Reflecting on the “Wonder Years”

Recently I was lounging on my couch, reading blogs and Facebook, while trying to find something to watch on our abundance of television channels. I landed on the TV Land Channel and settled on an episode of The Wonder Years.

How many of you remember The Wonder Years? The show that introduced us to Kevin Arnold (aka Fred Savage) and his American family and friends growing up in the 1960s and 70s. Every episode was narrated by Adult Kevin, whose dialogue I always found more engaging than that of young Kevin.

When I was growing up, The Wonder Years was not one of my appointment television shows. (Back then, you had to make an appointment to watch the show on the date and time it aired. There were no Tivo and DVR, and recording on a VHS was iffy at best).  It’s not that I disliked the show; it just didn’t resonate with me.

But like so many other things I’m discovering as I grow older and as a parent, I found myself fully engaged in The Wonder Years episode I was watching now. This episode did not focus on Kevin and his siblings or friends; it focused on the parents as providers of the family. What struck me was the following narration that Adult Kevin provides in the episode’s beginning.

Before my parents were mom and dad, they were Norma and Jack. Back then they didn’t have much, so they got by on what they had — each other. Somewhere along the way, hearts and flowers gave way to other things. … So like any couple of their generation, they did what they had to do. They became parents. Providers.

It was in those words that I realized how we – as people and couples – change over time and when we take on new life roles. Bryan and I were reflecting on our very early years together (13 years ago), back when we were young,  engaged, and living in a two-bedroom apartment with all our belongings fitting into that 800-square-foot space. Our biggest worry was which movie we would see that weekend.

Today our worries focus on budgeting for home improvements; hoping another car won’t be stollen or in need of major repair; what the future of this country will hold; and trying to raise a daughter who will be a healthy and contributing member to society. Oh yeah, and making sure our four animals are healthy too. Gone are the carefree “wonder years” of yesterday. Movie theater money is now ear-marked for groceries. Just like Norma and Jack, we are now parents and providers.

And while we certainly wouldn’t give up Sophie, the pets, or our house (no matter how many repairs it needs), it’s hard to not wax nostalgia thinking about those years past when we were Bryan and Leah. We had each other and we got by with that.

I guess being a parent – or even an adult with responsibilities – makes that episode of The Wonder Years take on quite a different perspective. Hearing Adult Kevin now, I see why my parents enjoyed the program so much. They were likely watching it from a parent and a kids’ perspective, wondering where their carefree years went. And now here I am – 22 years after the episode first aired – finding myself doing the exact same.

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