Let me start off by saying, Deja’s mom, Shauna, is the hero of this episode. Giving your child the chance of a better life is one of the most selfless choices a parent can make. Shauna showed such courage and love for Deja in this episode.
I think Shauna was able to come to this conclusion because she realized that things never go well when a parent needs their child. Shauna tells Beth that she has always told Deja “What would I do without you?” and becomes frustrated with herself for this. She’s right. This phrase, as harmless, and even encouraging as it sounds is so harmful for a kid to hear from their parent. A parent’s job is to care for the child, not vice versa. As the child’s brain develops they need to know that they will be taken care of and provided for in order to grow. The parent will not be able to meet every need (as we’ve learned from Rebecca and Kevin) and that’s okay, but when the kid is expected to meet the parent’s needs things go south.
This can happen in a lot of different ways. In Shauna and Deja’s story Deja took on the responsibility of reminding Shauna to go to work, teaching her to pay the bills, pointing out flaws in the men Shauna decided to date, and helping Shauna grieve the loss of her grandmother. I’ve also seen this play out in the child being responsible for the parent’s health - making sure they take their medicine and go to their doctors appointment. Sometimes in the midst of divorce, separation, or marital distance the child becomes responsible to meet emotional needs of the parent that should have been met by the spouse. This is called emotional incest. Sometimes its a simple as the parent needing the child to make them feel like a good mother or father. Instead of encouraging the child to grow and become independent the parent needs the child to stay dependent on them so that they feel good about themselves as a parent.
Any time a parent needs a child the child suffers. I loved the way this episode was shot moving from one family to another. It helped us see that everyone hurts (no matter your upbringing) like Deja explained at the end of the episode, but it also showed “leg up” that Kevin, Kate, Randall, Tess, and Annie experience from having parents to who took care of them instead of the other way around.
We watched Rebecca look at her babies lovingly and try to bond with them and Shauna resist holding Deja because of her fears of being a teen mother.
We watched young Kate at the hospital with her siblings and parents around her and Deja take herself to the hospital after cutting her hand in the kitchen alone.
We watched adult Kate open the door to find her mother there to help her grieve her miscarriage and Shauna open the door to a confused Deja - trying to be happy about being reunited with her mom but also afraid.
We watched Rebecca bake playfully with her kids and Deja make dinner for Shauna and her boyfriend.
We watched Kevin get to hold on to a family heirloom to help grieve the loss of his dad while Deja considered selling hers to make ends meet.
We watched Annie and Tess enjoy a normal evening at home enjoying dinner, games, and a movie and Deja experience being a kid again since the last time she was at the Pearsons.
All of these little memories add up for each family. All of these little memories play a part in how these children see themselves and how they understand their parent’s love for them. When parents need their children, children are robbed of their childhood and the chance to see their worth as more than their ability to do something for their parents.
Some things to consider:
1. As a parent is there anything you need from your children? How could you choose to relieve them of these responsibilities?
2. As a child were you responsible for your parents in anyway. How could you choose to recognize as unjust and grieve this loss. How might you adjust the way you connect your worth with what you’re able to do for others?