Last week, nostalgia punched me hard in the gut. My 16-year-old daughter, Rowan, and I were watching the latest episode of the sitcom, Modern Family, and, out of nowhere, I became teary when the episode ended. My daughter had gone to her room to continue her non-stop homework, and I just lay there thinking, “I know this is happening, and the show is ending, but I don’t want it to!” I even thought, “How can the creators and writers and all the actors do this to me and my daughter?”
After 11 seasons, and 250 episodes, the award-winning sitcom will air its final episode on April 8th. When I think about that date, I both dread it and also look forward to seeing how the show will end. For me and my daughter, Modern Family was so much more than just a sitcom.
Why am I so incredibly sad this show is ending? It’s not just because every episode of Modern Family is truly funny. It’s also not just that there are so very few sitcoms left, nowadays, that both children and parents can enjoy together. I think, mostly, I became so nostalgic because my daughter and I had truly enjoyed bonding over the show. It had become our tradition. It had become “our thing.”
Together, just the two of us, we have watched every single episode of Modern Family, many of the episodes multiple times.
I think I may be in a state of pre-grieving, right now, leading up to the series finale. I feel like the ending of this award-winning sitcom is almost like a death of something, that I can’t quite put down in words. I think it’s the realization that not only do things end, like a long-running television show, but also my daughter’s childhood is ending, as is one of our traditions.
“Do you want to watch a Modern?” became sort of a code phrase between us. If Rowan ever asked me, “Do you want to watch a Modern?” I knew she had a bad day and needed me. Likewise, when I asked her, my daughter knew it was because I had a long day and that watching even one episode with me would cheer me up. She has never, once, turned me down when I have asked, “Want to watch a Modern?”
Whether it was her who asked me, or me who asked her, we knew there was an unwritten underlying sentiment that meant, “I need you.” Week after week, year after year, for more than a decade, this sitcom not only always brought us together, but continually strengthened our unbreakable bond. And, without exception, when a new episode airs, we’d get genuinely excited.
“There’s a new Modern!” I’d scream, across the hall, when I saw there was a new episode. My daughter would come racing into my room, no matter what she had been doing, eager to watch. Even if we both had great days, watching a new episode of Modern Family would just make the day even brighter.
Even as she entered the pre-teen, and teen years, the sentence, “Want to watch a Modern?” continued to be a well-repeated one.
I have never watched even one episode of Modern Family alone, or with anyone else. She was just five-years-old when we started watching the show together, as I raised her as a single mother, while her father lived in a different city. We, too, were a “modern family” or at least a “non-traditional” family, and Modern Family, I think, taught my daughter that there are many variations of family, there’s no right or wrong way to be a family, and, also, that there is nothing more important than family, no matter what variations, or personality types.
My daughter and I were also in a blended family. In every episode, there was at least one thing that we could relate too, in our “Modern Family.” Alongside the character Gloria, for example, I also had a baby at 40 with another man. Rowan, I think, had braces at the same time as the character, Lily, and also had a half-brother, like the characters Manny, Claire, and Mitch. But, also, she saw what a happy marriage was with the Dunphy Family, and that, yes, it’s normal to get annoyed with your spouse, from time to time, but overall, they truly did love each other.
And, as we watched, we always cuddled, her leaning on me, as I ran my hands through her hair, our legs intertwined, her arms wrapped around me. Even as my daughter entered her pre-teen and teenage years, watching the show together, it always felt like she was still my “baby” and that she still wanted to spend time with me.
Modern Family was also medicinal, I think, for both of us. Throughout the years, if either of us had a good day or bad day, a stressful day or a long day, the one constant that always, without a doubt, cheered us up was watching Modern Family together, and we would, for those 22 minutes, forget about everything and anything else, in our bubble, just mother and daughter, our own personal worries or struggles completely forgotten. For me, those weekly 22 minutes of watching an episode of Modern Family became my favourite part of the week. So I can’t help but wonder, what now?
No matter what life threw at either of us, once again, watching Modern Family together, was our one constant. We could also never decide who was our favourite character. We liked them all, for different reasons, in different episodes, or different seasons. Modern Family really did bond us together.
And, if I’m trying to keep positive, I do feel blessed that, just as the tradition of watching Modern Family with my daughter for years is ending, I now have started another tradition with my 7-year-old son, as we watch Young Sheldon together, a show that we both love, and that has become “our thing.”
Thank you to the creators, writers and the characters Phil, Claire, Haley, Alex, Luke, Jay, Gloria, Manny, Joe, Mitchell, Cameron, Lily, and even Stella, the dog, for 11 years of a mother/daughter tradition, for the hundreds of hours I got to enjoy with my daughter, and for making our modern family feel more normal than not.
I can only hope that even though there won’t be any new episodes, when my daughter or I say to one another, “Want to watch a Modern?” we know that we still need each other.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox