'Modern Family': Lessons in Parenting, the Ivy League

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This week's episode of Modern Family, "Starry Night," was all about looking a little bit deeper, building new relationships, and never having to apologize for not underestimating your child enough.

Your children are probably smarter than you think (for better or worse). Haley and Luke come to their parents with last-minute projects that are due, oh, tomorrow, and Claire and Phil are stuck with the task of saving the day. Claire orders Phil to "stay on top" of Luke until he finishes his project about Vincent van Gogh, which he refuses to do, deciding to trust that his potentially ADHD-ridden son (or so his sister Alex is out to prove) can finish the task on his own. Meanwhile, Claire saves her daughter's disastrous attempt at cracking an egg to make cupcakes and Haley shows that her cluelessness might just all be a shtick to get what she wants: "My mom's not dumb. You can't just ask her to do something for you. You have to very carefully put the cheese in the trap," she tells us, staring innocently with her big, doe eyes.


The real lesson, though, comes when Luke presents his finished project, complete with Mr. Potato Head ears glued to the poster board. Phil had all but lost hope in his hands-off approach after he and Claire walked in on their son appearing to be just playing with the potato doll rather than doing any work. So, hey—maybe the kid's just a genius, after all!

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Talking Ivy League politics in public never ends up well. Just...don't. This clip says it all, really:


Awkward times ensue for Cameron, who later takes it upon himself to prove that he has no problem with Gloria's "people" by taking her out to a Latin dinner. The look of sheer horror on his face after they get to the restaurant that she used to frequent back in her pre-Jay days is priceless:

Cam: I...was...nervous. There was a lot of different food on the menu. And on the floor. And on the wall.
Mitchell: Are we sure we're not exaggerating just a little bit?
Cam: Were you there, Mitchell ? Because I think I would've recognized the only other white or gay person. I've offended Gloria once, I'm not gonna do it again.

Oh, Cam.

No matter how weird you may be growing up, eventually being different is a virtue. Jay invites Manny along on Mitchell and his traditional camping trip to watch the meteor shower after he gets picked on at school for being "weird." Eager to form a relationship with his step-brother, Manny takes Jay's advice to rag on Mitchell to no end, because "that's what brothers do." Even though all the heckling drives Mitchell to run off into the bushes only to be sprayed on by a skunk, and forced to wear Gloria's dress, he still finds time to be a good brother and the pair realize that perhaps they have more in common than they thought.

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Aylin Zafar is a freelance writer based in New York.

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