Before I get into this post – I want you to understand one thing. The TV/Netflix show I’m about to reference is extremely graphic and disturbing to a point of insomnia for some, visual imprints for others and disgusting to the point of nausea. So, if you are sensitive to anything of this nature (e.g. S,V,L,P +16 movies) I would recommend finding the book and reading it and not watching the series – because then you have control over how far your mind will take you. Or you can read the Wikipedia summary which gives you a good idea of what it’s about without compromising your mind and also to understand a little of what I’m about to blog about.
Anyway, with that said – Tim and I gave up DSTV about a year and half ago. It was too expensive and Netflix offered us the basics of what we were looking for and the variety without the ever interrupting adverts.
So every so now and again, I will scroll through any new media that pops up and read the review and decide on whether or not I’ll watch it. So, about 2 weeks ago I was doing this and “13 reasons why” popped up. I read the description and thought, “hmmm, that’s one to try but not now”. Then about a week later this very same show, started becoming the “talk” on social media and on blogs that I read by Cindy and Sharon. But I thought I should have my own opinion and actually learn something about my children’s present/future.
Now, before you judge me for watching this – understand I don’t just watch TV the way that a normal person does anymore. I watch it holistically. I take into account the camera angles, camera steadiness, the filters used, the “folly” sounds, the music, the makeup, the lighting and so on. You’ll be surprised what these things can make you “feel” when watching a show. These are things the producers, director, editors and Cinematographers take extremely seriously in order to evoke a certain reaction from their audience. I felt I needed to share this, because you need to be aware of what media is telling you when you watch it. You can’t think “it’s just a show”. The writer, director and media team have taken you, the viewer, into serious account and they want you to feel something and potentially shift your mindset about something.
This series was very REAL. I was moved to a point of being heartbroken, disturbed, shocked, angry and also motivated. Here’s my parental response to “13 reasons why”.
I say heartbroken because I come from a home that kept me sheltered and protected from the “normal” activities of the everyday teenager. And as much as my parents’ aren’t perfect – they were there and in my life for my teen years. We had a family supper EVERY NIGHT where we each shared about our day and what happened. Yes, I hid certain things from my folks, but they had a finger on what was going on in my life, to a point where if something changed – they’d spot it. (it happened several times and I eventually shared stuff that I was dealing with because they were in my face). Now I completely understand that this is not the case for everybody out there and that is why I’m heartbroken to know that, what I had is abnormal now. Homes are broken, as this show depicts. Parents are absent, physically and emotionally. As much as families look like they’re ok – they’re not and the children suffer. I see it with my own kids sometimes– when Tim and I hit something tough, and if we don’t take them into account – they literally spin out and respond to the “energy” of the home. Fathers are meant to bring “security” and the mother sets the “atmosphere” in a home – if one slips – all of the wheels come off for all concerned, one way or another.
I was left disturbed because reality is not nice to look at or talk about, right? Like I’ve said, I’ve come from a very sheltered upbringing and it was wonderful, but when I moved to the big city of Cape Town my life was bombarded with realities that were extremely hard to process. To recall, one of the best learning conversations I had was in my first year of “varsity”, with a friend who trusted me enough to share that certain things I ate reminded her of when she was raped as a teen and she is HIV positive because of that. I was completely hit over sideways and was extremely grateful for her openness but at the same time disturbed and uncomfortable by her reality. But it taught me that uncomfortable is an important place to be in to learn extremely important life lessons.
This visual series (depicting the book) does that. If you watch it, you will notice that when they are depicting the present life – with Hannah being dead – the video filter is blue. It leaves you feeling cold, distant, upset and yet almost numb to what Clay is dealing with – but when they show Hannah alive, even though the realities of her life are either private, invasive, hormonal or brutal – because of a yellow/sunny filter, you feel empathetic (we were all teens once), warm, nostalgic and involved in what’s being portrayed. It left me wanting to do something about what I’d learned from the visuals. I was uncomfortable, yes – but I was moved to think differently. To understand the current teenagers plight. What the world looks like from that point of view. (I do think it has always been like this, but it’s just on steroids now because of social media and technology)
I’m angry! Yes, I’m angry – in the sense that this kind of life isn’t fair for any developing child/teenager. I’m angry because as much as I will try my darndest to protect my children from it – it’s there and it’s ugly, big and in your face. Teenagers should have the freedom to grow and develop without the pressures of what the world is shoving down their throats. Drinking as an under aged young adult, is NOT cool and yet it’s portrayed that way. (Even Gossip Girl made drinking and drugs so willy nilly and what successful teens do to de-stress) I was so angered by this that I am now….
