I’m a fan of the Holderness family—the YouTube sensation made up of petite and pretty, yet relatable, mom Kim; tall and adorably dorky dad Penn; and two delightful, patient, and very agreeable (to their parent’s whims) pre-teen kids. They produce funny and very popular music videos that make light of life as a middle class family living in the suburbs. In our age of hyper-stressed parenting, it’s nice to have the Holderness family around to remind parents not to take it all too seriously and that parenting can be fun.
Mostly they get it right. Their recent comparison of what it’s like to go to the beach with and without kids mimicked brilliantly British comedian Michael McIntyre’s hilarious routine recreating what it’s like to leave the house with and without children (spoiler: with kids, it involves more than just walking out the front door).
Yet, the Holderness’ latest video, which focuses on the difficulty of getting through the summer months when the kids are out of school, hit an off note with me because it’s premise is that it’s the parents’ responsibility to entertain the kids during this break. It’s not.
The catchy hip hop song starts with Kim yelling to a group of neighbors: “Okay, Parents, huddle up!” followed by Penn rapping “Okay, team, the school year is through! Three straight months and we’ve got work to do.” The message is clear: Parents are summertime’s cruise directors and keeping the kids amused is going to be awful.
The rest of the song focuses on the packed summer schedule, with Penn suggesting a play date and singing: “Day One: we need an activity to do, how about we gather at a park around three!” This is followed up with a call for Kim to clean her children (they’ve become sweaty) who each seem old enough to clean themselves. Then comes a suggestion that they spend an hour doing a jigsaw puzzle, while Penn hovers over them.
Day Two isn’t any better. Penn and Kim wants to sleep in but, sadly, the entire family has to take the dog on a walk around what appears to be a very nice, suburban, and seemingly safe neighborhood. Someone needs to tell Penn and Kim that they can, in fact, sleep in if they let the kids walk the dog—by themselves.
Day Three shows no signs of improvement. The Holderness kids are invited to a party. Yay! A break, right? Nah. The entire family attends the party. Days Four and Five are similarly grim, as the family can’t seem to pry themselves away from each other.
Of course, this is all supposed to be good, lighthearted fun and the Holderness family has indeed captured the dread many parents feel at the loss of—let’s be honest—school-based babysitting. But the Holderness parents should be careful to protect their carefree, fun brand and not convey or support the type of helicopter parenting that’s so prevalent today. They shouldn’t fall into the trap of portraying parenting as a dreadful chore and kids as an unrelenting, living and breathing to-do list.
Instead, Kim and Penn should do what they do best—remind us that parenting isn’t the thankless job so many say it is and kids don’t need to be “entertained” every second of the summer break. Perhaps a catchy song telling moms and dads that boredom is okay and completely normal. In fact, I’m sure Penn and Kim could look back on their own childhoods—before smartphones, Wi-Fi, and the hundreds of television channels and on-demand shows now available—and remember that boredom was a huge part of their own summer breaks.
My own mother in no way saw herself as Julie the Cruise Director (that’s a Love Boat reference for you millennial readers). In fact, my mom was more like Claire the Kid Neglector—a mom norm in those days, not a reason to call Child Protective Services.
I remain a huge fan of the Holderness family and always click on their videos to lift my sprits. Let’s hope they keep up the good work and resist the urge to over-parent and overprotect.