This weekend I’m catching up on NBC’s hit tearjerker This Is Us, and the second episode doesn’t disappoint. Filled with touching moments, especially between characters who haven’t been as close previously, it captures the difficulty and depth of developing a family. Randall and Beth further contemplate fostering a child. Through Randall’s doubt and Beth’s persistence in their discussions, they demonstrate the uncertainty in family connections and the communication necessary to develop those connections. They show triumph over uncertainty and difficulty to connect leads to the development of strong family ties.
Randall knows firsthand what it feels like to struggle through childhood. As the adopted child of the Big Three triplets and only one of a different race, he knows how easy it can be to feel separated. He also has witnessed the effects of parents’ problems on children; his adoptive father Jack struggled with a drinking problem passed down from Jack’s father, a problem that stirs conflict within Jack and Rebecca’s marriage and family, and, his biological father struggled with drug problems and ultimately died from cancer. Randall understandably fears not feeling equipped to deal with a foster child who may have been abused in some way (Beth at first guesses he feels nervous about answering the question about his family history of alcoholism and drugs). As Beth points out, they didn’t know what they would get when they had their two daughters.
Their discussion and their potential to know beforehand whether a child would have the difficulties of healing from abuse or difficult medical histories intrigued me. As Bev points out, people generally don’t know what problems may arise related to their children or their preparedness to parent. Life, and families in particular, face a lot of uncertainty. Yet Randall’s life proves that the uncertainty and challenges can be overcome. Perhaps some of Randall’s perfectionism and hard work ethic stem from a desire to prove himself worthy. It also fuels him to work to stay connected with his family despite the difficulties. Ultimately, in this episode, we see how Beth’s insistence to continue their discussion until completion of the foster care questionnaire demonstrates how communication can further deepen and develop family connections. She does not let Randall give up, and together they progress their goal to broaden their family.
Beth’s story arc in this episode also shows how connections can develop even where they don’t have much depth already. She informs Randall that she does not find his brother Kevin funny and that she does not care to watch the recording of Kevin’s show The Manny. Kevin knows their relationship does not go deep, but he still seizes his chance to be there for her and his brother. Beth finds herself in Kevin’s room backstage and shares her frustration with Randall. Rather than remove himself to give Beth space, Kevin chooses to stay and communicate. As she divulges their plans to adopt, Kevin sees Beth’s need for understanding and connects with her through a humorous background story Beth didn’t previously realize connected them. It serves as a point for them to start deepening their friendship as well as encouragement for Beth to not get discouraged in her journey with Randall to become foster parents.
As usual, this episode makes me tear up at the touching depth to these characters and their situations. They remind me that with effort and communication we can all develop deeper connections with family. Their strength does not come without difficulty. Opportunities always exist to connect as well, whether they be with family members who have been around for years or with ones who may not have joined yet. Like Randall and Beth, we should not let fear of uncertainty steer us away from developing those ties.