He responded to George’s outlandish behavior and was able to understand his exaggerated body language and facial cues. It all clicked when he watched his favorite show, The Jeffersons.
When my son was in fourth grade, I purchased social skills DVDs and had been trying to teach him to read peoples’ body language, gestures, and social cues. He found the animated videos to be boring and they didn’t keep his attention at all, so we donated them to a local library.
I kept searching for something he would respond to and then it happened. We were flipping channels one evening, stopping on The Jeffersons reruns playing on Nick-At-Nite, and he laughed out loud.
My son LOLed? We started watching The Jeffersons together, it became our nightly ritual. I purchased the season one DVD set, and then the second season. He couldn’t get enough, watching them repeatedly, over and over. Always laughing. We ended up with the six seasons on DVD that were available at the time.
George’s behavior was sometimes controversial, but my son ate it up. We’d talk about when Weezy’s feelings were hurt by George and how he would apologize and make it up to her. He’d tell me how and why Florence was a wonderfully terrible maid. We’d discuss his observation that Helen was a great friend to Weezy, but was often distressed about George’s inappropriate behavior towards her husband Tom.
He learned about teasing from Florence’s endless wisecracks directed at George, and about judgement from Mother Jeffererson’s berating of Florence. The slightly oddball characters were celebrated and showcased including Benson, the eccentric neighbor and Ralph, the tip-hungry doorman. There were layered lessons about race, friendships, family drama, and society in general. It was never boring, and always led to dissection of social interaction.
The Jefferson sets were simple, with most of the action happening in George and Weezy’s living room. There weren’t a lot of distractions and the focus was on the characters and their dialog. My son learned that miscommunication was the cause of so many problems, and that again, communication had the power to make things right.
I always loved everything about The Jeffersons growing up, from the theme song to George’s brashness to Weezey’s kindness, and all the humor. I soaked it up, so I was thrilled that my son found something that brought him joy and intertwined lessons.
As an overeager mother, I bought the series DVDs of other 70’s shows; Three’s Company, Gillian’s Island, and The Adams Family. But his devotion was to The Jeffersons only, with absolutely no interest in Chrisy Snow or the beloved Jack Tripper.
My son’s a teenager now and I recently started my pre-holiday purging. The Jeffersons DVDs were in the Goodwill pile with about a thousand others, ready for the next family to enjoy. He pulled his six season sets and took them back to his room. “I’m keeping these, Mom,” he said before finding a sacred place for them in his bookshelf.
I’m going to surprise him with Season 7 and 8 that are listed on Amazon now. I can’t wait to catch up with the great Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford. Secretly, and completely selfishly, I hope that my teenage son will still watch them with me.