I’ll admit to watching hundreds of episodes of the old show. I’m familiar with the formula: bad children are made — not born — by irresponsible, lazy parents who need a swift kick in the rear before they learn the techniques that keep a home organized.
Mom’s usually in charge of the irregular discipline. Dad is usually too consumed by work and when he comes home, he either ignores the problem or tries to make up for lost time being the super-strict authority figure. Mom gets emotional when Supernanny lays down the law. Dad gets defensive.
While there’s usually very little to report, minus exceptionally violent or foul-mouthed children, the second episode of “America’s Supernanny” had much more in store. (Watch the whole episode online here.)
Mandy Sheckles, Amy Paul and their six biological children, to be exact. They were all conceived through donated sperm and the last four were quads.
It took me a minute to figure out what was going on, but when Tillman sat the parents down for the usual come-to-Jesus moment, it was clear that these two women — who run three daycare centers in Virginia — were partners in life and in misery.
Soon the formula became apparent: Paul was in over her head at home with the kids. Sheckles was attached to her work cellphone and offered little by way of attention to the children when she finally got home.
I was initially suspicious about how this would play out. I’m not sure that “Supernanny,” in any incarnation, has dealt with gay parents before. Would the show make any special mention of the parents’ sexuality? Would the parents make any special mention of their own differences and how that might affect their parenting?
As the show played out, the formula proved right, as usual. But beyond that, it proved a greater point about gay parents.
They’re just parents.
No matter how different this family looked on the outside, one of the parents needed to be more consistent in discipline and the other needed to leave work at work. It was as simple as that, regardless that both parents were women.
I knew all this. My female boss has a wife and two really smart kids. They’re soccer moms. It’s all very normal and completely unsurprising, but there’s something in the repetition of Supernanny’s formula that drove it home for an avid TV junkie like me.
Gay people don’t want to get “gay married,” they just want to get married. Gay people don’t want to have “gay families,” they just want to have a family.
Hopefully the show, which by most standards is a departure from the norm, is illustrative of that concept and that people gay and straight, whether they pursue marriage, family or career goals, are more alike than different.
Top photo: Mandy Sheckles (left) and her partner, Amy Paul (center), were featured on Lifetime’s ‘Supernanny’ with Deborah Tillman. (Publicity photo)