I had a moment of realization that I was truly growing up while watching Friday Night Lights (for the first time) a few years back. Coach Twinkle-Eyes was my pick, not the long-haired hunk Tim Riggins.
Look, the rebel with a heart of gold who also happens to be smolderingly handsome — I really get it. But I was so far from scoring a date with that kind of guy in high school that I couldn’t even imagine it.
Nah, if I had to pick a high school character on the show, it would have been sweet Matty Saracen, the artsy underdog making mixtapes for his girlfriend.
But back to Twinkle-Eyes. The wisdom, the toughness wrapped around the heart that remembered what it felt like to be in high school, the laugh lines. Oh, man. I was falling for … THE PARENT.
And I wasn’t even that mad about it. Indeed, Eric and Tami Taylor were a dream parenting team, and somewhere in my subconscious, I took notes.
I had another parenting-mentor–related moment the other night, reading to my older two before lights out.
We’re currently making our way through the Ramona Quimby series. And, to my sheer delight, it stands up. It requires nowhere near the editing-on-the-fly as you read out loud for inappropriate words or outdated concepts, especially when compared to some of my other childhood favorites.
In fact, Ramona is the feminist hero I remember.
But it isn’t Ramona so much who I can relate to now. It’s Mrs. Quimby. I had to Google her first name — it’s Dorothy — so maybe some things have progressed since Beverly Cleary brought her to life.
But Mr. and Mrs. Quimby live in what really appears to be an egalitarian household. Mrs. Quimby is resourceful and smart. She has boundaries and enforces them. She’s unendingly patient in a way I wish I could be.
In one instance, when Ramona is 4, Ramona really throws a temper tantrum. That whole book is really a cataloguing of Ramona’s temper tantrums. (Perhaps Cleary’s payback for a real-life Ramona? The world may never know.)
But she responds to it (and the rest of them) with patience and grace and a true sense of empathy. It’s HARD to be a kid. It’s HARD to be bossed around, powerless. It’s HARD to be misunderstood. It’s not their fault kids are so literal.
And Mrs. Quimby gives Ramona the space to work that out, and then offers her a hug and wipes her tears.
Ramona is a little firebrand. She has ideas. She has ambition. Never do her parents quash that or tell her she’s too loud or too frustrating. They don’t yell her into submission.
Mrs. Quimby, I salute you.
It’s near impossible not to do those things sometimes. But the other day, I had three sort of simultaneously melting-down children. I knew it was part borne of hunger, part of needing attention, part of just being kids. I wanted to respond like they did, with tears and yelling. I didn’t. I waited them out. I said how hard it was to have big feelings sometimes. I wiped tears and offered hugs. The moment smoothed over.
Mrs. Quimby isn’t real, I know. But her lessons are.
Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a full-house renovation with her three kids, two pets and one husband. Follow her adventures at instagram.com/dohmicile.