MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 19th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 23, The Wedding, Part I

The Teens Save the Day

The Framework
The wedding day gets off to a smooth start with Cam’s sunny greeting to Mitch: Good morning, my almost husband. But things get bumpier as the day goes on.

The first bump comes when Cam discovers that his perfectly tailored tux is not in the bag he’d picked up from the cleaners. The two almost husbands hurry to the cleaners (with Lily in tow) only to find the place closed. A call to 911 ends with this.
Cam (to dispatcher): Well, I guess we have different definitions of emergency. (And then to Mitch while looking at the cleaner’s express drop-off slot cut into the front of the building): There’s no way I can fit there.
But Lily comes through for her dads. After sighing, You two exhaust me, she climbs into the drop slot to retrieve Cam’s tux.

Over at the Dunphys, Claire tells Phil that they’re not going to the wedding without a very specific, turquoise, Italian glass bowl as a gift and asks him to pick it up after his eye exam. Alex is enlisted to do the driving because drops used during the exam will temporarily impair Phil’s vision. Later when buying the bowl and facing a long line at the checkout counter, Phil uses his impairment to his advantage.

Phil (grabbing a bamboo stick from a store display): I’m blind; follow me. Although
Alex insists, I’m not doing that, those waiting let Phil and his stick move to the front of the line.
Phil (to salesman while checking out the bowl and continuing his blind act): Yeah, that doesn’t feel like turquoise.
Salesman: You can feel color?! You gotta be kidding!!
Phil: When you lose one sense, all your other senses become heightened. That’s why you sound so loud and judgy to me.
Salesman: I don’t think [you’re] really blind.
Alex (coming to Phil’s rescue): Excuse me; my father suffered methanol poisoning on a humanitarian mission in Honduras, resulting in permanent neurological dysfunction and irreversible blindness … If he feels it’s not the bowl, it’s not the bowl.

Meanwhile, Claire picks up Luke from wilderness camp.
Claire: I feel bad you have to leave early. What are you missing today?
Luke: Boating.
Claire: Ohhh … I mean, we have a little time.
Luke: You don’t mind waiting in the car?!
The next thing you know, the two are in the middle of the lake in a motorboat going nowhere.
Luke (yanking on the pullchord): Not working.
Claire: And there’s no oar. We are literally up a creek without a paddle … We are never going to get [to the wedding] on time. And I’m the best person.
Minutes later, Luke, with a flash of insight, uses his fishing pole to snag a tree and reel the boat to shore.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
As much as we parents might like to maintain the relationships that seemed to work so well during the first twelve years of their lives, our teens insist that things be different. In the spirit of growing up and developing their own identity, our teens demand more say, more privacy, and less physical closeness. Their moodiness and heightened sensitivity can be particularly tough to deal with during early adolescence.

Case in point is this conversation between Claire and Luke as she picks him up from camp.
Claire: There’s my guy.
Luke: I thought Dad was picking me up.
Claire (looking hurt): Ohh, I missed you too. Come here. (trying to give him a hug) … I wanted to spend some time with you. You’ve been pushing me away so much lately … So did you have fun?
Luke: Yeah.
Claire: What was your favorite thing?
Luke: I don’t remember.
Claire: It was yesterday.
Luke: Hotdogs. Can we go now?

And there’s this from Phil and Alex just after Claire announces that she is picking Luke up from wilderness camp and that Alex can take Phil to his eye exam.
Phil: That’s a bummer.
Alex (hurt after overhearing): Ahh, Dad, I’m touched.
Phil: No, not because of you. I’d just rather pick-up Luke … than go to the eye doctor. I love spending time with you … Honey, don’t be like that. You’re super fun.

Andy (to Haley): I’ve been in this relationship off-and-on for eight years. So I kinda know what I’m doing.

As moms of teens, we can relate to this sentiment. We’ve been in a steady relationship with our teens for over twelve years. So it feels like we should know what we’re doing. But staying connected with our teens in a way that we (and they) welcome and value, is not as easy as the connections we had with them when they were younger.

Yet our connection with our teens is our most important asset as a parent. Because now that our kids have become teens, most of our parental power is in our influence. And our influence over our teens can be no stronger than our connection with them.

What’s a Mom to Do?
It helps if we remember that the diminished feeling of closeness is likely not rooted in a serious loss of love or respect between our teens and us. In fact, the distancing effect of adolescence is temporary and our relationships often become less strained during late adolescence.

In the meantime, needing your teen’s help can build connectedness. Tonight we saw Lily (acting like a six-year-old going on sixteen), Alex, and Luke all save the day by doing something that their parents could not have done as well.

Needing your teen’s help builds connectedness because interdependence is at the heart of parent-teen relationships. Your teen needs to be able to count on you, and you need to be able to count on your teen. Asking your teen for help with a task at which they are more talented or skilled than you are can foster this kind of interdependent connectedness.

My Parenting Experience
My daughter gave me first-hand proof of this when, one summer during her middle school years, I asked for her help with a task with which I’d been struggling for years: organizing the clothes in my closet in a way that would last. Using her artistry and logic she arranged everything in my closet by color like the crayons in a brand new box. She put all the tan items together, then whites, ivories, greens, blues, reds, and browns. Besides being an organizational scheme that helped me find my clothes, it was one that I could easily maintain.

I would not have come up with this idea on my own, and I was thrilled with the arrangement. My daughter delighted in knowing both these things. And, by needing her help, I was building an interdependent connectedness with her.

Your Parenting Experiences
When you have an interdependent connectedness with your teen, it makes everything on your parent to do list – things like making and enforcing rules, helping them learn from their mistakes, and coaxing them to reach their potential – a whole lot more doable and fun. Over the summer while your teen is on vacation and free from homework is a perfect time to need their help with some of your work. What task could your teen do with more talent or skill than you?

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