I’m so sorry to hear about the death of Alan Thicke on the 13th. I’m not his fan, never seen any of his other shows besides Growing Pain. However, this news struck me so hard that I almost cried. I know it’s not just for the deceased, but for the little me who loved the show and fantasized about a family and a father that I wish I had.
Growing Pain was popular at the time in America, but it was just another silly sitcom to most Americans. However, it was the first American family TV show that was shown on public TV in China. The impact was huge.
It was 1991, the memory is fuzzy how or when I started watching, but I remember falling in love instantly. It was the first exposure of American life to the Chinese audience. The house was unbelievably big, the jokes were refreshing and hilarious, Mike was incredibly handsome, and most of all, it painted a picture of a “happy family” that was strange but fascinating.
Like most of the children in my generation in China, I’m a single child. Both parents worked and there was not much communication other than about my performance at school. I needed to obey the rules or got yelled at/ beaten by my father. I couldn’t have fathomed the family relationship being like that, equal, harmonious, compassionate and affectionate. At the time I couldn’t realize anything wrong about my own life because it was “normal”, my friends, my schoolmates’ families were pretty much the same. But like a child who has never seen candy before being taken to a candy store, I saw it, smelled it, and even though I couldn’t taste it, its existence made me happy. So I revisited it over and over again, every day at 8 pm. When the music went on it was my happiest time.
My parents weren’t enjoying it as much. Their true feelings remained unclear, but I know the teenager romance bothered them a lot. Dating in school was taboo at the time and after seeing a few episodes when the older kids were having relationships, hugging and kissing I was forbidden to watch it. Sometimes when they were in a good mood I got to watch, but most time I could only sit in my room and listen to the music playing from other people’s home and eagerly imagine what was happening in the show.
Only till later, one day after watching an episode with my mom, she turned towards me and said: “Let’s start hugging and calling each other “honey”. It seems sweet.” I was surprised and told her it was silly. But I was happy to know that she also enjoyed it.
I started drawing comics a few years after. One story was about a family, a brother and a sister and two loving parents. It was deeply inspired by Growing Pains, I was blissfully drawing about a girl I wish to be myself. It got published in a Chinese magazine and started my long relationship with comics.
With Alan Thicke passing away, the topic of Growing Pains went viral again on Chinese social media. People of a similar age with me are all talking about how much they loved the show and how it influenced their lives. In many children’s lives of much deficiency, it brought us laughter, softness, love, and hope.
I’m writing about it because it’s important to me. And I think it might be interesting for you to know about this aspect of the show. RIP Alan Thicke, I will always remember Jason Seaver as the greatest dad in the world, and I’m striving to be the good parent that I was longing to have.