Sometimes art imitates life. That's certainly true at our house.
For the past several months, my husband, Bob, and I have been watching a sitcom called "The Middle."
It first captured our attention when we realized that the family matriarch Frankie Heck was played by Patricia Heaton, who had also played Debra in "Everybody Loves Raymond" a few years back.
After watching "The Middle," Bob and I began noticing parallels between the onscreen family and our own.
First, there's Frankie's relaxed housekeeping. Much like the Smith abode, there are piles of clutter here and there. In fact, the Heck's house usually looks like, well, heck.
Next is the eerie similarity between our two parenting styles. Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind separated parenting into three types; authoritarian (harsh and inflexible), authoritative (healthy and democratic) and laissez-faire (permissive and haphazard).
The Hecks take "laissez-faire" to a new level, doing goofy things like forgetting to pick their 10-year-old up after a field trip, and giving their three kids sandwich bags stuffed with cold pizza for school lunches. (I can honestly say I never forgot to pick anyone up after a field trip. As for the pizza thing. ...)
Of course, we've also noticed some similarities between our children. Our son, Buddy, had the same laid-back attitude and disinterest in academics as teen Axle Heck. Granted, both meant well. On one episode Axle used his geometry book as a plate so Frankie wouldn't have to wash dishes. (Buddy would have done that if he would have ever brought a book home.)
The strongest comparison, however, lies between the Heck's daughter, Sue, and our daughter, Valerie. Sue is sweet, a bit naive, enthusiastic, committed to her values and quirky.
Enter Val. Like Sue, she's kind, enthusiastic, passionate about her beliefs and really quirky. For example, I was awakened at 3 a.m. the other day by an odd sound emanating from Val's room.
Dragging myself out of bed, I knocked on her door.
"Val, are you OK?"
Opening her door, she smiled sheepishly and pointed to two teddy bears.
"Ollie and Olivia were singing a duet," she smiled. "'Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong' from 'An Officer and a Gentleman.'" (See, really, really quirky.)
Perhaps Val's closest resemblance to Sue Heck is her commitment to her faith. Sue is passionate about God. She attends church youth group and unabashedly adores her pastor, the Rev. Tim Tom.
Val is also passionate about her faith. A few days ago she phoned in to a radio show hosted by atheists and spent 20 minutes talking to the hosts about Jesus. Although they were polite, I doubt she changed their minds.
The important thing is she gave it her all. (I somehow think Sue would have done the same thing.)