The “Parenthood” Paradox

You know the acclaimed NBC show, Parenthood?

Yeah, the one that does such a wonderful job of portraying young Max, the boy with Aspergers?

Max Burkholder, who plays Max Braverman on "Parenthood"

Don’t watch it.

That’s not to say I never tried; I watched an episode since Max is being mainstreamed this year. There was a classroom scene where he keeps talking out of turn, tapping his pencil and pretty much all Mayor Bee behaviors. There was another scene where he’s eating lunch by himself.  And I had to switch it off. Partially because I was so tired (10PM on Tuesday nights are hard) and partially because the reminders of what Mayor Bee will most likely face just made it impossible to watch.

A few weeks ago, Mayita was sick with a virus so I stayed home with her. Flipping around the channels, I came across Mercury Rising. It’s supposed to be a government/FBI thriller with Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin. Instead, I’m bawling over the young autistic boy who is the one who cracked some super secret code in a puzzle book. Especially when the kid is kicking the crap out of Bruce Willis as he is trying to protect him from all the boogeymen (Mayor Bee also kicks when we are doing the “potato sack” to get him moving).

Even now, one of my favorite movies, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? is hard to watch, especially when Arnie finds that his mother has passed away and tries to harm himself. It is such a powerful scene and I have to hold back tears – like what if something happens to us? How will Mayor Bee react?

And while Rain Man is an excellent movie, not all people on the spectrum are savants. Some are just normal people, with a little twist to them.

In all seriousness, I applaud those that have brought autism to the small screen and sought to normalize them.  A producer on Parenthood has a child on the spectrum and it shows in Max’s character. It’s so real, the struggles that he and his family deal with in each episode. And other shows, like Big Bang Theory and Bones, have characters that while not “officially” diaganosed, possess traits that ring true for those on the spectrum.

But I don’t watch it. Because it’s all too familiar. Maybe too real.

When I turn on the TV, I want, for the most part, to be transported into a fantasy world. I need distraction and relaxation. Where, sad to say, autism is not welcomed. That’s why if you ask me what I like to watch, it’s mostly comedies. I want to relax, to smile, to laugh while watching TV. Hell, I will watch Mafia Wives just for the escapism factor.

I don’t want to be reminded of what I live in every.single.day. I spend my days learning more and more about autism, about B’s ECSE class and how to integrate into his aftercare, how I can structure his schedule to be as a painless as possible. When I put him to bed, I want to breathe a sigh of relief and shut my mind off for a little while.

Because, as we all know, the next day we are back at it again, whether it’s advocating, scheduling, meeting, or just living our lives.

Does anyone else feel like I do? Or do you embrace watching shows like Parenthood?

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About OneLoCoMommy

I live in Northern Virginia and and I look like the stereotypical suburban mom, for better or for worse. My son plays baseball and takes karate (albeit adaptive). My daughter is a gymnastics diva but rolls with the boys in T-ball. I've been a Room Mom and Playdate Coordinator. I work full-time, try to work out, and love my Book Club. However, I also blog on my experiences on our ASD, SPD and ADHD journey while trying to be a better parent advocate. All in a life's work.
This entry was posted in Autism, Autism Awareness, Life, PDD-NOS, Special Needs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The “Parenthood” Paradox

  1. Denise says:

    Honestly I love Parenthood. It is probably the only show that I can identify with that I love. Not sure how they hooked me but they did. However I had to stop watching things like SVU because of the children stories. That was too real and caused me too much anxiety. Everyone is different. I definitely prefer my escape entertainment. But Parenthood is my exception

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  2. And that’s why it’s so important to have shows like Parenthood whether people can identify with it or try to learn more about it.

    There are many SVUs that I have to steer from for the reason you state as well.

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  3. I am a fan of Bones & SVU but have never seen Parenthood. I can add a relevant response, considering I have three autistic children (19, 7, 6). When I choose to watch television, I prefer something to engage my brain in a different mode than homeschool and therapy and countless repetitions which otherwise fill my day. I want to learn something about anything except autism. Hence, I choose shows like Bones.

    On the days when I have the Midas touch (everything I touch turns to …….), I choose something so far removed from reality you could not send it a postcard. And then, I turn to a more innocent time with shows like I Love Lucy, The Carol Burnett Show, M*A*S*H and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

    I appreciate there are shows accurately portraying autistic people of all ages. If I had a dime for every person I have met who had no idea what autism is, I would produce my own comedy show.

    Stay strong,
    Red.

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  4. I don’t have a child on the spectrum, but I do have one with special needs. I think this is why this show really works for me–I don’t need to get hung up in the details of Max and whether his portrayal is accurate or not; I just focus on how my experience as a parent feels like it’s being portrayed spot on: the mom/caregiver dad/breadwinner roles, the fear and desperation of hosting a birthday party, the way other family members try to be helpful but don’t always get it. One scene in particular when Kristina blurts out her terror about who will take care of Max when he is older and Hattie says that she will, and watching Kristina react to that…it feels like they have climbed in my head. That said, Glee’s portrayal of a sister who lies in a nursing home bed with a quilted bed jacket on just because she has Down Syndrome…not so helpful! I think we need to take solace and insight where we can get it and let others do the same. And the SUV stuff–agreed! Why torture ourselves? But whatever works!

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    • I agree – I love that Parenthood does such a great job especially with the caregiver roles and many situations we all face.

      Back to your Glee comment (I don’t watch it but I know it’s popular), oh wow. That’s the one that also has a cheerleader on it with Down Syndrome, correct?

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  5. marleystop says:

    I’m in the middle… I began watching Parenthood on Netflix because of “Max”. My daughter, Marley, is 4 and we were contemplating Aspergers while waiting to get formal evaluations. My husband can’t stand to watch it, because like you and others brought up, he wants an escape when he watches TV. I, however, need camaraderie. Sad that I’m looking towards TV for that, so maybe camaraderie isn’t the right word… I’m with Marley all day… yes, I need a break… yes, Parenthood is sometimes hard to watch because it hits home or it offers a glimpse into our future… but I can’t help but feel like I’m not the only one when I watch it. We just got a formal dx (of Austim as opposed to Asperger’s), so now I’m working harder to reach out to other moms (which is how I found this blog!)… maybe before I felt like I couldn’t reach out until it was ‘diagnosed’…. but here I am– headfirst in the deep end. 🙂

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    • I can totally understand. We are drawn to characters/shows we either identify with or are interested in. And if a show like Parenthood helps one person either understand what someone else is going through or finding some semblance in their lives, I think it’s fantastic.

      Big hugs to you as you are waiting your diagnosis for your little girl. And thanks for checking out the blog! Hope you stick around! 🙂

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      • marleystop says:

        Thanks. 🙂
        We’re headed back to Baltimore on the 21st to meet a developmental ped. Hopefully she can help me with the ins & outs of all this and what I should do now that we have a dx on paper.
        btw: we’re about 30mins South of Richmond, Va! 🙂

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  6. Wow, you ARE down south in VA! 🙂 Once you get out of the bottleneck of 95 down past Kings Dominion it opens up and become such a pretty drive!

    Good luck and keep us posted!

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