I recently let myself be cajoled into letting my children make up ground on their lack of Saturday morning TV. While I am not allergic to television, I do have some sensitivity to the ‘entertainment’ that plays for laughs from overworked stereotypes.
Telly dad is too often the bumbling weekend layabout who misses his children’s school play. Mum is the clean freak and giggly friend to the daughter. The TV brother and his best mate are typically mono-syllabic Neanderthals who only eat out of packets and drink straight from the carton.
The stereotyped pristine TV teen daughter plays out a life that is a series of hazards or dramas — staying in good with the cool crowd, buying shoes and meltdowns made of being overlooked by the cute guy for the prom (the shows are American, after all).
So, the three of us cuddled into beanbags to become an audience. Cue in a shrewd mum character coaching her TV daughter into feigning delight at doing uncool things with dad. The feigned delight was, in fact, a strategic move to up the chance for a “yes” from dad when TV daughter unveiled her ulterior motive — a new car. Ultimately, the daughter genuinely enjoys the dad time and bails on trying for the car. Mum’s response… not going to let dad’s happy place go to waste: “Momma’s gonna get me some new shoes!”
In my world, such behaviour played out by people who are meant to love and respect one another – on TV or for real — is not OK. Our morning segment of TV watching was later a point of discussion as we made our way to the Salmon Ponds.
The Salmon Ponds at Plenty have plenty to attract children. The ponds are not fenced off and there are great fish leaping to take the pellets sprinkled by children. We decided to visit after being tipped off early Saturday morning by my mum that there was free entry to celebrate 150 years of operation.
By late afternoon the crush of the crowd had thinned. Ava and Bridie were tiring; however, the last couple of handfuls of fish food were keeping them interested while I explored the produce stalls. A sample of a Huon cider convinced me that the apple over the pear would make a good purchase. Thankfully, despite the remote location of the Salmon Ponds, the stall owner was able to run my purchase through on a card using a wireless EFTPOS device.
I had forgotten to take along any cash except for one or two gold coins. The next stall was run by Steph and her mum, Sally Wise of the slow cooker fame. Arriving at their tent solved the question, “What is that delicious smell?” which we had been asking the whole time. The answer was in a large pot of slow-brewing tomato, garlic, vinegar, ginger, onion… I should have taken note of the rest; however, the rich smell and colour of a country-style relish distracted me from remembering the ingredient list.
We met Steph and made conversation about school lunches and she shared that she also has a child who enjoys her homemade sweet chilli sauce on lunchtime sandwiches. Although I had never met her before, Steph had a warm rapport that she shared openly with my two daughters.
I delighted while my oldest daughter shared some cooking stories and Steph engaged my girls in easy conversation that was wonderfully genuine. And her samples of sweet chilli and Bernie’s hot sauce were so superior to anything else that goes by the same name that I decided to add it to my kitchen collection.
But Steph didn’t have EFTPOS and I didn’t have cash. Still, we chatted some more and then, quite discreetly, Steph very gently handed my girls a sweet chilli sauce with an “I’d like you to try this.” Then, a moment later she softly offered my daughters a bottle of Bernie’s saying, “I think dad would like to try this.”
I love those moments of heartfelt generosity! I try to make them happen for other people and my girls and always have a heart-tipping-over feeling when being on the receiving end. Steph offered such.
Sometime later I began to ponder why I might be so irked that a TV daughter might be gifted a car while my daughters being gifted two bottles of homemade sauce delivered a real sense of joy. I know it wasn’t the cost.
After grinding through my values, I realised that the issue for me is honesty.
I just cannot find any honesty in a TV daughter faking an interest in a TV dad’s job to increase the odds of being gifted a car.
By contrast, Steph gifted us generously, I think for the honest pleasure of giving and for the flowing smiles of my two daughters. Her kindness also stamped a smile on me that has lasted the past two weeks.
My strongest relationships are formed of honesty.
I am going to give some thought to the most magnificent homemade pancakes being delivered by my daughter right before I was asked for the Saturday morning TV. I wonder how different our morning might have been, had I said no.
Photo by Pelageia Zelenina.