It was a day we had all waited for, eagerly counting down the hours until it happened. It seemed like it was never going to get here, but then, finally, the day was upon us…
You see, in our house, Season 3 of One Day at a Time dropping on Netflix constitutes a national holiday. Being reunited with the Alvarez family feels like one giant hug that’s wrapping around every single member of our little family, and the minute we heard that wonderful theme song play, we knew were home. From Elena (Isabelle Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz) to Penelope (Justina Machado) and of course, queen Lydia (Rita Moreno), we feel as if these characters are our own family, and new episodes mean more quality time together with those that we love.
Watching One Day at a Time has turned into a full on family affair in our house and it’s come to be one of my most favorite activities. We pop the popcorn and all settle in close on the couch, ready to laugh, cry and learn together as the Alvarez family goes through another season of ups and downs together. In fact, I don’t think I can ever say “thank you” enough to showrunners Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, and the entire One Day at a Time crew for the gifts their show has given us.
If I’m being completely honest, I sometimes question whether or not I should be letting my 7 and 9 year old daughters watch a show that discusses some very adult topics. From episodes that deal with a teenager’s first time having sex, or one where Penelope finds that someone has been using her computer to look up porn, there’s definitely moments where I think the show may be exposing them to topics that they are much too young for. But then, the overwhelming thought I keep coming back to is how much the good of One Day at a Time outweighs any of that. Kids are always going to get exposed to things in the media before they “should”, but at least in this instance we’re watching as a family, having an open dialogue and starting conversations about what we’re seeing on screen.
Why just in watching Season 3 alone, our family has already had some pretty important and valuable conversations started by just sitting down to enjoy an episode together. On the surface, the series may look to be just another family sitcom, but for me and what it’s sparked in our family, One Day at a Time just may be the most important show on TV right now. By addressing topics such as immigration, mental illness, racism, drugs and LGBTQ experiences, I can hardly think of a better mechanism with which to teach my children — and really anyone — about these issues, showing them how being open, loving and talking about things can make a huge difference to everyone involved.
If you’ll indulge me in a few personal examples, I’d like to illustrate what I’m talking about. Both of my kids are partial to any story involving Elena and her non-binary partner, Syd (Sheridan Pierce). They get endless amounts of joy from their nerdy tendencies and enjoy following their evolving relationship. I recently overheard a conversation between my children discussing how Elena and Syd decided they were going to use the term “Syd”nificant other when referring to their relationship status. This led my 9 year old to reiterate to her sister what it means to be non-binary, and that led to wonderings about what bathroom Syd would then use. I listened to them lamenting how it’s not fair, and ultimately makes no sense, that boys and girls use separate bathrooms. In fact, they even realized there’d probably be far less lines if we just combined everything!
Sure, we’ve tried to discuss these topics before with them, teaching them both about what it means to be non-binary or transgender, but there’s something that doesn’t quite sink in when it’s your parent lecturing you or you’re reading it over and over in a book. However, if instead, it’s your favorite characters on TV out there having these types of conversations and discussing these topics, well then that’s a whole different story. This is the huge effect and value that a show like One Day at a Time brings to the table and why it’s so important.
There’s plenty of other conversations like that one that stem from watching episodes. In the Season 3 episode in which Penelope discovers Alex has smoked marijuana, my children promptly turned to both my husband and myself to inquire first, what the drug was, and second, whether or not we had ever smoked before. While some may bristle and question whether or not it’s good to be so open and honest with your children, we found it the perfect segue to once again reiterate the negative effects and harm that could be done by doing drugs. Alex’s story was one they could relate to and see happening with people at school they knew like him. It wasn’t a lecture from a teacher or parent about why drugs are bad, but instead one that they could put a name and face to.
Finally, the sheer importance of the open and honest portrayal of mental illness on One Day at a Time cannot be understated. For all us adults, seeing Penelope’s struggles with anxiety and depression help to remove the stigma in a way that comforts so many of us, and leaves us feeling seen and as if we are not alone. Just as Penelope realizes in Season 3, the importance of having that all out in the open increases exponentially when it comes to our children.
As it was revealed that Elena also has had anxiety attacks, and that these types of things run in families, our family started to have a discussion of all the things we have inherited from our parents and thus, probably have passed down to our kids. We discussed anxiety and the way Grandma worries about everything to an obsessive degree, or why it always seems like Grandpa has to have everything “just so”. My children came to realize these are all, in some small way, a form of mental illness and that almost everyone suffers in some way or another. Removing the stigma around them and promoting awareness and discussions is in all of our benefits. The way One Day at a Time made that happen in our home is a true gift.
As a parent, you’re always trying to figure out the best way to effectively emphasize the importance of something like mental illness or drugs, without either scaring your child to death, or boring them completely to where they tune you out. Having a show like One Day at a Time that brings up these topics, not to mention others like gun safety or immigration, is worth any kind of awkward questions or talks we end up having to field about sex when Elena wants to have her first experience with Syd.
That’s the thing as a parent, right? Try as you might, you’re never going to be able to protect your kids from everything. The best you can hope for is to send them out on their way every day equipped as best as possible with the knowledge of what’s right, how to treat others with kindness, and how to avoid potentially unsafe or harmful situations. It’s no easy task, but thanks to One Day at a Time, my world is not only filled with more joy and laughter (special shout-out to the pure music to my ears that is the way my 9 year old full on belly laughs at Rita Moreno’s Lydia), but also peace at knowing my kids are more aware, more knowledgeable and more capable to deal with whatever life may throw their way. For that, while it feels grossly inadequate, I say “thank you, One Day at a Time.”
What do you think of One Day at a Time? Sound off with your favorite Season 3 moments below!
One Day at a Time Season 3 is currently available on Netflix.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.