The familiar guitar twang from beloved 90’s sitcom Friends theme song wafts upstairs to our bedroom. I check the time on my watch. It’s 7 am on a Saturday and the kids are already watching Friends? What is wrong with these people? My middle school teenagers discovered Monica, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe on Netflix in the fall of 2017 and learned–truly learned–how to binge watch over the winter school break (and subsequent snow days). Yes, they watched a lot of Friends. Yes, they are still watching it (there are ten seasons after all). Yes, my husband and I sometimes watch along with them, too. Yes, we all are sharing a lot of laughs. And yes, plenty of it is not appropriate for middle schoolers. Casual sex, hermaphrodite cheerleaders from Long Island, prostitutes vs. strippers, having sex when you’re on a break. Quite a few topics are so not appropriate. The show had its many flaws (we’ve come a long way, baby) and a fair number of cringe-worthy episodes, but I’d like to focus on the positives for a quick sec.
It’s 7 am on a Saturday and the kids are already watching Friends? What is wrong with these people?
On the advice of my friend whose teenagers are a couple years older than my own, why don’t we look at Friends as a jumping-off point, a way to bring up topics that arise as our children grow older? Friendships, relationships, and otherwise difficult-to-broach topics like sex. Relationships and sex can be uncomfortable topics, plus they’re usually not one-time conversations with children while they’re growing up. Bonus topics from Friends include adults in multiple relationships, roommate issues, friend issues, dating, getting over exes, casual sex, unplanned pregnancies, being a surrogate mom to your brother’s triplets? OK, maybe some of those topics won’t really come up, but you get the idea.
The topic of sex basically never comes up here, except around the time when the curriculum covers Family Life Education in school and my husband and I bring it up. When that happens, I like to offer information and answer any questions that may arise as matter-of-factly as possible by really leaning on science. I start off with describing humans as mammals: the male, the female, their reproductive parts, etc. At this point in their lives, my kids are mostly observing the intricacies of dating since many of their peers are just coming to the realization that the opposite sex may not actually have cooties after all, so we are working to meet them where they are. But if they want to bring it up, we can use Friends as a platform to discuss these topics somewhat neutrally. Yay, TV! Whoever thought that I would look back on Friends 20+ years later and appreciate it as a way to approach some grown-up topics with my children? So not me.
Whoever thought that I would look back on Friends 20+ years later and appreciate it as a way to approach some grown-up topics with my children? So not me.
So hey, I’m not telling you to watch Friends with your children, but if you did, and it’s your second time around, you’ll laugh again, because it’s still so funny. Don’t worry about being stuck in second gear, when it hasn’t been you day, your week, your month, or even your year… because Friends will be there for you, if you’re there for them too-ooh.
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