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.

33 thoughts on “Modern Parenting

  1. Spot on LA, although the scenario from yesterday, if based on real life, still doesn’t not strike me as a “trying to please a parent” issue, at least as you presented it.
    I can clearly site times in all three of my kids lives where they were clearly in situations that were attempts to please me, to carry on for me, to do what they thought I wanted or needed. It was eye-opening to come to the realization that I had set each one up somehow to feel they must not disappoint me in a given situation.
    I believe our level of communication and honesty has improved at this point, but I wonder what sort of baggage they carry or if in some way I still give them the impression that they must somehow be mindful of my expectations…

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    1. I know! It’s funny I didn’t think of it before, but I based so much of my life on parental expectations…it’s almost like the elephant in the room….how did I miss something so glaringly obvious? And yes, the situation I wrote about was based in a real incident, but I’m going to write tomorrow about his people viewed it differently. Sociology and psychology coming into play again….

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  2. I’ve tried to watch Modern Family. I like the characters and the plots, but the shaky filming thing is a turn off. [Why do they do that?] Clearly my expectations are for a steady camera, thus I gave up on watching the show. We each bring our own preferences wherever we go, but I think, like you said, it’s important to make sure your expectations are yours, not ones foisted on you by someone else– no matter how well-meaning that person is/was.

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  3. I could probably write a book about parental expectations, perceived obligations and pressures because that was pretty much the theme of my life until I finally said enough. I did a lot of things or stuck with a lot of things that made me miserable because of those expectations. The second I walked away from it, my life became so much lighter and happier and that spread to my kids and Hubby as well. Having my kids watch me to go through that and at an age where they could understand it all well, they have learned that they are not required to do anything just because it is something I think they should do. I may not like it or I may not agree with it, but if it is what is right for them, then they need to do it. They also know that, for the most part (and there will always be exceptions), I’ll get over it and it won’t change our relationship. They are still teenagers, so it is a concept that hasn’t quite settle in to the point of understanding it to their bones yet, but they are working through to that point.

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  4. Quitting, giving up, throwing in the towel all seem to have bad connotations, the trick is knowing your own mind, your own ambitions and to know that it all ultimately comes down to you. Yes, as a parent I tried to instill in my children if they wanted something badly enough then they had to work at it. If they changed their mind then that was on them, but if it was a team or group that you committed to then you saw out your commitment. You should be able to learn something from every experience even if you learn what not to do.

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  5. If you sign up for something, you should stick with it. That being said, sometimes it doesn’t fulfill your expectations and you should move on. This happened with an art course that gave me a splitting headache.

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  6. Yep. My hubby and I have parented the opposite of you. I allowed my daughter to quit swim team when she felt she no longer enjoyed it. I’ve never made my youngest daughter do anything she didn’t feel comfortable or passionate about past its term (for her). I guess I never thought about it, but it’s been for the reasons you state in the end, but I have wondered if I should’ve made them see some things through to the end.

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    1. I was trying to teach my daughter that if it’s a team, you let down others by quitting or not showing up. But I also tried to teach perseverance, because sometimes you don’t like something, but you have to finish it out. In school, you might not like a subject or a teacher, but you still have to do the work. I’m all about the life lesson. I also was big on taking a trial class before she signed up for something. She wanted to try the kwon do, took a sample class and absolutely hated it. She just didn’t sign up. It’s also a big “why” do you want to quit….the only time she eve4 wanted to quit was Girl Scouts, and 8 totally understood why

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    1. I was disappointed too. I understand that they’re running out if ideas,but I was most disappointed in the “adult” characters. Gloria, Phil, Claire and cam were all trying to make points, but using the wrong way to do it, and were acting more like children

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  7. I agree! We all get to decide when it is right to stick with something, and when it is time to simply cut our losses and quit. I think that many people do give up too easily (which in the end, means they miss out on the chance to see just how strong and resilient they really are), but on the other hand, the idea that quitting is always wrong can lead people to stay in intolerable situations.

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