Special needs

7 times these TV moms nailed parenting

These TV mothers have exceptional kids and exceptional parenting styles to match. Here are some of our fave small-screen mom moments.

By Valerie Howes

7 times these TV moms nailed parenting

(L-R): Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver) and JJ DiMeo (Micah Fowler) in "R-U-N-- RUNAWAY" Photo: American Broadcasting Companies

The new TV season is underway, and we're loving how many prime-time TV shows are putting kids with exceptionalities front and centre. Behind every one of ­­these kids is a mom—or two—to be reckoned with, and we love these ladies for keeping it real. Meet a few of our favourite TV moms in action.

The Lioness Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver), Speechless Maya DiMeo burst into our lives in the Speechless pilot, defending the right of her son J.J., who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, to have a more dignified entrance into his school than the garbage ramp.

Maya turns her fight with the school principal into a name-that-thing game—Trash or Person?

When Maya demands "Are you, Dr Miller, trash or are you a person?" she has Miller so flustered that the administrator needs help from the school janitor to come up with the right response.

Fast forward a few scenes: J.J. has a spanking new wheelchair ramp.

The Overfunctioner Elsa Gardner (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Atypical Most of Season 1 of Atypical has Elsa Gardner, the mother of Sam, who has autism, grappling with being needed less and less. She has spent most of her son's life arming herself with information, creating strategies and systems, and preempting her son's every move, so she can help him before he even knows that he needs help.

Now that Sam wants to do things like get a girlfriend and shop for his own clothes, she's struggling with her own redundancy. While Elsa is often the source of comedy in Atypical, any mother who has ever braced herself for the empty nest will have a soft spot for this well-intentioned mom.

Watching Elsa get thrown out of a clothing store after letting rip on the manager for not creating the optimum soft-lit, low-volume ambiance she'd like for her son (who is too busy picking out a new wardrobe to care) has us simultaneously yelling "Oh no she didn't" at the screen and nodding in bashful recognition.

The Suburban SasspotKatie Otto (Katy Mixon), American Housewife

The self-proclaimed second fattest housewife in Westport, Katie has some serious hang-ups about her figure (FYI,  we wish she knew how much she rocks curves!). But she overcomes her fear of being judged in a bathing suit by her notoriously judgy neighbours, to help her youngest daughter, Anna-Kat, who has obsessive compulsive disorder, to overcome her fear of the water.

Katie knows that sometimes good parenting calls for breaking the rules. We love it when she plucks up the courage to defy the scary teen lifeguard's order that they go shower at the far side of the pool, after Anna-Kat tells her mom, "If I don't jump in right now, I don't think I ever will." "Screw it!" declares Katie, grabbing her daughter's hand so they can take the plunge together in glorious slo-mo.

The Good Cop Lena Adams Foster (Sherri Saum), The Fosters“They’re really good kids; they’re just making bad decisions,” says Lena with her signature sweetness, in the midst of yet another family crisis. Her blended brood of bio, fostered and adopted kids grapple with everything from ADHD and a brain injury to histories of trauma, neglect and abuse, and she takes it all in stride.

High School Principal Lena plays the good cop to her tough-loving wife, Stef—an actual cop—and she’s the one the kids turn to for a listening ear without judgement. One of the sweetest Lena moments is when she encourages her tween son Jude to embrace every aspect of who he is, after his sister Callie asks him to remove his nail polish and try harder to blend in at school.

And then there's that time that she has this heart-to-heart with her daughter Mariana, who has conflicted feelings about the return of her troubled birth mother, Ana, coupled with the fact that Lena is trying to have a baby.

"I hate that I come from her. Why couldn’t I come from you?,” Mariana asks.

What could be more perfect than Lena's response?

The Bad Cop Stef Adams Foster (Teri Polo), The Fosters That’s not to say that bad cop = bad parent. Lena’s wife Stef also makes our favourite TV moms list for her tough-loving parenting style (when did you last take an actual bullet for your kids?). She’s fiercely protective and she knows exactly when to bring out the big parenting guns.

Take that time when the kids were all sneaking around doing things like stealing prescription meds, re-opening closed murder cases, and committing academic fraud...

And she dealt out this cruel and unusual punishment:

Not only did she confiscate her lying and sneaking kids’ bedroom doors, she made said lying and sneaking kids to do the heavy lifting.

Stef's relationship with daughter Callie, who joins the family as a foster kid before the moms adopt her, is especially touching. While Stef's not afraid to dole out real talk for Callie's grand-scale misdemeanours like running off to Mexico, snooping around a suspected murderer's house, or trying to save a friend from a pimp, she also knows how to soothe her daughter, when Callie's all-consuming fear of abandonment gets the better of her.

The fact is, for all Stef's tough talk, this woman is a squishy ball of love:

Awww... TV moms. We heart you all too!