Forty years of television reruns, and one special mom never aged. Need a hint? Who wore a shag haircut better than anyone?
But time eventually caught up with Carol Brady.
Florence Henderson, the Broadway-singer-turned-television-actress who played the iconic Brady mom for five seasons, passed away at 82. My six kids were shocked.
How could she be that old?
On many-an-evening in their younger years, we watched episodes of The Brady Bunch on DVD – eventually all 117, a majority more than once. Together, we laughed at the latest antics of six other kids: Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy.
But my kids – two adopted sibling groups of different races – were carefully watching for something more than the slapstick humor.
Would every child from the two blended families be accepted? Would each be treated as an individual?
At the same time, my children found comfort in the simplicity. The show made them feel safe, even with the 1970s styles and predominantly white cast.
That’s because the family members cared about one another – even after the latest crisis. And none of the six children were perfect. All carefully defined. Wearing the same set of clothes over an entire season made them a little more real.
The show made them feel safe.
Remember youngest daughter Cindy tattling, “I’m not a snitcher. I just tell it like it is.” She sent her siblings running for cover.
Later love prevailed. After Cindy’s lisp caused a bully to taunt, “Baby talk, baby talk. It’s the wonder you can walk,” older brother Peter came to the rescue.
Family meant more than blood.
Equally annoying was Bobby, the youngest brother. His honest, know-it-all statements did just that.
Who could forget Peter breaking the vase, glued back together before springing a leak at the dinner table – and sprouting another and another? Then Bobby stating, “Mom always said don’t play ball in the house.” Over and over in his brother’s guilt-ridden dreams.
No doubt, Bobby just wanted to be noticed – especially with his desire to instantly grow taller or stronger. “She’s right. I’m a pee-wee. I’ll always be a pee-wee.”
My kids could relate to being the underdog.
Middle children Jan and Peter provided the biggest connection, as they constantly compared themselves to others – desperately desiring to be someone.
Many of Jan’s lines became classic.
“I’d like to buy a wig please.” Who says blondes have more fun than brunettes?
“Well, all day long at school I hear how great Marcia is at this or how wonderful Marcia did that. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Not even the pom-pom squad wanted her.
“Glasses! Oh, no, mom! Not glasses! They’ll make me look absolutely positively goofy!” Not groovy.
“If I were an only child, I wouldn’t have any phony brothers and sisters! Who needs you?” And her brothers and sisters gave her just that. A perfect natural consequence!
Instead of throwing a pity party like his sister, Peter tried to be funny – sometimes being the source of his siblings pranks.
“Pork chops and apple sauce, that’s swell?” Just be yourself, Peter. You’re a great guy.
“I am a little Sunflower – sunny, brave and true. From tiny bud to blossom, I do good deeds for you.” Thank you, big brother Greg, for the dare to outdo his sisters.
That leaves eldest siblings Marcia and Greg, who weren’t always as cool as they appeared to be. And my kids paid attention.
“From now on I’m noble and beautiful. I’m Juliet.” Until her over-sized ego caused Mom to remove her from the school play.
And talk about being blunt. Did Marcia ever learn?
“Jan, if boys don’t find you attractive, don’t blame me.”
Enter karma. Her brother’s poorly thrown football hit an unintended receiver. “Oh, my nose!”
Meanwhile, Greg tried to be a man.
“Remember Dad, we’re talking man-to-man, not kid-to-man.”
But he remained a boy when routinely mocking Marcia, like the time she lost her diary and accused her brothers.
“Dear diary, at last I met him, my dream man. It was at the delicatessen and our fingers tingled as we reached over for the same potato salad.” Enter the real Desi Arnaz, Jr. to Marcia’s surprise.
Or when Greg gave his sister dating advice – after her finding a new beau and needing to dump the other.
“Do what we guys always do. Just say something suddenly came up.” Words that would backfire. Integrity matters.
Without question, no Brady child went unscathed – with a constant and enduring presence through all the ups and downs. Their mom – and sometimes dad – remained one step ahead.
“Six kids and no noise. That’s what’s the matter with that. I’ve never heard such a loud silence.”
No wonder, she knew her kids best – because she took time to listen. Honest in her comments – but never quick to judge. Always presenting a unified front with her husband Mike. No chance for triangulation.
Consistent in her actions, Carol Brady definitely understood the importance of instilling trust and staying connected. And she gave second chances while sharing from the heart.
“Find out what you do best and do your best with it.”
Thank you, Florence Henderson and the rest of the Brady clan, for hundreds of teachable moments. And sincere words to live by. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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