Opinion

Saying goodbye to Parenthood and the Bravermans

After six seasons, Parenthood ended on a bittersweet note, and there aren't enough tissues in the world.

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Photo: NBC.com

Parenthood fans may not be gritty like Breaking Bad fans, or as cool as those bingeing Broad City, but no one can beat us on having a bottomless well of tears. Sure, we may be a little masochistic—we love that it made us cry over someone else’s family when we have our own troubles sleeping in the next room over. We may even be a bit pathetic with our tissue jokes and our strange devotion to the Braverman clan. But give us a break today—we suffered a trauma last night when we had to say goodbye to our favourite functionally dysfunctional clan.

We tuned into the Bravermans to see a family—a family that was a lot like our own, but just slightly better.

If you are a Braverman, an “I believe in you” from a parent could change your life—it could lead you to start a business on your own, or have a baby, or even just have the confidence to move on. Braverman brothers could have terrible fights, then hug it out and be friends again. Cancer could be beaten with amazing lessons learned. Marriages could dissolve and re-assemble all because you were told to “fight for her.” Grandchildren would go to the end of the Earth for their grandparents, and grandparents would invite them home for their own third act. Dance parties could wipe out bad feelings, and little sparkly lights in a backyard would light up every family occasion.

The details of last night’s finale are a little fuzzy thanks to my post-sobbing haze. But thanks to some flash-forwards, we do know that everyone ended up in a good place (except Zeek—or depending on your view of the afterlife, especially Zeek).

There were babies galore. Jasmine is pregnant and not doing any eye rolls as Crosby does his thing at the Luncheonette. Amber seems to be married to a single dad (and a cleaned up Ryan is doing the responsible have the “kid on the weekends” thing). Joelia‘s family has ballooned to four with a puppy. (It was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment with Julia holding a blonde baby, one that Jason Katims, the creator said in a must-read interview she gave birth to.) I just hope Julia can manage the family brood and still keep her job that she loves.

Sarah and Hank seem to be happily nesting with their extended family. Millie takes the trip to France alone and stays at Chez Marie—perhaps she meets a cranky Frenchman to fill her Zeek-less void. I would like more info on Drew—did he follow his heart, or be responsible and get a job to support his artsy family?

For me though, this show has always been about Max. The series began with Adam and Kristina reaching out because they knew their child was different, and Max’s growth has been the journey of the show. The inner conflict of parents trying to hold on to their special snowflakes and simultaneously let them go resonated with me, and many other viewers. This is the essence of real life parenthood—the push-pull of letting your kids spread their wings while wanting to hold on to them tightly. I appreciated the moment where Max picked up the baseball bat and followed his family from the field. (Tear factor hit the stratosphere in that moment.) He’s going to be OK.

Kristina’s interactions with Max consistently generated the most tears over the years. The video of Kristina saying goodbye to her children when she had cancer, the moment when she tried to teach Max to dance…those are the moments that reduced me to puddles and the ones that brought me back each and every week. Adam and Kristina’s marriage gave me hope that boring, stable marriages can have “funky times” and struggles and love through it all.

Don’t get me wrong—the show wasn’t perfect. I’m still irritated that Joel and Julia never went to family counselling given their communication issues, the complexity of adopting Victor, and Sydney’s mean-girl ways.

The idea that Kristina could create a school and be its headmaster without having any background in education is ridiculous. And the way she (and the show) handled Max stalking Dylan was terrible.

I was OK with being on Team Hank, but I don’t believe that Amber would have kept the baby and followed in her mother’s footsteps. The show always had happy endings—and the cynical side of me wants to snark on that, but a part of me feels relieved.

I am writing about these people as if they were real, which is silly, I know. I’m crying as I write this; it’s embarrassing. But if you are still reading this recap, and if you lived with the Bravermans for an hour each week, then you know why.

We wanted to see parts of our own life mirrored on the small screen. We wanted to laugh and cry about people we love without the stakes of real life. We wanted to feel the pain of loss, and that other kind of pain that comes with watching our kids grow, change and make mistakes. We wanted to share the happy moments, big and small.

Parenthood was us. #teamBraverman forever.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.

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