How ‘Growing Pains’ Inspired Chinese People to Become Better Parents

Editor’s Note: This post is unedited to retain its authenticity. 

Growing Pains was popular at the time in America, but it’s just another silly sitcom to most Americans. However, it was the first American family TV show that’s been showed on public TV in China. The impact was huge.

It was 1991, the memory was fuzzy how or when I started watching, but I remember falling in love instantly. It was the first exposure of American life to the Chinese audience. The house was unbelievably big, the jokes are refreshing and hilarious, Mike was incredibly handsome, and most of all, it painted a picture of a “happy family” that’s strange but fascinating.

Like most of the children in my generation in China, I’m a single child. Both parents worked and there was not much communication other than about my performance at school. I needed to obey the rules or got yelled/ beaten by my father. I couldn’t have fathomed the family relationship being like that, equal, harmonious, compassionate and affectionate. At the time I couldn’t realize anything wrong about my own life because it’s “normal”, my friends, my schoolmates’ families were pretty much the same. But like a child who’s never seen candy before got taken to a candy store, I saw it, smelled it, even I couldn’t taste it, its existence made me happy. So I revisited it over and over again, every day at 8pm when the music went on, it was my happiest time.

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My parents weren’t enjoying it as much, their true feelings remained unclear, but I know the teenager romance bothered them a lot. Dating in school was taboo at the time and after seeing a few episodes when the older kids having relationships, hugging and kissing I was forbidden to watch it. Sometimes when they were in a good mood I got to watch, but most time I could only sit in my room and listened to the music went on from other people’s home and eagerly imagined what’s happening in the show.

Only till later, one day after watching an episode with my mom, she turned towards me and said: “Let’s start hugging and calling each other “honey”, it seems sweet.” I was surprised and told her it’s silly. But I was happy to know that she also enjoyed it.

With Alan Thicke passing away, the topic of Growing Pains went viral again on Chinese social media. People similar age with me were all talking about how much they loved the show and how it influenced their lives. In many children’s lives of much deficiency, it brought us laughter, softness, love, and hope.

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RIP Alan Thicke, I will always remember Jason Seaver as the greatest dad in the world, and I’m striving to be the good parent that I was longing to have.

I’m writing about it because it’s important to me. And I think it might be interesting for you to know about this aspect of the show. Sorry about my poor English and thank you for reading it.

About the author: Weng Chen is a artist, creator of Fat Princess, Co-founder of Carbongames and Art Director of Airmech. Check out her comics on wengchen.com

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