Creative Parenting: In Praise of the Cautionary Tale

TV Show Collage

Hi everyone! As most of you probably know by now, I am the proud mother to an amazing 15 year old daughter. Fifteen years has passed in the blink of an eye, and while each stage from infant to the teen years (which we are in the midst of now) has had a few challenges, I can honestly say that being Maggie’s mom has been and continues to be the most joyful experience of my life. That being said, raising a teenager is not an exact science, by any means, so offering advice on navigating these years is no easy task.

I personally believe that there are no books of experts that can take the place of actually teaching one’s child by example. For my daughter Maggie and I, the best (and most entertaining “teachable” moments) have occurred when we are sharing my favorite television shows and movies from the 80’s and 90’s. I know what you’re thinking: Really Stephanie? That’s your great parenting advice? And the answer is “yes.” Before, you stop reading hear me out. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of sharing books and watching old movies with my mom. Movies like “Splendor in the Grass” and “A Summer Place” with my mom opened up all sorts of discussions about first love and heartbreak, topics that are not always easily discussed. From the time Maggie was born, I looked forward to being able to share some of my favorite movies and shows with her. I anticipated mother/daughter bonding at its finest as we debated over whether Kelly should choose Dylan or Brandon, or in reality, would Andi still like Blaine after he backed out of prom? Happily, not only does she love these stories and characters as much as I do, but many of the plotlines have served to open her eyes to some of the repercussions that can result from making poor choices in love and life. Watching Brenda face a teen pregnancy scare, or Kelly become addicted to drugs after years of struggling with her mother’s addiction, have become what we call in our house “cautionary tales,” i.e. stories that show the consequences of poor or rash decision making. Furthermore, watching Samantha finally get the birthday she deserves in “Sixteen Candles” or Lorelai and Rory sharing the ups and downs of love on “The Gilmore Girls” has offered the Schneider girls comfort on some of our lowest days. Like ice-cream without the calories, watching our favorite characters’ triumphs and missteps has allowed us to open up, laugh, celebrate or even learn from our own mistakes.

Please understand, I am not advocating parenting via pop culture. I am merely suggesting that some lessons are more effective as part of a shared experience rather than a one-sided lecture. As Ferris Bueller says “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” As parents, we have to remember to stop, look, and listen along with our kids. We have such a short amount of time before they go out into the world as adults.
So pick a movie, pop some popcorn, and share some memories. You might be surprised at what comes out of it.

Until next time,


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    A New Orleans girl turned Georgia peach and stay at home mom to 2 daughters. Before taking the leap into full time mothering, I worked at at an Atlanta-based advertising agency. I have lived in Smyrna for almost 10 years and am still not sure how I managed to find a job more chaotic and unpredictable than advertising.