It's not the über-stylish wardrobes and blemish-free faces. It's not the vanilla witticisms that come out of their mouths, each sentence punctuated by laugh tracks. It's the environment in which they live. The kids' rooms. The family car. The family meals.
Not one shred of it resembles real life — or at least not real life in my house. My house is not even remotely aspirational. For example, this is the threshold of my 14-year-old's closet. Shoes. I think they're waiting for an engraved invitation to enter. I wanted you to keep your lunch in your stomach, so I cleaned up the empty water bottles, wrappers and empty freezer meals strewn around the shoes like burnt offerings.
These are the remnants of the same meals I carefully spent all day cooking, portioning and labeling on Sunday, feeling smugly like Donna Reed for a half-second. Sometimes, I dream I see a beaming face before me, a voice chirping, "Gee, thanks, Mom!" as he takes his dish to the sink. That was probably just the TV.
My son just started high school, where the first class begins at 7:05 — yes, that's a.m. The car line is hours long, so we have to get up and out the door by 6:15. More often than not, 6:14 is usually the time I finally scream him into wakefulness.
Put him on the bright yellow school bus of TV shows immemorial, you say? It doesn’t look yellow at 6:16 a.m., so we might have missed it. The result is I cook him breakfast, and he eats it in the car as I run red lights to get to school on time. By the time I get home from work at 6:30 p.m., I have long forgotten the dirty breakfast bowls on the back seat floor — sometimes for days. The brown stuff is steak gravy, and the orange stuff is pumpkin pie — I think.
TV moms would never do that. TV teens would never eat steak and pie for breakfast, either. They would eat cereal from a generic box propped on the immaculate table in a sunlit kitchen, all freshly scrubbed family members gathered cheerily 'round. We do nothing of the kind.
Every so often, I tend to lose it like Mommie Dearest and yell, "Cook your own food!" And he does. Sometimes I recognize it. This wasn't one of those times.
I hate teenage TV shows because their stories have a beginning, a middle and a tightly-knit end. Our life, on the other hand, just can’t be broken down into half-hour chunks. Forgotten homework kills that one nicely. And our laugh tracks? They are him, laughing haughtily at me for stuff like this.
We will never be a TV family, unless it’s a late-breaking story.
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