Motivated. I’m motivated to make my marriage work. To have a game plan for the years when my children are pre-teen / teenagers. The busyness of the teen life can so easily distract from what’s important and that’s quality time with each other and our kids. Individually. With this being said, I can’t rationally think that I can wait until they get to their teen years to start the relationship or the life lessons.
My son, at the tender age of 2, already needs to learn, that self gratification is not his human right. He needs to be taught to wait for rewarding treats. He needs to know that girls are to be treasured, they are his friends, his sisters, his equal and that they are not just objects to please his every need. He needs to know that he, himself, needs to be able to say no and that it’s ok to be a strong independent individual that doesn’t seek his self worth from the crowd but from his Maker. And that standing alone and against the crowd is courageous and bold – this will make him a man.
He needs to understand there’s a higher standard here and it’s absolutely worth waiting his turn for. I say this having learned recently, that a boy that is not told to wait for his sweets until after he’s eaten something healthy, or that he can’t just have the phone when he wants or do what he wants when he wants to – is being groomed to be a 16 year old man that will literally take what he wants from another person just because he doesn’t know any better. This is highlighted in the book/series when Bryce rapes and doesn’t see it as a problem, because of his “it was there so I took it” attitude.
I am so definitely getting my kids to do self defence classes. Like for real! My Dad told us to be prepared for certain things. He told us of various techniques to apply should we be in a bind. But what this show highlighted is the Fight, Flight or Freeze response to trauma (I got this from the episode ‘after thoughts’ with the referenced psychologists) These are victim responses and why they are what they are. I want my girls to always know that they should Fight and, they should know how to. They also need to know where their worth comes from. It’s not from the mouths, or texts of others but from God. Their beauty isn’t what makes them awesome individuals but it’s their self worth and strength of character. I know that as a parent I will have no control over the hormonal responses my children will go through, but I spoke to my 9 year old yesterday and told her she needs to have a plan. I think that we are deluded into thinking we can take life as it comes. No! We need to have a plan for crisis so that when/if it hits we can best handle our emotional responses with a point of reference.
I said to her that only she can decide this for herself. She needs to decide whether she is going drink as a teenager or not. If she is going to smoke or not. I told her that even though it doesn’t matter to her now, she needs to have a response ready. She needs to know what kind of woman she wants aspire to be because if she doesn’t then when the tests / “experiments” come, potentially bad choices will be made and they will impact her life forever.
I know some of you may think that she might be too young, but I have learned that with a plan you have some sense of compass when faced with a decision. I referenced a friend of mine’s son when we chatted. He’s currently 18 and finished with highschool – I have admired this boy’s sense of self ever since he was 6 years old. He recently posted that he was having his first beer with his grandfather because it was a dream of his to do it after his final year of high school. That, my friends, is a plan. I bet all through his high school career there were probably many opportunities to dabble in any kind of liquor – but because he had set a goal, it was most likely “easier” to just drink coke or sprite at a party.
I am motivated to teach my kids that the “by stander” approach is not an option. Tattle tailing is absolutely ok and that even if they are frowned upon – they did the right thing. Whether true or not – it’s important to let my children tell me what’s going on in their little friendships and help them process them to become the best people they can be.
I am saying all of this in hind sight, and I have made a point of spending time with mother’s that have gone before me. To help me understand that my ideal point of view is what every mother has, but teenagers are real and I have to pray for them even more through their “stuff”, to make the best decisions.
Moms, get along side those that aren’t in your current situation. Spend time with those that are struggling through the hard stuff of older children. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn just by listening.
Another thing I will not compromise on, is being a hard care parent (hard core). I don’t mind being called “old school”, because us disciplining our children shows them that we love them. Creating firm, clear boundaries tells them we care enough to give them boundaries. We let them exercise their free will with the age allocated spaces. If those are breached and broken then the space gets smaller and they walk through the consequences of the broken boundary by having a tighter one in place.
A friend described me once as a mother that truly loves her children, allowing them to be free to be themselves but they don’t mess with me and they “know” when they’ve stepped out of line because “hard care” mom shows up. The balance is so important.
Those were my main responses to the series and as much as it makes you feel hopeless as a parent, I stand solid on one thing at the end of the day – I can’t do this parenting thing without the counsel of a God who is for me. ‘Free will’ was designed by Him and His point of view of this fallen world is the best frame of reference on how to navigate the coming years with my children. Consequences are real, He designed them too – He also follows through on them but loves us through the whole process. My one prayer is that, as much as I plan for my parenting approaches for the present and future, above all that I draw closer to God to help me be sensitive to His voice to help me do, say, respond and parent my children to be what He’s designed them to be.
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