'Protective Mom 2' reminded me of the most important thing I want to teach my son.
Fact checked by Sarah Scott
I’ll admit that I have never been much of a Saturday Night Live (SNL) person. But I’ve always been a huge fan of the revolving cast and get really excited when someone veers off to make a name for themselves beyond the iconic show (I’m looking at you, 'Weird Barbie').
But in terms of being a regular watcher, that’s just not me. I figure, if something really great happens, a friend or two will text me about it or I’ll find out thanks to the internet trends machine. Yet when it comes to actor Pedro Pascal, you’ll never see a more dedicated viewer than me.
This weekend, host and musical guest Bad Bunny (okay, I’d do anything for him too) did a fantastic job on SNL. Inarguably the best skit all night was “Protective Mom 2,” which featured el Conejo Malo and everyone’s favorite narco as the aunt and mother, respectively, of a fully-grown Latino son (Marcello Hernández) who brings home his very not-Latina girlfriend (Chloe Troast). SNL first debuted Pascal's "protective mom" character when he hosted in February 2023.
If you grew up in a Latinx household, then you probably recognized some of our culture’s funniest stereotypes being played out on screen. The overly protective mom of her baby boy who’s now an adult is obviously the first. Pascal’s mami freaks out in happiness and anger and then happiness again upon seeing her son.
I giggled when I heard Pascal say, “Oh, so thoughtful to not make them yourself,” when Troast presents a tin box full of store-bought cookies to the overly protective mom.
Then I collapsed on the ground laughing when Pascal not only threw away the cookies with that look but then proceeded to fill the tin cookie box with sewing items. I’ve never felt so seen as a Latina mom, especially one who has had her sewing things in a tin cookie box since college. And yes, I totally bought a brand-new tin cookie box when I met my husband and we started living together. Where else do you store your sewing equipment? Seriously, tell me.
The rest of the almost six-minute skit went on to make me laugh, both as someone who grew up in a Latinx household and also as someone who fit quite a few of the girlfriend’s stereotypes. Bisexual barista, LOL.
Then, at the 3:15 mark, the joke briefly turned serious. “I love Luis and I feel I’ve been really good for him,” says the girlfriend, Troast. “Like when he got diagnosed with depression.”
Immediately, Hernández's character, the only man in the room, tells her “no, no, no” because he knows exactly what’s coming when a Latino parent hears something, anything, about mental health issues.
Angry chaos ensues as tía Bad Bunny and then mami Pascal question the depression.
“Mi hijo does not have depression!” yells Pascal. “He just like the dark!” The audience laughs. “He tried to get it when he was a kid. He said, ‘mami, I’m depressed.' Then I said, ‘Don’t do that, do something else.’” More audience laughter.
I laughed at first just by sheer recognition of this conversation. Growing up, mental health was never talked about in my Cuban household. My family—like many Latinx families—grew up with the understanding that “la ropa sucia se lava en la casa.” It translates to exactly the same meaning in English: The dirty laundry is washed only at home—aka don’t air your dirty laundry in public.
For many of us who grew up in this culture and are now having kids of our own, mental health stigma is one of the biggest things on our minds.
Mental healing is especially important to me—and this skit reminded me just how much I want my 3-year-old son to grow up in a home where mental health is discussed, where we support each other, where we talk about the hard things, and where we can share our feelings without fear of judgment or shaming.
It’s easy to laugh when Troast, as the white girlfriend, responds to Pascal as the mom, “Well, depression doesn’t really work that way.” The skit—and the laughing—continues on.
Yet this moment really stayed with me as someone who faced—and mostly overcame—the mental health stigma I was raised with. At age 29, I went to rehab for alcohol use disorder and came out with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety. You see, I had been unknowingly medicating myself with drinking.
Then at age 35, I was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which is a highly heritable difference in brain wiring. I am pretty sure it came from my dad (who will never get diagnosed—see mental health stigma above), his mom, and who knows where before that. My brother’s got it, too. Although my kid is way too young for a diagnosis, I experienced many struggles due to not being diagnosed until recently, so I am keeping an eye on him.
I don’t want him to grow up hiding his teenage depression and suicidal ideation the way I did. I don’t want him growing up feeling worthless due to struggles that are happening because the world was not created with neurodivergent brains in mind. And I really, really don’t want him to ever think that our mental health is just something that his mami will wave off like something we can just change with a sassy head bop and a wave of our finger the way Pascal does in the SNL sketch.
It’s always fun to laugh over jokes we can relate to, and I did. But it’s also good to remember that some of the jokes speak to actual problems in our community. Because, yeah, depression doesn’t work that way. But at least my son will grow up knowing how depression does work should he ever need to recognize the signs in himself or someone he loves.
And hopefully, he’ll then feel no shame in airing his dirty laundry to me.
Related: Why Our Tías Mean Everything to Us
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