So How Stable WERE Calvin And Hobbes' Parents, Anyway?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Right now, before reading the rest of this essay, I want you to formulate an opinion:
Calvin’s parents (of Calvin and Hobbes) were:
a) A loving relationship;
b) A troubled, but ultimately stable, relationship;
c) On the brink of divorce.
Okay.  Got an opinion?  Remember it.  I want you to tell me at the end of this post.
Thing is, it’s hard to tell in Calvin and Hobbes, because Watterson purposely hid the details of what the parents did. You’ll never hear them called by name: they are only “mom” and “dad.” We only know what Calvin’s Dad does for a living if we’re paying very close attention (for the record, he’s a patent attorney).  What you see in Calvin’s parents’ relationship most likely reflects your reality.
But I have a theory:
I think if you came from a dysfunctional family, where bickering and dissension only takes place as part of a hostile environment, you see Calvin’s parents as on the brink of divorce, because in the strip they frequently have conflict over Calvin (who is, to be honest, a kid who any good set of parents would have some conflict about).
And in a dysfunctional family, where everything’s so soaked in anger that the slightest tinder could set everything irreparably on fire, open conflict is the sign of danger. You spend so much time trying to avoid setting anyone off, being nice, eating your emotions, redirecting conversations, that when two people actually do uncork something that vexes them, that means they’re about to fucking kill each other.
So when you see Calvin’s parents angry at each other about Calvin, you think God, they’re close to losing it. This family’s going South.
Whereas if you came from a non-dysfunctional family, conflict is just part of normal, everyday working out problems. You come to someone with an issue, you yell, you figure out how to deal with it, it goes away.  Sometimes you yell and it’s over like a summer storm, this three-sentence “WELL FINE!” that leaves you both laughing, and you don’t think that telling someone you’re angry is a big thing because, well, it isn’t.
For these people, Calvin’s parents are a strong relationship because they do occasionally express conflict over Calvin.
Because frankly, the answer to “Are Calvin’s parents happy?” is “We don’t know.”  It’s a purposely myopic view, from Calvin’s rather self-centered perspective, and that’s the charm of the strip.  But the glimpses we get?
They tell us far more about you than about Calvin’s family, most likely.
Now. Please. Tell me how stable you thought Calvin’s parents were, and why, and debate in the comments, because I find this fascinating.


  1. Rosemarie
    Jun 10, 2015

    Is it cheating to have decided, at the beginning, that it’s impossible to tell? In any case, that’s what I did. (You could interpret my reluctance to pick a real answer as indicative of a family environment where it’s not safe to give a wrong answer. You wouldn’t be wrong.)

  2. Bea
    Jun 10, 2015

    I thought they were what a family was supposed to be (i.e., not like mine).
    I mean, they got frustrated with Calvin and told him to behave–but they didn’t call him “stupid” or “fat” or “lazy.”
    Since they were not-mean to him, I assumed they were what married people were supposed to be like.

  3. Alexis
    Jun 12, 2015

    I think they had a slightly dysfunctional relationship that was overall pretty strong. Calvin’s dad definitely won me over with his dry sense of humor, and his mom could deliver tough love or tenderness depending on what Calvin needed at the moment. For the record, my parents are divorced, and when they were together they were a highly dysfunctional nightmare. I think if Calvin’s parents were that bad, he’d be far more on edge around them and never take the kinds of risks he does.

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