Creativity usually strikes me on the weekend, but it’s 8:00 pm on a Wednesday, and I’m feeling particularly inspired. I’ve been watching a new show, This is Us, which airs on NBC. It’s an inventive new drama with many story lines taking place simultaneously. The central theme of the story is family, more specifically growing up—how what happens to us when we’re younger carries over into adulthood.
As a parent, it’s a theme that scares me to death—this idea that so much of what my children will become is happening right now. Right under our roof. Right under our very noses. It gives me pause. What we’re doing now as parents will stay with our kids for a lifetime.
The Father figure in the story, played by Milo Ventimiglia, is a character named Jack. Jack is an amazing dad; full of patience, kindness, rolling with the punches, loving his kids unconditionally. He’s the kind of parent you’d want to emulate, but he hasn’t always been that way.
There’s a pivotal scene during which Jack must decide what kind of parent he’s going to be. It’s kind of like a “come-to-Jesus moment” for him. I wish I could have found a clip for it, but I’ll do my best to describe it:
Jack has been getting home later and later, spending more time at the bar than he does with his family. One evening after he gets home, his wife, Rebecca, played by Mandy Moore, has this conversation with him.
Sitting next to him on the couch she asks “Hey, how do you think we’re doing as parents?” Before he can answer, she responds, “I think we’re at a 6. On a sliding scale of 1 through 10, I think we’re at a 6, and I think I’m being generous.”
She continues, “I’m trying really hard to get us to a 9, because they are cute kids and they deserve 9 parents.” She pauses, “The thing is I feel like I’m there. I feel like I’m operating at a 9, because I do individualized lunches, and I do individualized tuck-ins so nobody feels jipped.”
Finally, she concludes, “But when you’re home and you’re you, you’re way better than I am. You’re a 10 . . . when you’re you, Jack.”
She confronts him about the drinking and gives him kind of an ultimatum about it concluding with, “Fix it, because I’m done letting you lower our score.”
Have you ever thought about it that way—that you’re in it together when it comes to parenting? You’re in it together. Divorced. Married. Separated. And here’s the deal, the stakes are high. Very high. High enough to scare the living daylights out of you, at least they should be.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the show. I know what I hope will happen—that Jack and Rebecca will make it through the rocky parts and parent together for as long as they have. They’re a couple I’m rooting for.
But I’m going to root for myself and my husband even more. I want our kids to look back with fond memories on their childhood. I want to be the kind of parents that they look up to, the kind that they want to emulate someday.
More importantly, I want to parent with the end in mind. I want to intentionally raise our kids to be the kind of people we want them to be: smart, capable, caring, responsible, resilient. You get the gist.
Who do you want your children to grow up to be? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Parenting is serious business, and it should be. After all, children grow up to be adults. It’s up to us to determine what kind of adults they’re going to be.