If you are a parent of a tween who allows television-watching in your home, I am guessing that like me, you have watched more than your fair share of the zany antics of duos like “Sam and Cat” or “Drake and Josh.” You may even, like me, be able to recite some of their dialogue and to identify, just from a cursory glance at the screen, which bad choice the duo is making that will inevitably lead to 1) destruction in someone’s home 2) scaring of a young child or 3) some character ending up in a body cast.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate comedy, it’s that I can’t find much to laugh at in these shows. I noticed I was frequently having talks with my daughter about why we don’t behave like the characters on those shows. I don’t mind her watching an hour of TV in the evenings when homework is done, piano’s been practiced, and she’s read her fair share of books. We really like TV-watching in my home, but face the problem that though there are so many exciting, well-written shows for the adult set on today, there’s a dearth of shows that are appropriate and engaging for a 10-year-old.
I thought back to what I was watching when I was her age and realized that she was the perfect age for “Little House On The Prairie.” When I was 10, I became obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. My best friend and I devoured together the series of her biographical books about Laura’s childhood in the late 1800s. We watched the TV adaptation with our families on big box TVs in our living rooms and would speak about the books and show for hours on phones that were plugged into our kitchen walls.
I know my childhood sounds like it took place in the Stone Age to my daughter — but for all we lacked in technology, we had some really good TV. My husband found “Little House” on Amazon and my daughter said she was game to try it.
Guess what? She loves it as much as I did. And I love watching it with her and getting to listen to her thoughtful observations on the characters’ relationships, the way that they face the challenges in their lives, and the way they work together as a family and community. Each episode, whether more of a funny one based on Laura and Nellie’s rivalry or a more serious one dealing with illness or financial insecurity, allows us to talk and reflect on our own vulnerabilities and fears. There was the occasional Jew on the prairie, too. In one episode Albert, Laura’s adopted little brother, learns carpentry from an elderly Jew who dies and in his honor Albert plants an acorn, hoping it will grow into a tree.
My daughter steps right into history the way that I did at her age and talks about Laura and her family like people she can relate to easily. It’s been interesting to notice which episodes are on the edge of being too emotionally intense for her. I watched “Remember Me” featuring Patricia Neal as a widow with three children who is dying with my heart breaking, while my daughter handled that one with equanimity. But later, she totally lost it watching an episode about Laura’s pet raccoon getting rabies.
I look forward to our “Little House” time and am not only reliving something special from my childhood with my daughter, but am appreciating the emotional depth of the series with a fresh perspective as an adult.
What a gift to watch poignant, funny, thought-provoking television that speaks to both my daughter and me where we are in the experience of our lives. This is TV worth sharing — and we’ll be first in line when the new “Little House” movie comes out.