I love One Day at a Time. I love the Alvarez family. I love Elena Alvarez and her story. I think it’s an important one. But just as important is Penelope’s (whom I also love btw) story.
It’s necessary for parents of kids who have or will come out. It is necessary for those kids.
She’s not Victor Alvarez, who we’ve seen so often in media with “this is not okay. This will never be okay. This needs to be fixed.” mentality.
She’s not Eliza Danvers of Supergirl who will immediately give her daughter a hug and an “I love you however you are” after she deduces it before she’s even told.
She’s not Abulita Lydia who needed 30 seconds to recognize and overcome her biases despite decades of feeling one way about the issue.
She’s Penelope Alvarez, who knows this is okay. Who knows that this is important. Who knows her daughter needs her to be nothing less than supportive. But she’s just not there yet. And she hates herself for it, but that doesn’t suddenly make it not weird for her.
Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk, once wrote in a prayer “But I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you” which I’ve always thought to be the foundation for every loving relationship.
Parents know this. Penelope knows this. Every time Elena or Alex made her some macaroni covered monstrosity, it went in the Alvarez Museum. Every time they somehow managed to simultaneously burn and undercook her breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day, she ate it with a smile. Because the desire to please her does in fact please her, more than her kids know, until maybe they have kids of their own.
Kids need to learn this. That their parents aren’t perfect. That the best they can hope for is parents that have the desire to please them, the impulse to love them no matter what, the determination to find the support under the weird feeling.
And kids need to see that these victories are worth so much more because they are so hard-won. It’s easy for a parent who is okay with something to be okay with it. It’s much harder for a parent who isn’t to do everything she possibly can to get there because it’s what her daughter deserves.
It’s such an integral part of some coming out stories, and almost all growing up stories. Kids will do things their parents don’t get or don’t like or don’t appreciate but the parents will try. From the first time they learn all of the Avengers, or Disney Princesses, or Pokemon, or vehicles in the Star Wars universe. Through friends they can’t stand, sports they think are boring, gender expressions or sexual orientations they just don’t get, significant others they don’t think are good enough. But they’ll smile and learn the characters, and give the friend juice and cookies, and argue with the referee, and talk to strangers at a gay bar to let their kid know that everything they are is okay. That everything they are is loved.
And someday when Penelope is more than okay with Elena’s sexuality, she’ll embarrassedly confess how it took her awhile to get there, and what she did during the journey, and Elena will look at her and realize her mom is even more remarkable than she thought. She’ll see a woman who is nothing but the desire to see her children happy, and what could be more pleasing to Elena than that.