Parenting, Mayberry Style

RemingtonIn The Andy Griffith Show episode Opie the Birdman, a lesson in creative parenting is exhibited to great effect.  Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina foresees trouble if Opie, his son, uses a slingshot.  Hence, he orders Opie not to use it.

Opie, in turn, ignores his father’s mandate.  A tragedy occurs when Opie shoots a rock at a tree and, inadvertently, kills a mother bird.  Consequently, he leaves three baby birds without their matriarch to protect them.

Andy punishes Opie.  He does not spank, lecture, or  take a privilege away, such as watching television.  Instead, Andy leaves Opie’s bedroom window open so Opie can hear the birds chirping for their mother throughout the night.  Indeed, the birds are orphans, scared and alone in the world.  Andy’s punishment proves to be inspirational.

The following morning, Opie takes responsibility to repair the damage he has caused, deciding to raise the birds himself in a cage.  He names them Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.  Clearly, Opie learned his lesson about the importance of obeying instructions and the costs of disobeying.  While Opie does a fantastic job of caring for the trio, his mission comes to an end when the birds become too big for the cage.

Opie must let them fly.  It is a bittersweet moment, indeed.  He laments that the cage is empty.  But Andy points out that the trees are full.

The Andy Griffith Show aired on CBS from 1960 to 1968.  Its origin is rooted in a 1960 episode of The Danny Thomas Show.  Thomas played Danny Williams, a nightclub entertainer.  On a trip through North Carolina, Danny commits a traffic violation.  Andy locks up Danny, triggering a battle between the high-strung entertainer from New York City and the relaxed sheriff from Mayberry.  In the end, Danny apologizes for his actions.

The Andy Griffith Show is not technically a spinoff because its characters were not organic to The Danny Thomas Show.  It provided a steadfast place of safety, insulated from the events that shaped the 1960s into a turbulent decade with the Vietnam War, civil rights battles, and the assassination of President Kennedy.

In a 2012 article in The Atlantic, Hampton Stevens analyzed the appeal of The Andy Griffith Show during its initial broadcast and decades later.  “Ostensibly, Andy began a trend.  People in rural America were getting TV for the first time, and Andy was meant to tap that audience.  So was a wave of shows that followed, including The Beverly HillbilliesGreen Acres, and Petticoat Junction.  There were the first sitcoms set in the country, with characters that spoke in Southern accents, and the program couldn’t have been more different from, for instance, I Love Lucy with its glamorous showbiz setting and main characters in what we would now call a multicultural marriage.

Andy, though, was just simply better than the shows that tried to imitate it.  Unlike the shows that tried to follow it and virtually every other sitcom on at the time, Andy was never wacky or zany.  The storylines were more plausible, the characters more authentic.”

Opie the Birdman presented a realistic situation of a parent needing to address the consequences of a child disobeying an instruction.  With firmness, Andy accomplished the goal of teaching Opie a lesson in the negative outcome that may result from blissful ignorance.  Perhaps without realizing it, he let Opie learn the lesson for himself.

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