Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Watching The Brady Bunch With My Kids


The world's most wholesome Zoom meeting

This week marks five months of quarantine and the most time I have ever spent with my children. It was been good to be with them so much, but at this point in the quarantine and summer my patience is completely shredded. I have so much work to do to prepare for school, and I can't work for more than ten minutes at a time without being interrupted. In past summers when this happened I would take a couple of hours and go to a coffee shop and bang out what I needed to do. Under covid, that's not an option. 

It's not just that I can't work on school stuff, reading for pleasure or doing my own writing is a constant exercise in stress and frustration. (Just now one of my daughters came to bother me about how long her pizza would take in the oven. And to ask what anchovies are. There are no anchovies on her pizza.) The only surefire way to get my children to leave me alone is to let them take their iPads to their rooms. (Between the last sentence and this one my kids got into a screaming fight with each other.) This strategy has a lot of problems, not least of which that my children will just watch YouTube videos that are essentially toy commercials, or play games that make them even more agitated. My wife and I eventually hid their iPads for a week and removed YouTube from our Roku.

The effect has been mostly positive. They no longer act like crazed junkies without their screens and have stopped constantly asking to look at toys online to buy with their allowance money. Desperate for distraction, we have also discovered that there's pretty much only one activity that soothes them and makes them less difficult: watching The Brady Bunch. One morning my wife put on the first episode for them, and they were completely hooked. It's a comforting nostalgia trip for me, since I used to watch The Brady Bunch every day in reruns after school when I was young. 

This is also why I was surprised that my kids like it so much. The 70s wood panelling and houndstooth pants in the Brady household looked old-fashioned to my eyes in the 80s, and the traditional family sit-com themes could not be more dated. My daughters love the overheated, self-consciously hip live action Disney TV shows full of obnoxious tweens and teens, which could not be further away from the earnest, unironic world of the Bradys. I expected my children to be even more put off by the show than I was as kid. I soon realized that while the show comforts me as nostalgia, it comforts my children in a different way. 

My daughters are more than aware of how the coronavirus has upended their lives. They know it's why they haven't been inside their school for five months. They know it's why we didn't have a vacation this year or see their grandparents in Nebraska. They know it's why we barely ever leave the house and haven't been able to do all kinds of things they love to do. They don't express a lot of outward emotional anguish about this, but I know it isn't easy on them, either.

One consistent theme on The Brady Bunch is that the children are always loved and cared for. There are problems, but they are always so small that they can be fixed. In a world that is so uncertain, that must be really comforting. As my wife told me, it's also a sign that my daughters have felt loved and protected in their own home during all of this. With everything going to hell around me and nothing being certain, that's pretty much the best I can hope for right now. I'll take it.

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