The season finale of “Are We There Yet?” comes on TBS tomorrow night at 9/8(Central). After speaking with Terry Crews, who plays the dad on the show, I definitely plan on tuning in.
After a conversation with Mr. Crews, I feel like we’re old friends (so I’ll refer to him as Terry for the rest of this piece.) He was so warm and down to earth that he actually reminded me of one of my favorite preachers at church. That mental connection also probably came from the fact that Terry is a very spiritual man. When I asked Terry what was unique about “Are We There Yet?” (since I haven’t seen it yet), his answer made me want to watch the show. Basically, he shared that unlike many (if not all) current shows on television, this show is not “too adult for the kids” and is not “too kiddy/young for the adults”. I knew exactly what he was talking about, because it is very rare that my husband and I can enjoy primetime shows with our kids. That description reminded me of Thursday nights on NBC back in the day when there was The Cosby Show, A Different World, Night Court, etc. that the whole family would enjoy watching together.
Speaking of The Cosby Show, we talked about how it presented one type of ideal. There was the loving professional wife and father raising their children together in a comfortable reality. Now, there are shows like “Are We There Yet?” that portray a different reality. No, it’s not the Cosbys, but it can be a different type of ideal. According to Terry, some people should not stick together in an unhappy marriage and they need to be honest enough to say what works and what does not work. Many couples should have called it quits a while ago and moved on to find someone who truly loves them. People today are more honest about what they want and as long as kids have loving parents, then that is good. The reality is that there are more blended families in today’s society, so it’s important to show them in a positive, loving light.
When Terry mentioned that he was lucky to have been with his wife for twenty-one years, I wondered (aloud) what he personally knew about blended families. It turns out that he knows plenty. His wife was a single mom and he had a child when they met. At the time, others were trying to convince his (now) wife to marry her baby’s father. However she made a stand by saying, “no” and making her own life decisions. It is obvious that Terry thinks that she made the right decision because they ended up getting married. (It’s very sweet the way that he talks about his wife. It is obvious that he both respects and adores her.)
Before I spoke with Terry, I asked some readers and friends what they wanted to know. Below, I’ll share his answers to the top four questions:
1. Question: Is “Are We There Yet?” just another Black comedy filled with stereotypes?
Answer: Basically, the television show starts where the “Are We There Yet” movie (with Ice Cube and Nia Long) ended. The couple gets married and have their honeymoon. After that, reality sets in as they deal with the day to day challenges of life. The show attempts to realistically portray a Black couple that deals with blending their families. They love each other and are simply trying to make their new life work.
I must say that the thing I appreciate the most is that Terry is adamant about portraying hardworking Black men who love and provide for their families on television shows. There are a lot of great African-American fathers. They are not as rare as the media makes them out to be. (I agree…my husband is one of them joined by my brothers, my father, my father-in-law; etc., etc.!) Unfortunately, that does not get shown. Rather, Black men are often portrayed as criminals or “playas” with a gazillion different baby mamas. Looking at Terry’s track record, I would say that he is doing a great job. My entire family used to love Everybody Hates Chris (until they kept moving it around on the television schedule, but that’s another story). I even enjoy his family reality show The Family Crews. I’m happy that it’s coming back for another season, because I especially like the way that it portrays his wife. Black women have a tendency to come off looking bad on “reality” shows, but his wife is portrayed like many Black moms that I know in real life – spiritual, loving and down-to-earth. As Terry said, “I’m embracing the dad thing.” I love it and hope that even more men (of all racial backgrounds) follow suit.
2. Question: What is the most difficult challenge that you have faced as part of a blended family?
Answer: We talked about various challenges. One of them (which is going to be addressed in tomorrow’s show) involves the birth parents versus the step-parents. Terry shared that in the beginning, he used to have issues with his oldest child’s father (he calls his step-child “his” oldest child). Fortunately the two men are really cool now, but the original issue was “my kids” (the birth parent) versus “my house” (the step-parent). Boundaries had to be set and respected on all sides. Charlie Murphy, who I think is hilarious, is playing the ex, so I can’t wait to see how that episode regarding showing up unannounced goes. That’s what I like about the concept of “Are We There Yet?” – it uses real life scenarios.
Another challenge that Terry had me both cracking up/ dreading the day was the topic of dealing with their teenagers. I have worked with teens before and I just hope that I have the strength of character to survive those years with my own kids. Terry joked that teens start “smelling themselves”. Do you know what that means? Basically, it means that they get big heads and think that they are “all that”. They don’t pay for anything, but they think that they own everything. I’m interested to see how the show handles that dynamic. Terry joked that teenagers are so difficult, because that’s God’s way of making us parent so happy when they leave home. (If they stayed all sweet, we would never want them to leave. )
3. Question: How do you keep the passion alive in your relationship?
Answer: Ten years into his marriage, Terry and his wife focused on making their relationship a priority. With all of the focus on their kids, they saw that their relationship was suffering and made an effort to pause. They decided to “date” again so that they wouldn’t remain in the “who are you?” state. Once they decided to be a priority to one another, they figured out the practicals (i.e. babysitters, a nanny for their last kid, etc.). He cautioned parents not to put their kids above their spouse. As he said, “The kids are going to grow up and leave you!” and “The best thing that you can do for a child is love their mommy.” True.
4. Question: How do you handle disciplining your stepchildren?
Answer: The biological parent has to give the stepparent the authority to do so. He cautioned that women need to know the men whom they give authority – which needs to be earned/deserved – to discipline their kids in an agreed upon manner. If the biological parent has any questions or doubts, then the other adult shouldn’t be in the house anyway. They shouldn’t be together, because it is essential for the parents to back one another up. There shouldn’t be any “don’t you discipline my kids.” This goes both ways, depending on who the biological parent is – the husband or the wife. For instance, Terry shared how his daughter went off on him one time about her stepmother. His response to her was, “If I have to choose between you and her (his wife), you are going to lose. I’m living with her forever; but you’re going to be out of here.” Suffice it to say, his daughter got the point.
I ended our conversation by asking Terry if he had any last words of encouragement for those who are considering (or are already) a part of a blended family. He mentioned that blended families are actually a real life example of what God has already done by accepting everyone and calling them family. Terry emphasized that blended family bonds can be even stronger than biological bonds. It takes a lot of patience and love to build trust and a lot of other good things. They are earned and can sometimes come slowly. There will hard times and sometimes it will feel like a thankless job and ultimately, there are no guarantees. However, if you consistently do what is right, it will all come back to you. When the kids leave your home, that is usually when it clicks for them. That is when they will realize that they learned to love by your example. In sum, kids learn to love by being loved – blended family or not.
Are any of you moms a part of a blended family? If so, do you agree with what Terry has shared? Do you have any other words of wisdom to add?