There’s plenty of old jokes about the way children work on television shows; there when they’re convenient, conveniently absent when they’re not needed. Some of this is down to the rules of how long children can work, and the very strict conditions that are to be me while they’re working, but a lot of it is just that when you’re making a show about adults children tend to not be as interesting. Who wants to watch two characters on their favorite drama have a whisper fight over their five-year-old’s head? It completely changes the tone of the scene on TV or in movies, and so kids tend to be shoved to the side more often than not.
However, for reasons I can’t explain and won’t try to, I’ve watched all nine episodes of Grey’s Anatomy’s 12th season. In those nine episodes, there are four main characters who are parents. As far as I can remember (and I have an embarrassingly good memory for terrible TV) none of the children have been seen this entire season, and I can’t even think off the top of my head of any of their parents even MENTIONING them. That picture up there from the end of season 11 when Meredith had a surprise baby after collapsing while her elementary aged daughter called 911? That’s the last time I’ve seen any of her kids. The next scene should basically be her handing that baby off to a stranger like 19th century royalty, to be returned to her for a goodnight kiss every so often. But it’s not just her, here’s the full run down as best as I can recall it:
Meredith Grey - currently a single mom of three children under the age of 10 after Derrick Shepherd died last season. One of those children is still less than one (I think, timelines on this show are weird). This season has seen her move her half-sister and sister-in-law into her house, start a car pool with other surgeons, get a big promotion at work, and host a disaster of a dinner party without once seeing or mentioning her kids or how this affects them. Her car doesn’t even have a car seat in it. As best I can tell, Meredith left all three of her children in Boston with kind strangers after that time she basically ran away for almost a year at the end of last season. Weirdly, one of Meredith’s earlier character arcs was about how she wanted to make sure she was a more attentive and involved mother to her own kids, rather than the cold, distant, constantly busy figure her own mother was. SO MUCH FOR THAT! Oh, and one of those kids is an adopted orphan from Africa who probably doesn’t have any kind of abandonment issues that might be exacerbated by having her father die tragically, watching her mother collapse while going into labor and having to call 911 for her, and then having her mother basically vanish from her life. Grey’s Anatomy season 20 is definitely all about Zola’s revenge.
Callie Torres and Arizona Roberts - former couple, now divorced, who are both mothers to Sophia who is Callie’s biological child with the now deceased Mark Sloan. Callie has been actively seeing someone new and Arizona has been talking a friend through a failing marriage and trying to date. Neither of them, apparently, are taking care of their daughter who I presume is currently living feral in the hospital’s magical 24 hour nursery.
Miranda Bailey - the new chief of surgery has been juggling her new position, her marriage to a resident, and another surgeon staying on her couch through the dissolution of his relationship without once discussing what this might mean for her son from a previous marriage, Tuck. It’s been established that Tuck’s father is his primary care taker, but there had been talk of the boy at least visiting her from time to time. Apparently, that’s not happening anymore but it’s ok because she’s still not doing any worse than parents who ARE their children’s primary and only care takers.
I get it, writing plots about kids is not as exciting as writing plots about teenaged lesbians who get hit by trains, old firefighters clinging to life long enough to say goodbye to their wives, and doctors having wildly inappropriate personal relationships with each other with frequent emotional outbursts at work. Totally fine! But we’re talking even two sentences about kid starting school, having to call the nanny because a surgery ran over, “Oh, I’ll see you tonight when I pick up Sophia”, ANYTHING. Nine episodes into the season and it’s not happened. So I can only guess that the second half of season 12 kicks off with someone realizing that there’s been some kind of horrible disaster in the Seattle Grace Mercy Death Grey Sloan Memorial day care that caused all the children to fall into a sinkhole. Several months ago. And no one noticed until just now. Every surgeon on Grey’s Anatomy may be a miracle worker and superhero, but they are also some truly shitty parents.