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.
Richmonders Jim Morgan and Dan Stackhouse were married at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Lakeside Mar. 7 month after winning the Say I Do! With OutRVA wedding contest in February. The contest was open to LGBT couples in recognition of Virginia’s marriage equality law, which took effect last fall. The wedding included a package valued at $25,000.
Morgan and Stackhouse, who became engaged last fall on the day marriage equality became the law in Virginia, have been together for 16 years. They were selected from among 40 couples who registered for the contest. The winners were announced at the Say I Do! Dessert Soiree at the Renaissance in Richmond in February. > Read more.
The Fourth Annual Healy Gala will be held Saturday, Apr. 11, at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The event was created to honor Michael Healy, a local businessman and community leader who died suddenly in June 2011, and to endow the Mike Healy Scholarship (through the Glen Allen Ruritan Club), which benefits students of Glen Allen High School.
Healy served as the chairman of Glen Allen Day for several years and helped raise thousands of dollars for local charities and organizations. > Read more.
The Richmond Battlefield Ruritan Club is holding a Brunswick stew sale, with orders accepted through March 13 and pick-up available March 14. The cost is $8 per quart.
Pick-up will be at noon, March 14, at the Richmond Heights Civic Center, 7440 Wilton Road in Varina.
To place an order, call Mike at (804) 795- 7327 or Jim at (804) 795-9116. > Read more.
Two events this weekend benefit man’s best friend – a rabies clinic, sponsored by the Glendale Ruritan Club, and an American Red Cross Canine First Aid & CPR workshop at Alpha Dog Club. The fifth annual Shelby Rocks “Cancer is a Drag” Womanless Pageant will benefit the American Cancer Society and a spaghetti luncheon on Sunday will benefit the Eastern Henrico Ruritan Club. Twin Hickory Library will also host a used book sale this weekend with proceeds benefiting The Friends of the Twin Hickory Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Ichiban offers rich Asian flavors, but portions lack
In a spot that could be easily overlooked is a surprising, and delicious, Japanese restaurant. In a tiny nook in the shops at the corner of Ridgefield Parkway and Pump Road sits a welcoming, warm and comfortable Asian restaurant called Ichiban, which means “the best.”
The restaurant, tucked between a couple others in the Gleneagles Shopping Center, was so quiet and dark that it was difficult to tell if it was open at 6:30 p.m. on a Monday. When I opened the door, I smiled when I looked inside. > Read more.
Disney’s no-frills, live-action ‘Cinderella’ delights
Cinderella is the latest from Disney’s new moviemaking battle plan: producing live-action adaptations of all their older classics. Which is a plan that’s had questionable results in the past.
Alice in Wonderland bloated with more Tim Burton goth-pop than the inside of a Hot Topic. Maleficent was a step in the right direction, but the movie couldn’t decide if Maleficent should be a hero or a villain (even if she should obviously be a villain) and muddled itself into mediocrity.
Cinderella is much better. Primarily, because it’s just Cinderella. No radical rebooting. No Tim Burton dreck. It’s the 1950 Disney masterpiece, transposed into live action and left almost entirely untouched. > Read more.
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