Growing up, “My Father’s Office” was possibly my least favorite episode of The Wonder Years. It was one I just couldn’t relate to since the entire plot revolves around Kevin wanting to see where his dad works. My mom was a teacher (and I obviously knew what a school was like) and my dad was an electrician, so I had spent an infinite amount of weekends kicking around work sites with him. Now that I’m a parent, I’ve noticed my daughter seems endlessly intrigued by where I work and what I do. Maybe the change of perspective will make me appreciate “My Father’s Office” more.
The episode starts off showing Kevin’s relationship with his dad. His dad is distant, and often scary. Kevin holds all these great memories of his father, and actively misses spending time with him. The curiosity starts on the school bus when both Kevin and Wayne realize they have no idea what their dad does besides that he’s a Manager of Distribution and Product Services at Norcomm. As an adult, I still have no idea what that position would entail. He asks his dad for more information, and is just told that he “… shovels other people’s crap so you kids can eat.” After some convincing by Kevin’s mom, he offers to bring Kevin to work the next day.
Kevin is immediately impressed by his dad’s office, mainly because it’s big and has a swivel chair. He watches his father taking phone calls, and is even more impressed by the power and authority he has. Then comes another one of these cartoony dream sequences where Kevin imagines ordering his siblings around in an office setting. I seriously did not remember these dream sequences at all. The pair go on a coffee break, where Kevin learns his dad’s dream job was to be a professional baseball player (which is also Kevin’s dream). He also confides that as a back up, he wanted to be the captain of a ship, which is something that his wife doesn’t even know. He gave up on that dream when he met Kevin’s mom and he started working at Norcomm. The two share this fantastic, intimate moment. Unfortunately, they get back to the office where Jack’s boss is waiting. Jack’s boss tears into him, belittling him right in front of Kevin. He realizes that his father might not be the big shot that he desperately wants him to be.
As an adult, it’s a tough episode to watch, knowing how many dreams we’ve watched die as we get older and reality sets in. Plus, I know my kid sees me as this big shot, and someday she’ll realize the truth and be disappointed. God, this show can be depressing.
Spare observation: Jack’s answer to “How was work?” always seems to be ‘Work’s work” which is my exact answer. How did I become Jack Arnold?