My family and I stumbled on what appeared to be a marathon of The Cosby Show on satellite last night — a show which I watched for many years growing up but which my children had seen none of until then.
As we watched episode after episode, something hit me. I noticed how many of my own parenting quirks and attitudes were — I believe — influenced by that program.
From the outset of my journey in “Parentland” I had recognized that my style and approach was very different from that of my own parents. While I love my parents deeply, I approached parenting differently than they did. Part of that difference — the fundamental part — was that I was actively trying to parent according to the guidelines of Scripture. My parents did not have the biblical education I did, and I was striving (and am still striving) to take advantage of the blessed knowledge that has been imparted to me to make my role as Father a blessing to my children.
But we don’t simply work with a foundation — we build on it. And in the building, our personal styles become noticeable: the choice of molding between the ceiling and wall, the kick panel we place on the bottom of the front door, etc.
Watching those shows last night, I realized that Bill Cosby’s Cliff Huxtable was unconsciously a model for me in several ways. Not that I agree with everything Cliff would do, nor that I am a Huxtable clone. But the influence is there.
Two thoughts come to mind related to that observation: One is that The Cosby Show — at least in its earliest years (I did not watch the last few years as, like the Huxtable kids, themselves, I grew up and found other things to do) — was a wonderful specimen of a breed too rare in entertainment. It gave us a family in which the kids and parents loved each other, the parents were absolutely in charge, and the father was actually competent and worthy of respect. If I was going to be unconsciously influenced by a show, at least it was one of the better ones.
The other thought, assuming my observations is accurate, is that without my knowing it, a television program I watched as a teenager — 14, 15, 16 years old — had made an impact on the manner in which I would rear my own children, noticeable to me even more than two decades later. Note: It is NOT that I actively thought, “Hey, that’s the sort of dad I want to be.” No, the example just slipped in there and influenced me — not against my will, necessarily, but without the active engagement of my will and my power of choice.
I have argued before in messages in various congregations that our minds are designed to take in data. And that fiction or not, television gives us data that our minds will act on, whether we know it or not and whether the “data” is fictional or not. The reality our minds accept becomes the reality crafted by the script writers. A sobering thought, methinks.
I have more thoughts on the matter, but it’s best that I get to them another time. Until then, thanks Mr. Cosby — and thank you, too, Mr. Huxtable.