The day is long and filled with have-tos, want-tos and less time together than we’ve spent since before my daughter was a wee, raspberry-sized embryo in my uterus. It seems like every moment she grows bigger, she also grows apart from us. Despite our struggles about wardrobe, food choices, homework and chores, we love the time we spend with our teenage daughter and are saddened by the way it will one day dwindle to phone calls and holiday visits.
For now, there’s the time before bed, where, finished with the day’s to-dos, little brother tucked safely in bed, our teenage daughter joins us on the couch for Netflix hour. Our binge-watching time is a judgment-free zone where we connect, eat dessert, chat about the shows and occasionally, when she lets us, snuggle.
A big watercooler and carpool-line topic that comes up often among parents is “what do your kids watch?” I usually keep quiet, as it’s a pretty subjective topic. For example, my daughter likes The Amazing Race but hates reality TV shows. She likes fun, smart comedies but hates shows about relationships. Thank goodness she’s beyond the Disney and Nickelodeon tween show days, which are all about dating, families being nasty to each other, or trite, overacted plot lines. I’m sorry if I offend you with that assessment, but I’m assuming if you’re old enough to read this, you agree with me.
Here’s our queue, the shows that we all enjoy—teenage girl included:
1. Doctor Who
I’m an avid sci-fi fan with a deep and abiding love for all things Douglas Adams and Steven Moffat. While my daughter didn’t get far with Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (there’s still time) and I wouldn’t introduce her to my favorite Brit-com, Coupling, written by Moffat, quite yet, we got her hooked on the show they were each the head writer for at one point in the long-running series. She loves the weird wackiness, the fun, snappy dialogue, the clever literary references, and the metaphysical issues of the space-time continuum. It didn’t hurt that her first Doctor was the adorable David Tennant and that there’s very little, if any, kissing. Score one for the nerdy mom.
2. Gilmore Girls
A show about an ingenious, fast-talking small-town mother-daughter duo with a great relationship was an easy win for us. I swear that our parent-child dialogues have gotten more streamlined and funnier since we started watching the show. We’re only on season two, but so far none of us can imagine getting tired of the town where at heart, everyone is a kind, good person, even the troublemakers, and nothing too bad seems to happen, but there’s still enough character-driven tension to keep the show moving along.
3. 30 Rock
Another inventive show with a strong female lead, 30 Rock has a great cast of actors, smart plotlines and fun characters. It’s a great half-hour escape, especially when viewed after a particularly creepy Doctor Who episode!
4. How I Met Your Mother
I was surprised that our daughter took to this show so quickly, since it was about twentysomething professionals living in New York City, but my husband’s instincts were spot-on with this one. Our daughter was drawn to the clean writing, intricate plotlines and well-drawn characters. Bonus: I like having inside jokes with her about the blue French horn, paintball obsessions and a pineapple.
5. Big Bang Theory
This one may surprise many of you, but we stand by it. I know, a lot of this show focuses on sex, but the part that doesn’t is so smart and talks about science in an easily digestible way. My nerdy side loves that the characters talk about physics, biology and astronomy alongside pop culture and comic books, and I also love that being awkward can be really cool: a great lesson for a teenager entering high school to carry with her.
Parenthood is another family drama. We like the solid treatment of various issues like race, autism, adoption, cancer and parent-child issues that ring true. They provide a great jumping off point for discussions about how people react in situations, how they treat each other and what we would each do differently in those situations without the immediacy of encountering them in real life. While it has the potential to be a bit heavy-handed, it really isn’t. And if I’m being honest here, sometimes, in the midst of a parenting dilemma, I’ve been known to ask myself, What would Adam Braverman do?
7. Modern Family
Modern Family provides a completely different take on family dynamics. Funny and smart but with well-rounded characters and fun situations, we actually watch this one before the 8-year-old heads to bed. We love how it treats same-sex couples like every other set of parents with issues.
Honorable mention goes to The Neighbors and Better Off Ted, two clever shows which ended far too soon for serious binge-watching, but should have gone on for years!
We’re running out of episodes and looking for new suggestions, though. What do you watch with your older kids?