As much as you would like to think that you’ll be the perfect mom or the flawless dad, you really don’t know how things are going to turn out until you actually become a parent yourself. Suddenly, all of those perfect ideals get thrown out of the window and you resort to doing whatever works. It’s true. Despite what the 90s sitcom may have led you to believe, no family is perfect and conflicts don’t resolve themselves in 22 minutes (plus commercial breaks).
Shortly before I became a father myself, I looked to the brotherhood of TV dads for inspiration and guidance. Phil Dunphy taught me that it’s okay to be a total dork around your friends, because you’re just going to be the dorky dad. But if you really want to look into the age of the prototypical family on television, you need to look to the 90s sitcom.
For the purposes of this brief list, I’m sticking to TV shows where the family unit was the core of both the situations and the comedy that made up the “sitcom.” That’s why I’m not including Seinfeld, despite the “breathtaking” baby. That’s also why I’m not including Friends, even if Chandler’s dad was a drag queen. I’m also leaving Saved by the Bell off the list, as the show had more to do with the interactions at school than the interactions with parents.
Looking over your own parenting style, in which 90s sitcom do you see it best reflected?
Full House: Grotesquely sweet and endearing, treating every problem with a “love first” philosophy. Where the worst possible punishment for a kid is looking at the wall. Even if it’s no fun.
Family Matters: Did I do that? Where the action of the family gets mostly guided by the neglected child next door. Also, where the front door is never locked?
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The children fear your wrath even though you would never actually raise your hand to them. Where, despite appearances, the compassionate authoritarian loves his nephew as if he were his own son.
The Simpsons: The dim-witted dad with a short temper. Where you’re willing to endure the infernal racket of a saxophone, but quick to wrap your hands around the neck of the misbehaving boy. Why you little! D’oh!
Step By Step: The modern happy blended family where sibling rivalry extends to the step-brothers and step-sisters. Where the distinctions in gender play heavily into household politics.
Home Improvement: The macho-minded dad hellbent on more power and grunting to solidify his masculinity. Where you end up asking the childless neighbor for parenting advice.
Married with Children: The house is a dump, a fat woman walks into the shoe store, and you cling to high school glory days of scoring four touchdowns in a single game. The kids fend for themselves and are just as dysfunctional as you. Damn it, Peg.
3rd Rock from the Sun: Your youngest child is actually the oldest and wisest member of the family. Where many a night is spent on the roof, gazing up at the stars and trying to figure out this crazy, messed up world.
Dinosaurs: Not the mama! Not the mama! Not the mama!
Is there a quintessential 90s sitcom that I missed? Or perhaps another show altogether that better depicts the way that you raise your kids?