Modern Family has always been one of my favorite shows. My daughter is sort of a cross between the characters of Haley and Alex (which is bizarre in ways I won’t mention here) and it is a show we watched together as a family.
I watched the show last night, without my daughter, and I was struck at a certain similarity: the theme of last nights episode was loosely about giving up. Spoiler alert- I will be talking about the plot line, so if you care about what happened, stop now. If you’re thinking OMG it’s a sit com, then read on….
The Alex character is on an expedition to the South Pole to do some research. She clearly hates the experience. But her Grandfather told her she should experience things when she’s young and doesn’t want to disappoint him. But when she thinks he’s OK with her throwing in the towel, she exits fast.
Haley has just had twins, and has been reading parenting books. Of course, all parenting books tell us that everything our parents did was wrong…(which, lets face it- a lot of it was…) She’s afraid she doesn’t have parental instinct. Her parents are trying to get to to give up her “new” parenting advice and go with their ways. She sort of waffles….and my guess is when next weeks episode comes around, the parenting books will be in the recycle pile…
Manny is in dogged pursuit of his ex girlfriend. His Mother sort of redirects his focus and attention away from his goal, and he ends up giving up on his dream of getting back together.
So, as sit coms often do, it made me think of life in general…
Maybe each of these situations presented a valid reason to give up.
Or maybe we give up, or don’t give up in order to avoid disappointing someone.
I was married before, and it was not a great marriage. But part of me stayed because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by getting divorced. Let’s put it this way- when a few years later my sister got divorced, the first thing my Mother said was “Now I have two divorced daughters…sigh…..” So the disappointment part was real.
In the hypothetical case I laid out yesterday, I never considered that maybe my person gave up cooking in college because it was something a parent forced them into in high school, and once freed of daily parental oversight, they chose a different path.
I had to think about the lessons I imparted to my daughter. My rule was if you joined something, you fulfilled the commitment. If you joined a team, you showed up at every practice and every game, on time and prepared. If the season ran from Septemeber 1 to November 30, you did everything possible to be a full on member of a team. But one time she joined girl scouts. Technically, scouting started in September, and her initial intention was to see it through middle school. Well, these leaders were just…just…just…. Nothing was really accomplished, ever. One out of four meetings actually had a point. When nothing got done, the two women would say “Well, you know we’re just volunteers…”
How many times can you hear the words “We’re only volunteers” before you lose it? If you take on a role, any role, you do it to the best of your ability. No excuses.
So my daughter quit.
Her experience with girl scouts taught her all sorts of things, but not the things that she thought she would learn. In her mind, she was going to learn camaraderie, team work, how to build a campfire, how to sew on a button (I still have my girl scout sash complete with lots of patches) Instead, she learned that even adults can make excuses as to why things don’t get done. She learned that if you take on a leadership position it is your responsibility to organize and figure out what the ultimate goal is. She also learned that sometimes you need to cut your losses when your not getting anything out of something.
I also tell my daughter that I am proud of her, and I say it often, whether she has won, or lost, or done nothing particularly special. I joked that yesterday was apparently National Daughters Day, but I sort of feel that every day is daughters day…
I guess we all need to model our behavior on when it’s ok to throw in the towel, and when you need to suck it up. And to not make our kids feel that they have to do things for us. The reason to quit or not quit should never be based on expectations of anyone other than yourself.