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“This Is Us” Shows How Easily a Loving Mother Can Screw up Her Kids

“Why haven’t you been writing about ‘This Is Us’?” people asked me all fall.  “I haven’t recovered enough from ‘Parenthood’ to take on another drama,” I explained.

And it was the truth. I kept reading Facebook posts about people sobbing their way through “This Is Us” each week and it wasn’t that long ago I did that with the Bravermans. This year was a hard one for me. I didn’t want to take on the pains of a fictional family when I was already beat down by real life.

I understood why people were surprised I wasn’t soaking up “This Is Us,” though. I’d seen enough headlines, teasers, and posts from friends to gather there were storylines about both obesity and adoption.

I’ve been overweight my whole life and write freely about my struggle to find my way to a healthy relationship with food while loving myself. Trying to lose weight while having a positive body image at nearly 300 pounds is quite the tight rope balance. 

My husband and I adopted our daughter from the foster care system and I also frequently write about the joys and challenges of adoption. Oh, and we’re a transracial family like on “This Is Us.”

So, yeah. I got why people kept asking my thoughts.

But. The Bravermans, yo.

Then I watched (and hated) the “Gilmore Girls” revival and wanted to see more Milo Ventimiglia, so I decided to suck it up and stream “This Is Us” on the NBC app last week. The show was on break for the holidays, so it seemed like the right time to jump in and catch up on the first 10 episodes. 

I’m so glad I did.

I love Milo even more now. His Jack is everything you want in a husband and father. No, he’s not perfect, but he sure tries his hardest. 

Then there’s Mandy Moore.

I’ve been a fan of Mandy for a long time. Her “Wild Hope” album is easily in my top five favorites ever. I’ve always found her adorable and oh-so-likable.

Still, I have a really hard time with her character, Rebecca.

I guess that’s because I have such strong connections to the storylines of two of her children – Kate and Randall. Rebecca loves her children fiercely, but does things that really screw them up, something they’re all still figuring out decades later.

She nitpicks and draws attention to Kate’s size and what she eats from the time she’s a very young girl. And Randall…wow. She lies to him and keeps crucial information about his biological family from him.

I want to hate Rebecca and label her a horrible mother for how she’s set her children up to have such huge issues later in life. If she was more accepting, less critical, more open, they both might have grown up so much more secure and confident. 

But I also see so clearly that Rebecca’s just doing her best. She worries Kate will be teased because of her size, so she tries to help guide and “fix” her to save her from that, not realizing the damage she’s causing is more harmful than what any little girl could throw Kate’s way. And she’s afraid Randall will love his biological family more than her and she’ll lose him, so she keeps him in the dark.

She screws up big time. Her children are deeply impacted by her choices, as is her relationship with each of them. But her intentions were not malicious.

Rebecca is hard for me to handle because I relate to her even though I really don’t want to. I constantly wonder if I’m screwing up my daughter. Being a mother is an incredibly powerful position. Mothers shape who we are and how we see ourselves – good or bad. 

I’ve had issues with my weight, food, confidence, and body image my whole life. I worry I’m passing that on to my daughter. And then there’s the adoption piece. Am I doing enough to help her feel connected to her biological roots? Is my fear of abandonment keeping her from pursuing a relationship with her biological mother? 

I want life to be easy for her. I want to do everything right for her. But I don’t always know what that is and I screw it up a lot.

Just like Rebecca.

So thanks, “This Is Us,” for tapping into so many insecurities of a mother who worries I’m not doing a good enough job. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who worries I’m screwing up my kid, though. I hope they’ll all be as willing to hash it out with us one day as Rebecca’s kids have been with her. I’m looking forward to seeing where these complex characters, and even more complex relationships, go when the series returns.

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