Remember Monica’s Mom from “Friends”? Here’s How to Avoid Becoming Just Like Her
I am a big fan of Friends. One of the things that the writers of this classic sitcom did so well, in my opinion, was make Monica’s relationship with her mother into a problem that a lot of us face: hopelessly trying to please a critical parent. Because it was tv, Friends was able to milk a lot of jokes from this relationship that at times appeared a little exaggerated (there were a couple of hilarious jokes over the years where Judy Geller seemed to even forget she had a daughter!) For some of us, sometimes those situations resonated all too easily.
I thought it’d be fun to learn from Monica and her mother’s experiences, so I present to you my
Five Easy Steps To Avoid Becoming Monica’s Mom
1. Compliment your child on their efforts, even if you’d rather nitpick. In “The One With the Sonogram at the End”, Jack and Judy come over for dinner with Monica & Ross, and Mom is quick to judge that the spaghetti Monica is serving is “easy“, making it clear that she’s disappointed while pointedly fluffing Monica’s couch pillows. We all know how it feels to be Monica here: frantic that guests are coming over (especially her hyper-critical mom) and working hard to make everything as nice as possible. Mrs. Geller should have said, “Thank you for having us. Spaghetti’s great. I’m just glad to spend time with you.” Children will never get tired of hearing how much they and their efforts are valued in their parents’ eyes.
2. Love each child in your family equally. It was a running gag in the world of Friends that Mr. & Mrs. Geller favored Ross over Monica. Some classic bits: “I just wish Nana was here to hear Ross’s toast” – right after Monica gave her horribly inappropriate one at the Gellers’ anniversary party, and “We turned Monica’s room into a gym.” Let’s not forget that all of Monica’s childhood mementos were ruined in the Gellers’ garage when they used her boxes to stop a flood. Of course, this is pure comedy, but when parents show favoritism, even in the subtlest of ways, children notice. It’s more than making sure each kid has an equal amount of ice cream; we need to invest equal amounts of energy in each of our children’s varying interests. (If you happen to have made this mistake already in the lives of your kids, just follow Jack’s lead and give the less-favored child your Porsche. It seemed to make all of Monica’s issues disappear! )
3. Understand that these kinds of negative traits are passed on from generation to generation. In “The One Where Nana Dies Twice”, Judy confided to Monica that she was frustrated by her own mother’s critical nature. Of course, she remained oblivious to her constant harping on Monica. How many times have we heard her drop a comment that Monica’s hairstyle is unflattering, or that her singleness was a terrible thing? The good news is, the pattern of passing down these traits can be stopped! All it takes is some self-awareness and a desire to change, along with a lot of hard work.
I know this from personal experience. As a minor example, last fall, I realized that I was a little obsessive about my daughter Lucy’s hair when we went to public places. If I was unable to fix it in any cute way, I’d make some comment to other people like, “Look at her crazy hair.” As though her toddler hairstyle was a reflection on my parenting skills or something, and as though Lucy had any control over it. When I caught myself doing that, I realized I was emphasizing her appearance more than her value as a person, and I made a point to stop worrying about it. I mean, who cares? Now, her hair looks precious all the time and no one says anything about that either.
4. Don’t spend your daughter’s wedding fund on a beach house! Especially if she knows about it and she’s counting on it. ‘Nuff said.
5. Never, under any circumstances, bring up old embarrassing stories in front of your adult childrens’ friends. This one applies to Ross. In “The One With the Cake”, the Gellers bring to everyone’s attention something that Ross did as a toddler. It’s so completely mortifying that I am choosing not to repeat it here. Ross, however, handles it like a pro. After all, he’s the one who still refers to Judy as “Mommy” in public, so I don’t think he embarrasses all that easily.
To be fair, I love the character of Judy Geller. Here are a couple of things about her that I find endearing:
- She’s very affectionate, supportive, and frisky with her husband. Of course, this can sometimes seem kinda disgusting, since we see them from Ross & Monica’s point of view. But it’s sweet all the same. I mean, 35 years together! They’re adorable.
- She’s totally blunt and hilariously scathing when she speaks to people. One of my favorite episodes is “The One Where Ross Gets High” (aka “The Thanksgiving When Rachel Screwed Up the Trifle”). The Gellers are there to experience Rachel’s botched cooking experiment, as well as witness a fantastic blowout between Monica and Ross. Judy gets to deliver my favorite monologue from the show: “That’s a lot of information to get in 30 seconds… Joey, if you wanna leave, just leave. Rachel, no you weren’t supposed to put beef in the trifle. It. Did. Not. Taste. Good. Phoebe, I’m sorry, but I think Jacques Cousteau is dead. Monica, why you felt you had to hide the fact that you’re in an important relationship is beyond me. Ross, drugs? Divorced, again? Chandler, you’ve been Ross’s best friend all these years, stuck by him during the drug problems, and now you’ve taken on Monica as well. Well, I don’t know what to say. You’re a wonderful human being.” Her delivery is awesome.
What fun memories do you have from Friends? Did you ever find yourself relating to Monica’s relationship with her mother? Have you heard the news that “our little Har-Monica” is going to be on three episodes of Scrubs in the fall?