MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on July 22nd, 2013, 1 Comment

Season 4, Episode 4, The Butler’s Escape

Phil Hopes to Live Out an Unfulfilled Ambition Through Luke

The Framework
We all have expectations. And it’s simply human nature to project these thoughts and desires on others – especially those that are close to us. This episode gives us a glimpse at what happens when our expectations don’t match reality.

Jay is losing sleep over his new reality now that Gloria is, as he put it, at the place in her pregnancy where she’s, you know, ample. Meanwhile Cam is conjuring up expectations for his first day of teaching that set him up for deep disappointment. But I focused on Phil who is focused on Luke in hopes that his son will live out one of his own unfulfilled ambitions.
Phil (to camera with Luke at his side): Like his old man, Luke is a magician.
Luke: I’m taking lessons from some guy my dad found online.

Luke smiles as he says his line. He seems totally onboard with the plan. But then there’s this exchange.
Luke: Mom, something’s on my mind, and it’s really bothering me. … I want to quit magic. … I’m not really interested any more. But I don’t think Dad’s going to be happy.
Claire: Oh, sweetheart, don’t worry about disappointing your father. He only wants you to do it if you want to do it. Tell you what – I will talk to your dad.

As it turns out, though, Luke has Phil pegged better than Claire does.
Claire: Luke wants to quite magic.
Phil: That’s not happening. … The kid is a natural. … He has everything: the hands, the patter, the outfits.
Claire: Okay. Let’s play this out. Even if he is one in a million, what’s our best-case scenario? He becomes what? A professional magician?
Phil (in unison with Claire): A professional magician! And then continuing, Honey, the boy has a gift! Do you want to just throw that away?

Luke overhears his parents’ conversation. And in the spirit of developing his own identity and growing up, he knows that he cannot and should not let his father control his life this way.
Luke: Don’t I get a say in any of this? I’m sorry I don’t like magic as much as you, but I don’t.
Phil: This isn’t about magic.
Luke: No. It’s about my life – and you controlling it.

With that the tug-of-war for control is on. And Phil is not going to give up easily.
Phil: If you really want to, you can quit magic. You just have to do one thing first: execute the Butler’s Escape.
The next thing you know, Luke has chains wrapped around his torso while a rope suspends him upside-down from his bedroom doorframe.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Phil acted out what the rest of us might just play out in our heads. Like Phil, almost all of us deep down have dreams we’d like our children to fulfill. We take joy in seeing our children succeed. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting our children to be all that they can be. But it’s important to separate our hopes for them from their potential and their desires. Because in truth, they may not have the interest (like Luke) or the ability to be what we dream they will become.

When our teens strive for the goals we have for them, their achievements will almost always feel hollow and meaningless to them. And just as importantly, they may remain unaware of their individual attributes and their own dreams and aspirations.

The BottomLine
As Phil pulls the rope to the Butler’s Escape taut, he reminds Luke (and himself) just why he’s doing this: I think you’re quitting because magic is getting hard. … I’m not raising a quitter. Trust me. I know what’s best for you.

It turns out Phil isn’t the only parent with a dream they want their children to fulfill. A study published in June confirms what has been theorized for decades: Parents (89% of those surveyed were moms) really do want to live out unfilled ambitions through their children. The researchers also found that parents are more likely to hope their kids will fulfill their unrealized dreams when they see their kids as an extension of themselves. (You can read more about this study here.)

We moms want only the best for our teens, and, like Phil, we often believe we know what that is. Yet, at some level, almost all of us know that if our kids are to thrive, they must form goals of their own and focus on fulfilling their own dreams rather than deferring to ours. This is further complicated by the fact that we don’t always realize how different our expectations may be from those of our teens. And when we hold different expectations than our teens have for themselves, it can lead to trouble – particularly when the differences are not discussed openly.

What’s a Mom to Do?
Here are a few questions that might help you prepare for a discussion about expectations with your teen:
– What do you think your teen is better at than most kids her/his age? What do you think she/he is more interested in than other kids? How do you think your teen would answer these questions?
– What do you see your teen doing 10 or 15 years from now? What do you think your teen thinks you expect?
– What do you think your teen sees herself/himself doing 10 or 15 years from now?
– Who do you think has the higher expectations – you or your teen? What are some potential areas of disagreement? How might those be resolved?

As you consider these questions, it’s important to remember that our teens’ ability to differentiate themselves from others (especially us) is a crucial part of their developmental work. To do this, they must learn to follow their own interests and to value their own attributes. We can support this process best by being attuned to and accepting of who they really are – so that we can support them as they develop their own strengths and interests.



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MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on July 1st, 2013, 0 Comments

With One Snip Claire Makes Alex’s Friend Disappear

Season 4, Episode 3

If you’ve got a teen, you know that parenting comes in phases. This episode dealt with some of those phases as well as the choices and the fears that accompany them.

Claire and Phil have a plan: In five years all kids will be out of the house. And Phil is going to get the snip to ensure the plan’s success. Cam is at loose ends now that Lily is in kindergarten. As proof, for the last eight weeks he’s been hand-stitching a mermaid costume for their new pet cat. Meanwhile, Gloria, who is in her sixth month of pregnancy, finds that her regular clothes “can’t take it anymore,” and Jay starts to worry about the bigger changes that having a baby will bring.

The storyline that caught and held my attention, though, was the one involving Claire’s fears about Skylar – a gothy girl that Alex has been hanging out with lately. It began with a conversation about Alex’s new look – a conversation that took place in the early morning in the Dunphy kitchen with Haley participating via laptop from her college dorm room.

Haley: Oh my God [Alex}! What is that outfit?! Are you going goth?! You still sleep with a stuffed panda.
Claire: What is this [Alex]? Is this because of your new friend Skylar? … I don’t like this Skylar! You don’t need to change who you are to fit in with the cool kids!

Claire sees Skylar as nothing but bad news. Have you ever looked at one (or more) or your teen’s friends and felt the same way?


Without batting an eye, Claire lets Alex know what she thinks about Skylar. Do you think that was a smart move on Claire’s part?


Later that afternoon Claire comes home unexpectedly and is surprised to hear the buzz of electric clippers coming from Alex’s bedroom. Claire walks in to find Alex and Skylar about to nape shave.

Alex: Okay. Wait. Wait. I’m not sure about this.
Skylar: Don’t be a baby. It’s going to look cool. Just hold still.
Claire (walking in on the girls): Ohhhhh!
Alex: Mom, what are you doing here?!
Claire: Why aren’t you at school?
Skylar: Mrs. Dunphy, we…
Claire: Oh, no. You don’t get to talk, Morticia.
Alex: Okay, we cut last period. Big deal. Because we’re shaving the backs of our necks – which is totally a style. But, of course, now you’re going to freak out – like you always do about every little thing!
Claire (grabbing the clippers): Let’s do it.
Skylar: Like what?
Claire: Yeah. Yeah. Let’s shave off some heads! Come on, who’s first?
Alex: Uhhh, Okay. Okay. Mom! We don’t need you to do that.
Claire: Are you afraid?
Alex: I’m not afraid!
Claire: Then let’s do this. It’s shaving time. Shavey gravy. Shave by the bell.
Alex: Why are you talking like Dad?
Claire (wildly waving clippers around): Hair up, girls! Let’s see some napes!! Come on! (And then catching a large chunk of Skylar’s hair in the clippers) Oh, God! No!
Alex: Oh my God! Oh my God!
Claire: What did you do?
Skylar (before stomping out): What did you do?! I have my sister’s wedding on Saturday!
Alex: Skylar, wait!
Skylar: Stay away from me! Both of you!!
Alex (to Claire): Uhhh! You ruined my life!! … Skylar!

Claire walked through the bedroom door and immediately lost control of her emotions. And she was so focused on taking control of the clippers that she completely overlooked the fact that Alex had skipped school. What do you think you would have done if you were in Claire’s shoes?


And then there’s this final back and forth between Alex and Haley:

Haley: Mom shaved Skylar’s head?! That’s hilarious!
Alex: It’s not going to be so fun the next time she bothers to show up for school.
Haley: What do you care? You know you don’t even like her.
Alex: I don’t. Skylar is awful. Mom actually did me a huge favor.

It’s a happy ending. But is it believable? Do you think your teen would have made such a quick and positive turnabout?

Next week we’ll take a look at the poll results and talk about what to do if our real-life teens start hanging out with friends we don’t like.

See you next Monday!



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