Written on May 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm , by Paula Chin
I spent the past couple months binge-watching Friday Night Lights—all 76 episodes of it. I’d heard how great it was, but c’mon—high testosterone teens playing football in Texas? Not my thing. But one cold winter night I called up the pilot on Netflix. I was smitten—with gruff, beleaguered coach Eric Taylor, his plucky, resilient wife Tami, the high school hijinks, the tragic accident at the big game. Never has small town life–in all its ordinariness and glory–been so wonderfully captured. FNL is about so many things—the bittersweetness of growing up, dreams fulfilled and shattered, the blessings and burdens of our loved ones, issues like class and race. It’s warm, funny, heartbreaking, exhilirating. Just like real life.
I felt only slightly guilty indulging myself night after night while my 12-year-old, Nat, slouched over her homework. Not that my addiction escaped her. One evening she asked what I was watching and why I loved it so much. Then, when I had finished the incredible 5th season finale (Kleenex pls!) she asked if I would rewatch it with her. We’re now finishing up the first magnificent season, and it’s been an amazing bonding experience. Not surprisingly, Nat’s big into the Taylor family drama. Mr. and Mrs. Coach bicker and fight, but their marriage is as solid as it gets. Daughter Julie is a smart, petulant 15-year-old in the throes of first love. No doubt Nat is watching Julie looking for clues and cues to her own future—and enviously eyeing Julie’s locker at Dillon High (Nat’s school doesn’t have them). Like me, she’s even grown to like football…well, kinda.
What shows have you and your tween bonded over? Do you have a huge crush on Coach, like me?
Written on September 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm , by Paula Chin
I grew up in L.A., thoroughly Chinese-American—Chinese food, parents and relatives who spoke Cantonese, Chinese-American Christian churches. So it was a big shock when my mom told me and my older brothers that she was half-Mexican. I was 13 years old, and it had never occurred to us that she was anything but 100% Asian. True, she has olive skin, a strong brow and cheekbones, and deep set, double lidded eyes. She looked different than my aunts and other relatives, but we never noticed. We simply saw her as more beautiful, more exotic.
There was more to mom’s story. She had been abandoned as an infant and adopted by a Chinese couple (the orphanage was right near the house they used in Six Feet Under). Her brother and two sisters were adopted as well.
I don’t remember what prompted her to finally tell us, but I do remember my reaction. First, confusion. “So Uncle Bob isn’t a blood relative? Grandma and Grandpa too?” Then outrage. “How could you not tell us all this time? Didn’t you trust us?” I came to understand why Mom kept it secret—a mixture of shame, a sense of protectiveness toward the only mom and dad she ever new—but it wasn’t necessarily the best strategy. As Elizabeth Foy Larsen points out in her piece in the October issue of Family Circle:
At first thought, it can seem sensible to keep your own counsel. You have a right to privacy, and there certainly are things your kids really don’t need to know. But the truth has a way of revealing itself, and when that occurs in an unplanned way—a relative blurts it out, a conversation is overheard—there can be lasting damage. A child who stumbles onto a parent’s lie is very likely to feel betrayed, or at least more skeptical about everything he’s told from there on, according to a University of San Diego study. “There are some kids who will feel deeply hurt for a long time,” says Gail Heyman, Ph.D., who conducted the research. “They’ll think, ‘If she lied about that, what else isn’t she telling me?’”
My hurt and anger quickly faded, and I’ve completely forgiven mom for her, well, let’s call it a sin of omission. And sure enough, once we knew the facts Mom could tell us all sorts of stories she had kept quiet about, which drew us closer.
Still, I’m doing things differently with my 11 year old. Full disclosure here–once I knew about Mom, I became determined to adopt a child of my own; my daughter is from China. Anyway, she pretty much gets the complete lowdown (age appropriate, of course) on what’s going on, past and present, in my life. And when she hits those crazy teen years, I plan on being honest about my own, missteps and all. I just have to make sure I don’t commit the sin of TMI.
What about you? Tell us your stance on coming clean with family secrets in the comments below. And read more about sharing family secrets here.
Paula Chin is a senior editor at Family Circle.
Written on March 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm , by Rosalind Wiseman
Has your child ever told you that they hate another kid in your extended family? Or a friend’s child because they’re mean and you’ve responded by saying, “But he’s really a good kid, he’s from such a nice family,”? Or “You know he has had some problems. You just need to treat him they way you want to be treated.”
I recently watched this happen between an 8th grade boy and his usually very astute mother. The boy was unhappy with his first cousin–the oldest child of this woman’s sister. As she responded to her son, he glanced in my direction with an unmistakable expression of ”I-love-my-mom-but-can-you-believe-she-so-doesn’t-understand?”
I don’t know this mother very well but it was pretty easy to see where her comments were coming from. She clearly loves her sister, she’s worried about her nephew, and maybe there’s something else she knows about him that she can’t tell her son. The problem is, this mom stepped on what I call a “landmine.” Landmines are things we parents do and say, usually with the best intentions, that upset our kids and make them shut down. Like landmines in real life, you don’t realize they’re there until they’ve blown up in your face. And in this case, the mother was left with an upset child who felt like she brushed him off.
If your child ever comes to you with a similar problem, here’s how to avoid a landmine: Listen to your kid because his experience here is more important than yours. Yes, the other child may have some problems. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you don’t have to deal with this kid–your child does. Think about it from your son’s perspective. This is an important moment for both of you. He’s telling you something that he knows you don’t necessarily want to hear. You want him to feel comfortable talking to you when he’s having problems. He won’t if you shut him down.
If you do step on a landmine, you can always go back and make it better. During the conversation–or after, when you realize what happened–you can go back to him and say, “I’ve been thinking about what I just said to you and I realized that I wasn’t really listening to you. I’m really sorry about that. Let me try that again…”
Now please don’t expect your child to respond with something like, “Mom, thanks so much for saying that. I’m so lucky to have such a great mom.” Much more likely, you’re going to get a shrug and, “Don’t worry about it.” But that answer is kid code for, “Thanks I really appreciate you apologizing, I see that you’re a human being and you make mistakes and now I feel even more comfortable talk to you when I have a problem.”
Then you have to promise me something. When your child walks out of the room, take a moment to give yourself credit for handling a difficult situation well and building the foundation for your child knowing that you are a source of comfort and guidance in difficult moments.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it? Share in the comments below.
Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.