The TV show “Parenthood” recently ended after six seasons and viewers bid goodbye to the Braverman family. From the very first episode to the last, the NBC show’s story lines were undeniably emotional, poignant and moving.
The Bravermans authentically capture human experience, bringing the narratives and characters to life.
Here are some of the pertinent themes (my personal favorites) that this wonderful series covered during its run.
Raising a child with Asperger’s.
In season one, Adam and Kristina discover that their son, Max, has Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. We see Max grow up over the years and observe his good and bad days and his strengths and weaknesses.
We also see Max transcend obstacles and can’t help but feel like a proud parent. These moments include scenes where he begins to develop romantic feelings for a classmate — feelings that are unrequited. And yet, he still wears his heart on his sleeve, conveying raw emotion. While that kind of expression isn’t easy for anyone, it’s particularly difficult for someone who struggles with social cues and relationships.
The mother/daughter dynamic.
Sarah and Amber portray a mother-daughter dynamic that gives way to plenty of conversations that will have you reaching for Kleenex. Whether it’s heartbreaking, beautiful or just plain honest, these are discussions with which mothers and daughters can identify.
In one specific scene, Sarah confesses that, sometimes, she’s guilty of projecting her own fears and insecurities onto her daughter, Amber. “When you have kids, you see so much of yourself in them,” Sarah says. “And you think they’re you. But they’re not you. And they shouldn’t have all of your baggage. They have their own. Your song is beautiful. It’s haunting and moving and it’s so you. That’s all I should have said to you the other night. I’m so proud, and I’m so impressed, and I’m so in awe of you.”
Embracing the now.
In one season, Kristina is diagnosed with breast cancer and faces a grueling battle. She comes out on the other side and begins to embrace the now. She decides to act now and fulfill a dream of hers — to run for mayor of Berkeley.
Challenges of adoption.
Joel and Julia adopt Victor, a young boy from a broken home. They shower him with unconditional love, demonstrating that even if he’s not a blood relative, he’s still part of the family. At points, Victor feels as if he’s walking on eggshells, wondering if a mistake would “send him back.” Tensions are high as Victor tries to adjust to a new school and household, but Joel and Julia do not give up on him. Victor is family.
Marital conflicts and reconciliation.
“Parenthood” also depicts conflicts in various romantic relationships. Joel and Julia undergo serious marital strain, but they’re ultimately determined to work through their issues. They have to exert trust in each other, take that leap of faith, shed past insecurities and move forward.
Zeek (sic) and Camille (the patriarch and matriarch of the Braverman clan) experience a rough path in their marriage (in the early seasons) and have to have hope in the process as well.
We can’t “fix” others.
Sarah’s ex-husband, Seth, is an alcoholic. Amber is engaged to a war veteran, Ryan, who isn’t always emotionally stable. Unfortunately, a painful realization surfaces: nobody can “fix” or save them. Love could still be present without inherent compatibility. Seth and Ryan must want to help themselves.
Following your passion vs. making the pragmatic choice.
I find the storyline involving the two brothers, Crosby and Adam, to be one of the most personally relatable narratives. Crosby follows his passion and opens his own recording studio, with Adam as his business partner. When the business isn’t doing well, they have to make a hard choice: walk away or keep the dream alive? They both have families to provide for; they’re both familiar with financial stress.
What if there’s a path you want to pursue, but it’s not financially lucrative? You don’t want to lose yourself; however, sometimes compromise is necessary in order to support yourself and your loved ones. Adulthood encompasses a different set of responsibilities. It’s certainly a thought-provoking subject, to say the least.
Coming to terms with the end of life.
Zeek suffers from a heart condition toward the end of the series. It’s sad and surreal and frightening. As people get older, they may encounter similar anxieties regarding their health. Zeek somehow manages to accept his fate and tries to savor every last slice of life that he can.
“All the stories are personal,” executive producer Jason Katims said in an NBC (digital exclusive) interview. “We tried never to break a story that didn’t feel it had an emotional center to it. To be part of a show that is meaningful to people, that’s important to them, that’s just irreplaceable.”