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6 Things I Learned About Motherhood From Clair Huxtable

Photograph by Getty Images

Are you sitting down? Because what I’m about to share is startling, and I’m only looking out for you here. Ready? All right. Here it is: This week, September 20, marks the 30th anniversary of "The Cosby Show." This means the groundbreaking show debuted three decades ago, folks. It also means that we’re bloody old.

Like so many "Cosby Show" fans, I have a thousand favorite moments. Certain scenes left an indelible mark on that part of the brain where all things pop culture collect and take root. The whole Huxtable fam ja-ja-jaammin’ on the ones in the studio with Stevie Wonder(!). The Gordon Gartrell shirt. The excellent Elvin Tibideaux Takedown about his chauvinist ideas, masterfully delivered by head mama in charge Clair Huxtable: “And if you don’t get it together, and drop these macho attitudes, you are never gonna have anybody bringing you anything anywhere any place any time ever.” Man! It was classic wig snatching, and it was glorious.

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In fact, many of my top scenes involve Clair Huxtable. She was soft and solid, serious and silly, compassionate and commanding, confident and charming, and so damn fly in her jumbo earrings and shoulder pads. Clair Huxtable was the ultimate example of what having it all looked like way before it even became A Thing (granted, one that we soon realized was unattainable.)

So in honor of "The Cosby Show's" 30th anniversary, here are the 6 lessons I’ve picked up from Clair Huxtable on motherhood.

1. Mom Gets in the Picture

GIF via Tumblr

Whether it’s being part of a lip-syncing, choreographed dance routine to "Night Time Is the Right Time" to celebrate her in-laws’ wedding anniversary or snatching a hoagie from right under Cliff’s nose, Clair made sure she was in on the fun, experiencing things as a joyful participant instead of a smiling observer standing just outside the frame. It’s more fun inside the circle. And I’ve long made a strong effort to get — and stay — in the picture.

2. The Eyebrow as a Form of Communication

GIF via Hello Beautiful

It’s about the look. Or, The Look. It issues credible threats, throws down gauntlets, draws hard lines in the concrete, screams “Don’t you even!” and promptly shuts shit down all without uttering a word. Clair had a couple different versions of The Look. Each allowed her to tell you about yourself in no uncertain terms, and sometimes with the mere arch of her brow. I’ve worked on this for five years now, fine-tuning it as my son moved from petite bébé to toddler and now freshly minted kindergartener. The goal is to reach Clair Huxtable status by 2015.

3. This Is Not a Negotiation

There was this one episode where the youngest Huxtable, Rudy, tried to pull a fast one by playing her folks against each other so that she could wear a purple summer dress to a party. Her mother had already told her it was no, and Clair was not budging. No matter how much Rudy whined, begged and tried to smart-mouth her way into the dress, it was still no. Clair firmly, but sweetly told the youngster that there were rules and that she needed to follow them. There was no yelling, no deals, no empty threats. Just mom’s words laid out plain and simple.

4. Put Yourself on the List

GIF via weloveblacktv.tumblr.com

Clair was a lawyer, a working mom with five kids, yet she’d still carve out time for herself. How often did we catch her chilling on the couch, her legs resting on Cliff’s, reading a thick book? Or who can forget those super, silk-ified pajamas she would slip into every night to unwind. I know. It’s TV magic, but the message still resonated with me. Time for yourself — to recover, restore and refresh your mind, body and spirit – it’s crucial. Even if we’re talking about a corner of the day reserved just for you to play games on your phone while hiding in garage (or keepin’ it real in the bathroom) without having to tend to anyone else’s needs and issues, we should find that time and treat it like it’s as precious as platinum.

5. Speak Your Mind

Gif via Mic.com

Clair was the champion at this, and sounded eloquent, brilliant and so damn smooth each time. If something goes down that you don’t agree with or don’t like how it will affect you and your choices, then speak up. Like the time she set Denise’s new pseudo-profound boyfriend straight after he had the stones to ask Mrs. Huxtable why she doesn’t just stay home with the kids since her husband makes a lot of money. Without a breath or a beat or even a sour look, Clair says: “That is a sexist statement, young man. Why didn’t you ask Dr. Huxtable the same thing?” Yes, yes, and yesssss! Clair will not tuck in her feminism for anyone.

6. Lead with Love

Image via Buzzfeed

Even when Clair and Cliff were at odds (for, like, the first bit of story A and certainly resolved by the end of the third act), there was always love right there on the surface of everything. Taking away privileges from Vanessa after she lied and sneaked off to Maryland to see a concert, or teaching Denise the real-real about money, spending and buying a car on impulse? Love was still there in the foundation of everything Clair Huxtable rested on. And building a family on that kind of bedrock feels like sound planning to me.

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Now I just need get fluent with my Spanish, brush up on some opening credits choreography and work on perfecting the melted-butter grin with the Boss Lady stare, and I’ll be ready to change my name to Nicol — no “e” — Huxtable.

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