Show Depicts Local ‘Strictest Parents’
For many parents, even one teenager in the home is plenty. And Mike and Pam Brown have a pair of them: Deep Run High School students Mary-Kaitlyn and Troy.
"Life is always full of commotion at my home," says Pam. "We are the type of family that would rather have all of our kids' friends hanging out at our home. So as you can imagine, it's a lot like Grand Central."
But for a week last winter, "Grand Central" wasn't sufficiently chaotic for the Browns, and they welcomed two teenagers from Kentucky and California into their home.
Not just any teenagers, either. These two were unruly, defiant, disrespectful – and not at all crazy about house rules at the Browns.'
At the same time, the Browns welcomed a film crew into their home who miked all four of them, set up lights throughout the house, and recorded the visit from every angle.
First, however, the entire family had to clear a series of hurdles that included extensive background checks and a four-hour psychological evaluation.
The idea, actually, was Mary-Kaitlyn's.
"A while back," recalls Pam, "Mary-Kaitlyn asked Mike and I if we would want to be a host family on this show called 'World's Strictest Parents.' We, of course, watched a few episodes to see what it would would entail."
The Browns were intrigued by the show, which airs on CMT and MTV.
"We prayed about it," says Pam. "We looked at this as an opportunity to make an impact – to open [the visiting teens'] eyes to what a functional family looks like. We couldn't wait to see how God would use our family to in some way reach out to these teens."
After a two-month process in which producers flew into town on weekends to get to know the family, the Browns were approved.
"Our friends, family and neighbors couldn't believe it when we told them that we would be on the show 'World's Strictest Parents,'" says Pam.
"The response we got from most of them was, 'But you're not that strict.'"
As the cameras rolled, 16-year-old Shauna and 17-year-old Megan arrived in Henrico Feb. 2, to greetings from the Brown family and the presentation of "reflection journals" from Pam.
The video depicts numerous eye rolls, smirks and stony stares as they meet the family and are invited to record their thoughts in the journals. On film, Shaun calls the reflection book "stupid," and begins to fill hers with nasty remarks.
On Day Two, after sleeping in and missing breakfast, Shauna and Megan are plunged into a day of chores – starting with shoveling snow from a sidewalk. Before long, Pam begins adding five minutes of shoveling every time the teens refuse to make eye contact or say 'yes, ma'am.'
"It's ridiculous," says Megan. "But I did what they said because I wanted to go inside. I was cold." Megan also begins writing in her journal, and eventually admits that it helps her to overcome her anger and boredom.
Shauna is more defiant, but eventually gives in and responds to Pam with a "yes, ma'm."
"That," says Pam, "was an 'alleluia' moment!"
On another day, Mike and Troy take the girls to a martial arts studio to participate in Troy's jiu-jitsu class.
"We felt that would be a great thing for the girls to do, as it focuses on being respectful, displaying a positive attitude, and self-discipline," says Pam. "It was also something that Mike could do with the two of them, as neither of the girls had a close relationship with their dad or stepdad."
On Day Three, the girls help make sandwiches for residents of Freedom House, which the Brown family has visited regularly for the past four years. On the visit to the homeless shelter, Shauna and Megan are ill at ease – until residents open up and begin talking about choices they made in their youth, and the consequences of those choices.
"Words are kinda weak sometimes," Mike points out, noting that the girls' encounters with residents had an impact no lecture about attitude could have made.
"I'm glad they took me," admits Megan. "Seeing people who don't have anything helped me think. . . about making sound decisions. They have no house, no job, no family. I don't want to be like that."
"I felt so bad for them, and how they lived," agrees Shauna.
The next day, Megan writes letters to two of the Freedom House residents, and both girls receive letters from their parents. Megan, whose father has never written to her before, discusses her letter with Mike. Shauna becomes emotional while discussing the letter from her mother with Pam, and reveals that she has felt cut off from her mom since her stepdad came into her life.
The week comes to a close with a snowball battle with the Browns and reflections from the girls about their week in Virginia.
"On the first day, I didn't think we could ever do this," Megan says of the snowball fight. She tells the Browns, "This week made me realize that I have a good parent. You guys taught me to respect people more."
"My mom will be shocked about the rules," says Shauna.
"And even more shocked that I followed some of them!"
When reunited with her mother and stepdad, Shauna breaks down in tears as she admits her feelings about her stepfather, and vows to improve her attitude.
Challenges and Rewards
"It was truly a challenging yet rewarding week," says Pam Brown, noting that the film crew came away with 50 hours of footage. That was condensed into a one-hour show, which aired early this summer and can still be viewed online.
"The crew was awesome," Pam adds. "They wrapped it up on Super Bowl Sunday – just down to the wire of kick-off time, with our team the Indianapolis Colts playing. It was so nice to have the cameras, mikes, and lights gone and just to wind down with our family of four once again.”
Although they are now back into their routines of work and school (Pam is assistant director of her family's Jack and Jill School, and Mike works as an investigator with the Hanover County Sheriff's Department), the Browns still hear from Shauna and Megan.
"Both girls Facebook me all of the time, checking in on several of the residents that they bonded with at the shelter," says Pam, noting that the visit to Freedom House had an impact on the residents as well as the girls. "It meant so much for the residents to know that they are making a difference, just by sharing their life stories.
"Every time we go, we are blessed beyond words by the great residents," she adds. "They come from all walks of life and have such stories to share. That is why we knew we wanted to involve Megan and Shauna in the experience."
Seeing others who were less fortunate went a long way toward changing the girls' attitudes, she believes.
"We are raising our kids to be 'others focused.' Life is an amazing gift, and how awesome it is to give of yourself to help and support those in need," says Pam.
She also believes that the chores and household rules had something to do with bringing the girls around. "Kids crave boundaries, love and attention," she maintains. "They won't tell you they do -- but they do."
Pam concludes by quoting one of her favorite Bible verses from Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
"It truly sums up our style of parenting," she says.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.
The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.
The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.
Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.
The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.
Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.
But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.
That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.
An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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