fridaynitFriday Night Lights is a very special show. I ask both teens and parents to watch it. This show addresses the complexity of both adult and adolescent points of view and gets it right. The writers are psychologically astute and it’s well acted. A couple of weeks ago the coach’s wife was excited about buying a house in foreclosure. The coach shut her down. She asked him to go back to the house to be more respectful of her and he did. Then she agreed they really couldn’t afford it. These two have more honest encounters than any couple on t.v. and their relationship is rich because of that.

This show is a breath of fresh air. Episode #310 (this is the third season) “The Giving Tree” was swimming in honest encounters. Landry is a smart kid who plays in a garage band. The two other band members are clear with Landry that he lets his ex-girlfriend Tyra use him. He listens and then tells Tyra “You take advantage of me and I let you…..this is not a friendship. You’re selfish.” Tyra asks her friend if it’s true and Julie says yes. There is great depth to the relationships because people risk honesty with each other. Lila’s Dad, Buddy lost her college money and she tells him “You do whatever you want and then you wonder why everyone hates you.” Her Dad recognizes she’s right and calls her to apologize. I believe it’s a very important moment when a parent can admit they’ve made a mistake and know there’s a hard truth to face. Kids smell hypocrisy. Kids can offer us insight too. I’ve worked with many families where the mother discovered her daughter had sex and it was handled badly. It’s also a terrible thing that children are having sex at 13 & 14. Waiting to have sex is a good idea, no question about it. However things don’t always work out the way we want. The coach’s wife (former guidance counselor & now principal) does a great job with her 17 yr. old daughter. Mom asks if she loves Matt, used birth control and what kind. When Mom cries Julie asks why and Mom says “I wanted you to wait.” Julie cries about feeling she’s disappointed her Mom. It’s a very respectful encounter.

In counterpoint to that is the relationship between the new star quarterback J.D. and his micromanaging Dad. Dad tells J.D. to take a break from his new girlfriend until after the playoffs and he does. A peer makes the observation to J.D. “How can you expect the guys on the team to get behind you if you don’t make decisions on your own?” There are too many hovering helicopter parents who would do well to watch J.D. and his Father. It’s clear Dad is consumed with his own ideas and completely oblivious to embarrassing his son. His son needs to grow up by having the opportunity to make his own mistakes. Overprotection stunts growth and creates kids who expect life to go their way. Small ordinary moments of truth between people create growth and change. This is what intimacy, depth and character build on. This is what we’re losing out on with avoiding and deflecting by texting. Superficial exchanges only support the beginnings of relationships. Our culture seems more clueless than ever about the middles of relationships or endings with grace because honest encounters elude us. I am constantly battling adolescent resistance to bringing in a parent to share more truth. Parents are always convinced they’re in trouble when asked to come in. You don’t and won’t know who your kids are if you escape from honest encounters. I don’t know how previous generations were content to not know and in fact didn’t want to know. Isn’t truly knowing who they are worth the struggle of it? Isn’t that what relationship means when they matter the most?

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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