If you have started to read this, I assume you have seen “This Is Us.”
If you have seen “This Is Us,” I assume you have cried.
I relish a good television show, and I actually think “This Is Us” is not up there with really great TV. There are plot holes, incomplete character development, some storylines that are shallower than others, and maybe unnecessary.
But almost every time I settle into my couch, often with a glass of wine in hand for full escapism, and watch this show, I am a complete puddle by the end (I promise – only ONE glass). And I know I’m not alone, because there is an actual twitter handle, @thisisuscrying.
I also doubt I am alone as I realize I am relating most to Jack and Rebecca in flashbacks to their parenting journey (the major exception being I do not and will never have triplets). There is something about jumping between the stages of parenthood – from infancy to school-age to adolescence to adulthood – that taps into my greatest hopes and fears in my own parenthood. We do our best, but we are probably making mistakes we don’t even realize that affect our kids into adulthood. We make mistakes that we are fully aware are mistakes, but are so unsure how to do it differently, that they haunt us.
As a mother, I constantly wonder if what I’m saying or doing with each of my three children is being stored in their young brains as damaging or empowering. When I help my daughter with her homework, am I being too critical when my intention is to be encouraging, and she ends up in tears of frustration anyways? When I talk to my other daughter about how to not let her sister’s teasing bother her, is she experiencing me as dismissive and not compassionate? This parenting gig is a minefield of possible explosions – some we step on and figure out not to step there again; other mines may sit dormant for years because we never step on them at exactly the right angle for the actual explosion.
So that’s the fear part. Which can be all-consuming and near debilitating if we let our minds keep running with the infinite possibilities of failures, big and small.
What really keeps me watching, though, is the absolute awe of it all. Most of the time, this awe is hard to connect to in the daily grind of work, errands, school, chores, tantrums, homework, potlucks, gymnastics, birthday parties, and on and on.
When I sit for an hour to watch “This Is Us,” though, I have a moment to cry in awe of it all. The non-linear nature of the storytelling opens me up to feeling the bigness of those small, tender moments that I so wish I could tightly pack and store in my memory for perfect preservation: when my 3-year-old spontaneously swings his arms around my neck and says, “I love you so much!;” when my daughters write love notes to each other in their lunches with no prompting from me; when I snuggle against their small bodies warm from fever, because being close to Mommy is the best medicine; when I watch my husband have serious heart-to-hearts with his daughters about staying safe, knowing his children are also his world.
I feel the hopes, dreams, and innocence of the expectant parents morph into the reality of crying, needy, exhausting babies; and again into no longer overseeing every aspect of your school-age child’s life, as they develop their own inner world of experiences; and again into the pride and endless worry about teenagers who now also have their own outer world separate from us (I haven’t gotten there yet in real life – but the prospect is exhilarating and terrifying).
I feel the utter power of our little family unit – how much we each rely on each other for our own perfectly imperfect balance. And how delicate that balance may be if tragedy struck (show spoiler: tragedy strikes).
I feel it all. In one hour on my couch with glass of wine in hand. It feels big and deep and real, even though it’s just a TV show. And I kind of like the crying . . . and the reminder that through it all, I love being a mom, and the love I have for my children is even bigger than the awe of it.