Kerri Washington, Scandal, and Mothers Who Have Raised a Manchild Instead of a Man


I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to Scandal, the show from Shonda Rhimes. Three episodes in, and Scandal has me wanting to adopt a new calendar to make Thursdays come about six days faster. And Columbus Short as Harrison (From This Christmas and Stomp the Yard) makes me want to think up a scandal just so I can see how he handles it. But I digress as I smile and think of the way he looks in his finely tailored suits. I mean, as I think about his acting skills.

In the age of reality shows, it’s refreshing to find a show that encompasses great acting, writing, and well-developed characters. Kerri Washington plays Olivia Pope, the head of a firm that specializes in crisis management. Olivia Pope usually takes on clients when chaos has taken over their lives. Like Sully, a decorated war veteran who walks into her office covered in his wife’s blood or the Diplomat whose infant son is kidnapped in exchange for a box of secrets. Olivia Pope is the woman you call to make lemonade from your chaos.

In between the twists, turns, and drama of the show, episode three took on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: mothers who insulate and protect their sons to a fault. Part of a mother’s job is to protect, love, and cherish her son. But what happens when that protection morphs into solving his problems, making excuses for his behavior, and cleaning up his lies?

Enter Sandra Harding, a millionaire businesswoman whose son is accused of rape. Mrs. Harding employs the Olivia's firm to help her son in a rape trial. But when the facts lead to a disturbing realization, Mrs. Harding is forced to make a choice between enabling her son’s behavior or forcing him to deal with the consequences of his actions.

Although the scenario in Scandal is an extreme example of the cost of not teaching a child about consequences to their actions, there are thousands of examples of this in the real world. How do I know? I dated my fair share of them. From the guy who never apologized because he didn’t do anything wrong, to the guy who figured out a way to turn everything into being my fault, I am extremely familiar with the concept of the “manchild.” [1]

I’ve always said that the difference between a child and a man is the ability to take responsibility for their actions. A child can pick up a toy, smash their brother across the head and in the same breath swear that it was all “an accident.” A man has the awareness to know that his behavior wasn’t an accident at all, but a conscious choice. A manchild (or womanchild) is someone who is over eighteen but blames everyone else for their problems or actions. If he gets up late, it is because you didn’t set the alarm. If he cheats, it’s because you didn’t make them feel loved. If he doesn’t have a job, it’s because no one will hire him. The fact that his own actions or behavior placed him in this situation may not even enter their mind.

Educators and teachers, deal with their fair share of manchildren. I once called a mother about her son forging her signature and she replied with, “Well if I was going to sign the paper, does it matter if he forged it? I don’t see what the big problem is.” Plenty of teachers deal with parents whose children talk incessantly or have extremely disruptive behavior. When they tell the parents, the response is, “My child could never act like that.”

So what happens to the child who never had to say they were sorry for anything because their mother explained it away as an accident, or never had to do chores, because their mom cleaned up after them, or always told lies and was never punished, or got out of trouble because their mother made excuses for them? They go out into the world and start dating us. We are left with pieces and fragments of individuals who haven’t been taught the true meaning of what it means to be a man.

So for all of the women who are continuing to say, “There are no good men out here”, ask yourself if you are raising your own sons to be good men. Are you teaching your five year-old how to hold doors for people? Are you teaching your five year-old how to pick up after himself? Are you instructing your 7 year-old to offer their chair to an elderly grandmother or grandfather? Are you showing your 10 year-old how to be respectful to his teacher? Are you punishing your 12 year-old for playing video games instead of doing his homework? Are you teaching your 15 year-old to cook dinner for himself? Are you requiring your 17 year-old to open the car door for his date? And from cradle to the grave, are you holding your child accountable for not keeping his word or for saying one thing and doing another?

All parents have to teach their child, nephew, godson, etc. to be the kind of man that they would want to date. It all starts from birth. While you ultimately can’t be responsible for the decisions that your adult children make, you definitely can teach them the foundation of how to be a man instead of a manchild. And hopefully, your child will never have to end up in the office of someone like Olivia Pope to help them turn their chaos into lemonade.

What are your thoughts? Are you a fan of Scandal? Have you had your own personal run-ins with manchildren? Click on 'post a comment' and share your thoughts.


1 I am picking on manchildren and the mothers who create them in this particular post. I am fully aware of the fact that women can be raised in this exact same manner and that fathers can be equally to blame for raising a child without responsibility for their actions. However, those were not the characters that were featured on this episode of Scandal.