing; I took a picture of them hunched over the same bowl. Proud to say she’s now applying to colleges. Apparently, she survived the high-sugar cereals just fine.

    • OMG I love it! Making your daughter a sugary-cereal connoisseur! Now that is some niche specialty! Glad she survived. Hey, maybe all that sugar kick-started her brain activity. I’d prefer to think that’s how it worked with me, since I grew up in the era of (to steal a name from Calvin and Hobbes) Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs in front of Saturday morning cartoons. 🙂

  5. Mine’s a little younger than yours, but I have force fed Mamma Mia/ABBA onto her (and proud mum moment she played Dancing Queen for her clarinet solo the other day), The Great British Bake Off (shouldn’t be a surprise given my cupcake post you just read), and that’s probably about it. She’s almost old enough for Dr Who… But her own preference is Lego Ninjago!

    • Ooh yes musicals! That’s my job as well. Last year I took him to Pippin and Little Shop of Horrors. This fall: Spamalot. Aaaah “Dancing Queen” on the clarinet! That must have been epic! You should be proud! 🙂

  6. Awesome list. When my son was your son’s age, he was addicted to “The Simpsons.” Even now, when I’m at the gym and the show comes on, I feel that warmth in my belly that reminds me of those days, sigh, sigh (they grow up too friggin’ fast).

  7. What a great show list. Community is definitely a cult classic. Did you hear they are trying to make a movie? We loved that show. Too bad some of the best characters left. I get tons of flack for this, but I’m not a Monty Python fan. I have no clue why. Maybe now I would like it. Back in my teen years and 20s I didn’t.

  8. Wow, I’m impressed at your son’s willingness to explore, although admittedly, exposing my kids to pop culture was never really something I thought about. My son, who is now 19, pretty much sticks to action/macho type entertainment. NONE in my family appreciate humor the way I do, and often when I show them something funny online or relay something I find hilarious while laughing my ass off, all I get are polite smiles from them. (Usually blank expression from hubby.) However, we’re all in agreement on the Simpsons. That’s genius stuff right there. Brea, your husband and I are on the same page with the Naked Gun movies. I pretty much loved anything with Leslie Nielsen in it. Jayne, my daughter who is coming up on 14 is into Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. No–not my thing.

    • Yep, Shelly, usually my husband is the one going “…I don’t get it” or “That’s dumb” while my son and I are laughing hysterically at something. Although he’s also a big fan of Monty Python, so we’re unanimous on that count. Biggest lesson in parenting: just because the kid(s) came from your loins doesn’t mean they’ll feel the same was as you…about anything. 😛

    • I was really into Naked Gun when I was a pre-teen, because it had racy humor and double entrendres, and I felt like I was watching something naughty and getting away with it. Then I discovered British humor, and I fell in love. The dry, sarcastic wit is just like my dad’s. I’m not as into the physical stuff anymore. But I do have a soft place in my heart for Naked Gun.

  9. This is an awesome list! I love that your son loves WKRP – so awesome! Scrubs is a definitely a must. If I had kids, Sports Night would be on my list for them. Also, Office Space… but I think you have to be older and have worked in an office for that one. I remember seeing it in college and not really getting it until a few years later. Well, done – you!

    • Thanks—I was SO thrilled that he loved WKRP! He might be the only kid in seventh grade who’s heard of it, but I think he’s all the better for it. Heh—Office Space eventually for sure. I own a red stapler and I had to explain the connection. He’ll appreciate Milton soon.

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