Tonight, the series finale of one of my favorite shows of all time — “Parenthood” — airs.
It’s a show that has touched my heart and proved that Americans still have an affinity for family values, morality and doing the right thing even when it’s hard.
You won’t see many shows or movies these days that tackle the realities of family life in the gritty, authentic way that “Parenthood” does. For the past six seasons, the Braverman family of “Parenthood” has faced a variety of hardships that require compromise, forgiveness and unconditional love.
The way the show has elevated family — and all the chaos that comes with it — is a refreshing rarity in today’s line up of superficial sitcoms and reality TV.
These days, you won’t see onscreen parents reconciling, despite vehement disagreements, because they respect one another enough for one of them to give up being right. You won’t see marriages being put back together — or fathers committing to the mother of the child they didn’t know they had for years.
You won’t see principled fathers handling their children’s issues with rationality and maturity in the face of chaos. You won’t see two parents working together to find a genuinely good solution for their disabled child — even when that solution isn’t perfect or ideal.
You won’t see a marriage on the edge of crumbling, saved on the brink, even though it’s hard, even though it hurts — because the spouses realize their children deserve better, their vows deserve more.
The story of married characters Joel and Julia has been one of the most heartwrenching over the last two seasons. Viewers watched as the two dealt with painful issues, as feelings changed and as bad decisions were made. Refreshingly, no character actually had an affair prior to their separation, but there was a lost of trust, bitterness and heartbreak. You can see clearly that those who suffered most were their two children, thrust into the middle of a painful separation.
In the end, Joel and Julia reconcile and decide to stay together. Their very real hurt and interaction is true to life and the struggles that married couples deal with everyday. Unlike in most TV shows and movies, they take the hard road and make their marriage a priority, honoring their vows.
In another storyline this season, 20-year-old Amber becomes pregnant unexpectedly. She chooses to have her baby–despite an absent ex-boyfriend. In the last episode, Amber, 9 months pregnant, tells her mom she’s scared. “What if,” she asks, “having this baby was a mistake?”
Her mom, Sarah, who raised Amber and her brother on her own, responds, “When you hold the baby…something happens and I can almost guarantee you, you won’t feel like it’s a mistake then.”
On “Parenthood,” they’ve dealt with breast cancer, teenage pregnancy, Asperger’s Syndrome, home schooling, drug problems, bad relationships, struggling marriages at every stage, absent fathers, sibling rivalry, problem parents at school, the temptation of infidelity, in-laws, adoption, infertility, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, step-kids, bullying and more.
The show didn’t depict soap-opera drama. Instead, it showed real life — portrayed through the lens of imperfect, good people trying to do the right thing. Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do, too?
Sometimes they failed. Sometimes they overcame. But it was never nicely packaged or showcased in a way that felt superficial. It felt like you could go through this kind of thing and maybe, you too could do what was right in the end.
Never did we see an action without a consequence or feel undervalued for our investment in this family. What the series did show was that even when things are hard, even when a family member hurts you, even when it doesn’t turn out the way you think it should — you stand by your principles, you choose to forgive, you be the best you can be despite it all.
You remember, in the end, that this one family you have is the one you get — and they are worth forgiving even though they’re the ones that can hurt you most.
I started watching “Parenthood” at the suggestion of my grandma, a strong Christian woman who wasn’t much into TV drama. She liked to watch reruns of “Little House on the Prairie” and listen to Kenneth Copeland sermons on TV. My grandma died in October and I’m sorry we didn’t get to talk anymore about our favorite show, that she missed the ending of a family she too had come to love.
But when I watch the “Parenthood” finale tonight, I will think of her and how she’s showed me that family is the most precious thing, that marriages are worth fighting for, that every person is fighting a hard battle (we must remember!) and that someday, parenthood will be the best thing that ever happens to me.