Parenting is Like a Reality TV Show

By Heather Isbill

My husband is an avid reality TV show fan.  And a few days ago, I caught a few minutes of Top Chef. When one of the contestants was asked to pack up his knives, I laughed out loud, realizing the parallels of the show and my own cooking struggles with my family.  We have four boys—ages 13-17—and two girls—ages 9 & 10—and every night I have my very own pint-sized panel of judges. Then it hit me—being a parent unnervingly resembles that of several different reality shows!

Let’s just start with Top Chef.
Before, during, and after dinner, I hear various comments as the ‘sixbunch’ (as we call them) pass in and out of the kitchen. What’s that smell? Chicken? AGAIN?!  Is something burning? I hope that’s not broccoli…

I imagine myself, at the end of the 30 minute-time frame that I have to make dinner, (on a good night) exhausted, disheveled, nerves shot, and sweaty—standing before a panel of six kids ready to tell me what I’ve done wrong with the fried chicken.

Kid 1:  It was a bit greasy and left my hands feeling oily and disgusting.
Kid 2:  It wasn’t as crunchy as KFC’s.
Kid 3:  It was too hard to chew.
Kid 4: It tasted ok, but now my stomach hurts.

Overall Consensus: Heather, please pack your knives, and go.

The Amazing Race
Tuesday 5 PM baseball practice, basketball game, gymnastics, and karate lesson. Four different locations, same time. Throw in two open houses at different schools at 5 PM. I rush home from work—leaving early, I might add.  Get the kids ready, fly out the door, and show up too early for one, too late for another.  No matter that I moved heaven and earth to pull it together, I still look like a schmuck at both places. I’m running like a madwoman against the clock. I am never going to make it! GO GO GOOOOO!  Detour – Roadblock – U-turn – NO …!  ARRRRRRGH!!  (And you know, someone always ends up crying on the Amazing Race, but in my life, that’s me. I am the one crying.) How are we supposed to be in six places at once?  MISSION – IMPOSSIBLE!  I’M DOING THE BEST I CAN DAMMIT!

Consensus:  Heather, sorry to tell you, you are the last parent to arrive, and you have been eliminated from the race.

The Biggest Loser
 Remember that vow to start eating healthier and exercising? Well, after a long week of shuffling everyone around every which way, I have not given 100% to my workouts, and I’ve made some bad food choices. When it comes time to get up on that big ole’ scale to see how I did, I can clearly hear Jillian’s loud, disapproving exhale at my number, “YOU’RE NOT DOIN’ THE WORK AND I’M TIRED OF YOUR EXCUSES!”  Then, Allie’s voice in the back of my head as I step off that scale…

Consensus: Heather, I’m sorry to tell you, unless you count the fact that all you lost this week are your keys, your left black pump, your youngest child (for twenty minutes), your sanity, and part of your mind, you are not the Biggest Loser, and it’s time for you to go.

The Apprentice
Bake sale items needed by Friday, Pajama day on Thursday, Poster on a famous African American due Wednesday, Doctor appointment Wednesday afternoon, IEP meeting before school Friday morning… Throw in that the tooth fairy needs to make an appearance tonight, and Chapter 8 of Tom Sawyer study guide needs to be completed.

The next morning comes and the sobbing from two doors down can be heard from two blocks down because the Tooth Fairy flaked.  Saving the day requires some smooth moves with a five-dollar bill to cover the emotional distress, which you discover tangled up in the sheets, and excitedly wave in front of your 3rd grader, “Here it is! See, she DID come!” Phew!

Then, imagine a fourth grade-sized, messed up haired, mini Donald Trump coming home from school and yelling at you for forgetting it was pajammie day, and she was the only one who showed up in regular clothes. Then, your teenage Trump gets in on the action because you snubbed the Tom Sawyer study guide.

Consensus:  Heather, your organizational skills need work, you are a sloppy team leader, and you dropped the ball on pajama day, which is forbidden in the eyes of a nine-year-old.  You had several things to remember, and you screwed them up. I have no choice but to tell you—You’re Fired.

Pawn Stars
I finally decide—and finally found the time—to take that expensive, fancy, barely-used, high chair given to me as a gift to a children’s second hand store. I walk in with confidence that my chair will bring in big money as it retails for triple digits and is in pristine shape. They offer me $10 cash on the spot. I ask for $50. They counter with $11.   Consensus:  This thing is a piece of junk. Had you left the original seat cushion it would be worth $200.  Take the $11 or get out of our shop.  I sell out and walk out with my pride and $11 in my hand.

Survivor: Outwit-Outplay-Outlast 

Ummmm… I play this one daily. Isn’t parenting a game of outwitting, outlasting, and outplaying?  I have to constantly beware of siblings forging alliances and blindsiding me at Tribal Council. They will outwit me after a long week of working, and I will end up in an arcade and I won’t even know how I got there.

Consensus: Heather, the tribe has spoken. We are going to John’s Incredible to play arcade games for the day. You have no say, and you need to bring me your torch. Your fire is officially out.