TV crew turns the tables on a reporter, and her kids don't help matters, either

March 17, 1996|By SUSAN REIMER

WHEN THE television people called, I should have said "No," but instead I said, "What would you like me to wear?"

That was my first mistake, and I should have known better. I am in the news business, and I have often said I would never talk to a reporter because I know what they are like what we are like and you can't trust them I mean us.

But then the television people called, and all I could hear was my mother saying, "Can't you do what you do on television? That would be so much more interesting," and instead of saying "no," I said, "What should I wear?"

Lynne McCrea, a reporter for WCVB-TV in Boston, said she wanted to interview me for a television special on raising kids in the '90s, and I understood right away it wasn't because I am doing such a hot job of it.

I figured that she already had her psychologists and educators, and now she was looking for a harried and powerless mother to balance the show.

"We would like to film you in your own milieu," she said, and at first I thought she wanted to film me in my own "mildew," which would work, too, but then I understood she wanted to film me at home. With the kids.

After a series of frantic phone calls to friends to find two well-spoken and well-behaved children to substitute for the pair I am raising, I discovered what all mothers suspect.

There are none.

So I was stuck with mine. Great, I thought, why don't we just do this with a pair of chimps? That would be more predictable.

Next, I badly frightened my children by and you can guess this frantically hiding all the piles of things I have not gotten around to doing just yet.

When I started scrubbing the wall in the front hall (that spot my children slam into with both dirty hands every time they barrel down the steps), I upset my daughter so badly that she went into her bedroom and locked the door and shouted, "You're not coming in here!"

Things had not settled down when she woke the next morning, because Ms. McCrea had answered, "Oh, anything will do. But not white," to my question about what to wear, and I was throwing rejected clothing all over my bedroom.

My husband did not witness this, because he was outside sweeping the sidewalk in front of our house.

My 12-year-old son proceeded to act out (my mother would have called it "acting up"), and I thought this might be a good time to ask him if he was uneasy about a television crew coming to our house, and, more to the point, was he planning to sabotage the entire event by doing something like announcing he was gay and blaming me.

"Tell me what you're thinking about all this," I said, softly.

"I don't want to hurt your feelings," he said.

"It won't be the first time," I said.

"Well, I just think you are a phony. You should have invited these people here when the house is a mess and when Jessie and I are fighting and when you are having one of your fits. That would be the truth. This isn't the truth."

Ms. McCrea and cameraman Ken Sullivan came and, instead of the sedate, living-room chat on child-rearing in the '90s I had expected, they filmed my husband and me attempting to raise children in the '90s.

They filmed my husband playing basketball with Jessie and painting toy soldiers with Joe.

Then they filmed me loading kids in and out of cars, begging them for the change during lunch at the mall and arguing with both of them at the same time about which one would get his selfish, little demands met first.

They videotaped Jessie declaring that she could only be truly happy if she had everything in Limited, Too in her closet and everything in Claire's in her jewelry box and wasn't the mall just the best place to be.

They videotaped Joe flicking garlic bread back across the food court table at me and saying, "I said I didn't want this. Can't you hear?"

They also filmed the front of our house, including the sidewalk.

I don't know what Joe was worried about. That is about as cinema verite as you can get. If they had stayed a little longer, they could have filmed my husband taking the children for ice cream and me taking the children for shots.

As the television crew was leaving, I brightly offered these last thoughts: "Remember. Thin and articulate. I know that's what I was going for today."

Anyway, the next time a television crew asks to film our family life, I know just what to say:

"Thank you, but no. I have to protect my children's privacy."

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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