Compassion, Groundedness, and Being Strict: Are you a Christine or a Lynn?

Disclaimers and yada-yada:   My good friend and co-blogger Cathy and I had the chance to interview Christine Adams, actress in “Black Lightning”  on The CW.  The following is the first of two reflections of our 30-minute chat.  This post is not sponsored.  Check out the show, with a new episode airing this Monday, February 11, 2019.  Now, on with our post:

They are both mamas, both highly articulate and intelligent, and they both raise two daughters spaced by fairly significant age gaps. It could be very easy to blend real life with fiction, if we hadn’t met talented actress Christine Adams to have a frank conversation about motherhood, parenting, heroism and values. Recently we got to know Christine’s philosophies on many topics including her passion for helping disadvantaged youth and how she sometimes just likes to go read her newspaper in peace.

Before we got to know Adams, we only knew her as Lynn Pierce the neuroscientist, American mom, nurturer and glue to an entire family of superheroes in the DC – TV show Black Lightning. It was delightful to meet the passionate Englishwoman speak in her authentic accent and voice. We ended up adoring the real person behind the cool TV character.  Christine’s honesty struck us during our 30-minute conversation about motherhood and how her upbringing shaped the way she approaches her no-nonsense parenting style.

Raised by a single mum – who was pregnant with Christine at age 17, Christine developed a solid sense of herself quite early on.  Her mom was determined to keep Christine on track to avoid her tendency to be a “wild child”, instilling the skills to hustle and survive and be responsible just by the sheer act of not being able to do IT ALL for her. Adamant that “adversity makes children strong”,  Christine reflects on the lessons she learned in her formative years using a few examples of how she had to care of herself at an early age and it’s clear that this non-traditional upbringing shaped her into a caring, effective, and strict (by her standards), mum to her own daughters.

Christine’s character, Lynn Pierce embodies the best mom qualities of TV dream moms Lorelai Gilmore and Claire Huxtable. Understanding, patience, and a sense of humour are her superpowers. She’s got an amazing career, a great coparenting relationship and she’s almost launched both of her girls into adulthood.  Lynn also manages to keep her ex-husband on his toes with the sparks that are obviously still between them. It’s the way that she parents her girls as if they were buddies that we are curious about. This is where the two mamas diverge, and life does not imitate art in this case.

While we really do like Lynn Pierce on Black Lightning and we love how she nurtures her superpower brood, it is a little bothersome to watch how her youngest daughter Jennifer, doesn’t seem to be able to do anything wrong in Lynn’s eyes. Lynn seems too busy being friends with her daughter to get a handle on her wild child tendencies.

Is it possible to be the “friend mom” and the “strict mom” at the same time?  Should you be a Lynn or a Christine to be an effective parent – or a blend of both?  We talked about this “friend zone” of parenting with Christine, who errs on the strict side,  “no cell phones at dinner, friends are expected to use their “please” and “thank you’s”, whining is not tolerated because we have pretty good lives!”  and P.S. Christine is determined that “kids should know how to do the laundry and make dinner.”

Unlike her character,  Christine doesn’t need to be her daughter’s best friend. She wants to do good by them – to teach them practical skills and manners that so many kids these days are lacking when they get to adulthood, even if that means making herself unpopular to her daughters. Christine’s parenting style and values almost seem old-fashioned, but in spite of that, this approach works for her and her family. Her no-nonsense approach to life is shaped by her upbringing, but she also illuminates  her tender, nurturing side when she chats with us about her passionate commitment of working with homeless youth.

Christine told us a story about an early morning walk, when the sun was just rising, and coming across a young woman walking with a shopping cart.  There was a teddy bear sitting atop that cart. The young woman looked aimless. When they got to talking, it turned out that the girl was 17 years old, 7 months pregnant, and homeless.  Christine has great compassion. Christine cares deeply, putting thoughts into actions and actions into commitments. She explained how the Venice, CA youth organization she is involved with called SPY (Safe Place for Youth)  might stand a chance because there are more and more people who care about their homelessness and their stories. Even everyday actions like helping young girls on the street buy tampons and other necessities is something she’ll stand by

The little girl who was so eager for some attention in a sea of grown-ups raised by her own superhero single mom, is now commanding a lot of attention on and off the screen. Keep paying attention to this woman, actress, mom, and advocate. Listen to her messages of level-headed parenting, insisting on please and thank yous, no whining and the one that will stay with us:

Don’t desensitize yourself to the troubles on your doorstep.