Parenting Lessons from Sitcom Dads
ALEX CHADWICK, Host:
One more on Father's Day now. May be a difficult day especially for a young man, now a dad, who didn't have a dad around when he was a boy. From Youth Radio, here's Jordan Monroe.
JORDAN MONROE reporting:
When I was growing up, I found my father figure in the same place other American role models and heroes are found, the television. I guess you don't really think about your ideas of parenting until you become a parent yourself. Growing up in the '80s and the '90s there were a lot of black sitcoms on TV. I remember watching shows like Roc and Moesha, Family Matters, The Cosby Show, and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air almost every day.
(Soundbite of them of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air")
MONROE: All of these shows had a positive, loving and responsible father. Roc was a garbage man, but regardless of his occupation, he was still proud and carries himself respectably. Cliff Huxtable was a doctor. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a judge. These TV dads showed me it was possible for me to become a business owner, lawyer or doctor. Those shows of TV dads, they weren't just about entertainment for me. Through my young eyes, the lives of the characters seemed as real as my own.
One particular episode stands out in my mind from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The main character, Will, was having problems with the fact that his dad was not a part of his life. And after arguing with his Uncle Phil and telling him that he wasn't his real father, Will realized that Uncle Phil personified everything a father was supposed to be. At that moment, I knew Will and I were alike. We both felt the frustration because our fathers were not in our lives, and just like Uncle Phil wasn't Will's real father, these TV dads weren't mine. But we understood fatherly advice and support can come from other people and other sources.
(Soundbite of TV show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Unidentified Man (Actor): (As Uncle Phil) So young man, how did it go at school today?
Mr. WILL SMITH (Actor): (As Will) I joined the poetry club.
Unidentified Man: Excellent. I remember when I first got interested in poetry. So who's the girl?
MONROE: Unfortunately, all of those shows from those days have been canceled. With the cancellation of one sitcom, then another and another, my TV dads passed away one by one. When The Fresh Prince was canceled, yeah, I may have shed a tear or two. When I interact with my daughter, I occasionally catch myself speaking with the firmness of Uncle Phil, reacting with the humor of Cliff Huxtable, and when I come home after a long day's work, feeling the pride of Roc. The lessons I learned from my TV dads, they were golden. And regardless of how old I get, my memories of them will never tarnish. So I would like to take the time and say to Cliff Huxtable and Uncle Phil, as well as all of the rest of my TV dads, Happy Father's Day from your son, Jordan.
CHADWICK: Jordan Monroe's essay was produced by Youth Radio.