Parenting Advice from The Sopranos?


I was a high school senior when The Sopranos debuted 20 years ago. I lived in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, and didn’t have basic cable, let alone access to HBO to see the cultural juggernaut as it was airing for the first time. 

While I was aware of the show, I didn’t watch it even while I was in college and presumably could have found access. But thanks to the peer pressure of Twitter (more like FOMO), I decided to binge all six seasons available on Amazon Prime like some of my online favorites.

Now I’m a basic, approaching-middle-age mom of two girls, which gives the series a different flavor than if I’d watched it when it first aired. The first season did feel like a time capsule to my high school days though, a time before cell phones or computers, with pagers and pay phones, CDs and low-rise jeans. But because of the time that has passed, rather than identifying with Meadow, who was about my age during the series run, I absolutely identified with the parents, although not so much the crime or lavish life, of course! 

While I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed watching the show (I typically like things other people like), I was surprised that there was some parenting advice to be gleaned. Not all of it was, “don’t do anything like Tony and Carmela Soprano,” although that's certainly a good life rule.

Tony’s relationships with his kids, Meadow and Anthony Jr., were frequent subjects of subplots and story lines throughout the series, although it rarely seemed to be the main thrust. Many words have been written about the show and what it means, but what I found could apply to my life was loving my kids even through mistakes of my own making.

And boy did Tony make a LOT of mistakes, and many of them hurt his family, particularly his kids. A scene I vividly remember from one of the earlier seasons was Tony apologizing to his son, A.J., after a particularly mean yelling fight. I think he disparaged A.J.’s weight, which is especially egregious in my opinion, and by apology, Tony brought a pizza and soda, saying the words, “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” The act of showing contrition to a child and treating A.J. as a fully formed person felt fresh, even if the show is old, and it confirms my approach to parenting. That’s how I try to interact with my girls, especially when I get it wrong, which is often enough that they will remember my apologies as much as anything!

So now I have the cultural knowledge that comes from having seen The Sopranos, albeit years later. The memes and other references make more sense. I also have a favorite episode–when Chrissy and Paulie get stuck in the snowy woods–I don’t remember ever laughing so hard at TV, although I’m sure that wasn’t the intent.

Have you ever taken parenting advice from a fictional TV show?

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22 May 2019


By Mari Walker

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