February 22, 2016
As a parent, we often do things we’d otherwise never consider, simply because the action might benefit our children. We eat the inedible breakfasts in bed and Easy Bake creations for the sake of their self-esteem and smiles. We listen to hours of monotonous tunes until our brains turn mushy and adult interaction seems an exotic allure.
As they age, we read books of their liking to hold discussions on the subject. We become experts in archery, fencing, martial arts, or color guard. Knowing we must “go” where their hearts reside, we learn about their friends. We attend school plays and PTA meetings that we might chaperone field trips. We camp beneath snake pits at the zoo when our Harry Potter fans wants to try out parseltongue. We endure unhospitable weather for scouting trips, all in the hopes of relevance and relatability. We do anything, even risking life and limb, to give them unforgettable experiences. There’s not one of these experiences I’d give up, because they matter to my children.
Sometimes, though, try as we might, our children shut the doors to their inner selves, shutter their windows, and refuse to answer our calls. What’s a parent to do? Certainly, we don’t give up. In fact, like insistent locust in search of a meal, we weasel our way into any cracks or crevices. If that doesn’t work, we invent something new.
For instance, to leap a broadening gap with my daughter, I introduced her to a favorite show of mine. Witty and stylish, the show’s subject matter provides topics for thoughtful conversation. What, you wonder, might have aided my desperate attempt to stay in touch with my teen? Why, Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Its strong lead character navigates teenage pitfalls, succumbing to major temptations, yet she always works through the angst. Whedon possesses a charming way with dialogue that continues to engage even after all these years. The action keeps things lively, and just like in real life, the bad guys don’t always bear fangs and claws.
I enjoy discussing my girl’s thoughts after episodes. She grew indignant for Buffy when Angel turned evil, yet during subsequent episodes, she rooted for Angel’s redemption. “Mom, will they ever get together?” I reveal nothing. “We’ll have to watch to find out.” She assessed characters, from Cordelia’s self-centered behavior to Principal Snyder’s ties with the demonic Mayor. She bemoaned Buffy’s troubles. “Man, she can’t get a break. Here she is saving everyone’s lives, and her mom grounds her for being out too late. Seriously?” I point out Buffy’s heroism eventually finds recognition, and my girl grew misty-eyed when the senior class presented her with a token and a thankful speech at Prom.
When Buffy navigated freshman year of college, my girl insightfully deciphered clues to guess storylines. “She needs to date the good guy for a change, Mom. She keeps picking the wrong ones.” She recognized the development of Willow’s strength and her slide into the lure of witchcraft. When she realized Xander missed out on college, my girl grew thoughtful. “Mom, will I be able to attend college?” We discussed the importance of scholarships, good grades, and better decisions.
Mr. Whedon’s excellent cast explored weighty topics, including peer pressure, responsibility and consequences, and abusive relationships, opening a dialogue between my young lady and me. With each conversation, her good sense shines through, and if only for those moments, we connect in a way we both enjoy.
I am certain this phase will unfortunately pass. Either we’ll run out of episodes or she’ll grow bored by sitting with me. I’ll scramble for another inroad into my kid’s confidence. Until then, I’ll enjoy sharing Buffy and her friends as they navigate the terrors of Sunnydale and teendom.
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