A lot of voices in the parenting world label TV as a worthless waste of time. Monitoring what our kids watch is important, but there’s no need to completely exile the talking box to the attic. Moderation remains one of my guiding principles in parenting; my kids get PLENTY of outdoor time but I believe that there ARE shows airing that are worth being seen, even if we have to go back a few years to find them.
For the duration of my childhood, The Andy Griffith Show was an entertainment staple in my household; my parents were avid fans, and the hilariously relatable situations of its episodes made me laugh from a young age. Knowing that it was filmed when my parents were kids showed me that they, like Opie, had likely gone through the same things that I, many years later, was experiencing myself. Now I’m sharing this awesome show with my kids, and they love it in all its black and white glory. Just as I could see myself in Opie’s shoes, my children can, too. Even though era-specific details are present in the show (Wait, why is he putting money into that phone? Didn’t they have cell phones?), the lessons he learns are timeless.
Here are some of the most memorable lessons that the Andy Griffith Show instilled in me, ones that I’m proud for my kids to learn as they watch the show:
Taking Responsibility for Our Actions- In “Opie the Birdman” we see that thoughtless actions can carry heavy consequences that affect others around us. By shooting a songbird with his slingshot, Opie killed the mother of three little birds in a nest outside his house. His father, Andy, helps him to see that it’s up to him to fill the void of the mother bird which leads to Opie becoming their caretaker. As a child it reminded me that I had the power to unintentionally hurt others and needed to take responsibility when I did something wrong. Watching him allow the birds to fly away when they’re ready (through a mixture of excitement for them and nervousness over whether he has done enough for them) speaks to me now, as a parent as my kids grow through their life experiences. His triumph also reminds me that I should allow my kids to learn from their mistakes and not always soften the blow of the consequences they face.
Slow Down and Enjoy Life- Another lesson that still resonates with me today comes from the episode “Man in a Hurry”, where a traveling businessman gets stranded in Mayberry (the setting of The Andy Griffith Show) when his car breaks down there on a Sunday. He is appalled that no one in this typically hardworking town works on Sundays and that he won’t be able to get back on the road to meet a deadline until the next day. Andy and the folks of Mayberry offer him hospitality, but don’t change their way of life to meet the man’s personal demands, continuing to sit on their front porch swings, visit with one another and relax. By the end of the man’s stay in Mayberry, he doesn’t want to leave, and appears refreshed, possessing a new outlook on life. Even as a kid this episode made a lot of sense to me, because I watched the adults in my life hustle from one thing to the next, neglecting their families and forgetting to enjoy each day. As an adult, it reminds me to prioritize carefully and that sometimes sitting and talking to a friend is just as important as finishing a business deal. This clip from the episode features one of my favorite hymns… watch the change in the businessman’s demeanor.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving and Always Be Yourself– In “Rafe Hollister Sings” Andy discovers that Rafe Hollister, a rough-looking illegal moonshiner and farmer, has an amazingly beautiful voice and insists that Rafe enter a local singing contest. The town’s mayor and contest organizers are dismayed when Rafe wins the contest because of his appearance and tell Andy he must make Rafe presentable before he sings at the scheduled performance. Andy at first works on Rafe’s clothes, but when Rafe says he’s uncomfortable dressed that way, Andy tells him to wear his usual overalls and to be himself. The lessons of being true to oneself and not judging others capabilities based on their appearances has stuck with me, and my kids have thankfully picked up on and absorbed these values as well.
The Importance of Friendship- Andy and Barney not only depict a Sheriff and Deputy working together in a small town, they also exhibit a glowing example of a healthy friendship. No matter what happens, these two always have each other’s back.
Not Everyone Has Good Intentions/ If It’s Too Good to Be True It Probably Is- As seen in the episode “Barney Buys a Car”, many people will take advantage of naïveté and exploit the good faith of others. Barney buys his first car from a little old lady whose promises about her car seem too good to be true. The old lady sells an overzealous Barney the car, despite Andy suggesting that Barney have a mechanic look over the car before he buys it. Barney refuses, saying that it would be an insult to doubt the lady’s word, and ultimately sees the error of his ways when he realizes he has bought a lemon. As someone who still tends to look for the good in people, this episode reminds me that looking out of my own best interest isn’t an insult to others, and that if a deal seems too perfect that something may not be right.
The humanity shown in Andy Griffith continues to impact me and sharing practical life lessons with my kids in a fun way after dinner is a great way to make memories. It’s also a great way to feel like a good parent at the end of a long, tiring day. In a world where the news is dominated by devastating stories, we could all use a little Mayberry in our lives.