Is this us?

I’ve finally started watching the TV series This Is Us. I’m extremely late to the game, I know.

I am enamoured, engaged, and busy evenings for the rest of the winter. It’s easy to see why it has been at the top of pop culture consciousness for half a decade. I love this family, I relate to this family, and yet, this family is not like my family, however much I want it to be.

My biggest three. What would a screenplay look like of their lives?

I’m not talking about socioeconomic status or which team sports we obsess over. What I’m noticing is that these people say things to each other. Important things. And yes, I know we’re talking about television drama, so of course we’re getting all the emotion distilled and concentrated.

But as I watched Raymond beg Kevin to be his brother, and Kevin admit his need for his mom’s attention, I tried to remember the last time I had this kind of meaningful conversation with one of my siblings. It’s not that I never have, but it’s not normal. And listening to Jack reassure the young Raymond that it was okay to stand out and be smart, I wondered how truly intentional my communication is with my kids. Do I give them that kind of validation regularly? If I’m honest, I think a too-high proportion of stuff that comes out of my mouth relates to chores and who needs the car when. And how many negative messages have the little Kates in my house picked up?

As far as conflict goes, I’m not Beth. I’m not jumping on the phone to confront the secret keeper. I’m not William, offering gentle philosophy. I’m definitely not Kevin and Randall duking it out on a city sidewalk. I’m brooding for weeks, debating how to respond, usually deciding it’s best to leave well enough alone.

Am I probably pretty normal? Sure. Is life on television purposely augmented? Absolutely. But there’s room for a truth in between: good art helps us understand ourselves. This Is Us is fiction that’s helped me think about how to be more real.

Jack never leaving the house without kissing Rebecca? That could be us. Talking about race awkwardly until it’s easier? That can be us.

Trying again when it feels like we’re getting nowhere? That is us.

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