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.'"

‘Alleluia Moment’
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.
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project:HOMES’ ‘Renew Crew’ helps Henrico citizen


The project:HOMES "Renew Crew" (above) recently assisted an elderly member of the Laurel Presbyterian Church in Henrico by clearing brush, trimming hedges and raking leaves in her yard.

The Renew Crew serves low-income, disabled and elderly homeowners in need of small-scale home repairs such as porch, railing and step repairs, exterior painting, clearing overgrown yards, tearing down outbuildings, wheelchair ramps and other critical repairs and accessibility modifications. > Read more.

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More than 2,000 people participated in the the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter's annual Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s Nov. 5 at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook. The event raised more than $436,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support programs and research.

The event is one of three walks that benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond and is held in celebration of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month.

Donations to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be accepted through the end of the year and can be made at http://www.alz.org/walk. In total, the three walks this year have raised more than $644,344. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


The past couple of days haven’t felt like it, but it’s finally December and this weekend is packed with holiday events. Kicking the weekend off is Glorious Christmas Nights’ production of “Finding Christmas” at West End Assembly of God. Gayton Baptist Church’s annual Jazz Nativity starts tonight. Another annual favorite is tomorrow – the tree lighting at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen. In search of Christmas concerts? The Virginians Barbershop Chorus will present its annual Christmas Show tomorrow at the Collegiate School and the Richmond Choral Society will perform Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Shady Grove Coffeehouse at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church, 11105 Cauthorne Rd., continues its 16th season with folk singer-songwriter Bill Staines at 8 p.m. Beloved for songs such as “Roseville Fair” and “All God’s Critters,” Staines has appeared on “A Prairie Home Companion,” “Mountain Stage” and in the HBO series “Deadwood.” Tickets are $15 to $20; teens are admitted at half price and children age 12 and under are free. Net proceeds benefit UUCC. For details, call 323-4288 or visit http://www.shadygrovecoffeehouse.com. Full text

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