I was recently out to dinner with some extended family. Another twenty-something and I were talking, and she asked me what Aryn likes to do. I mentioned the usual stuff – running around half-naked screaming “Let It Go”, dumping things on the floor and saying “uh oh” even though it wasn’t an accident, and watching her favorite movie, Jurassic World.
“You let her watch that? That was a bad call,” she said. For a moment, I froze. Jurassic World is pretty scary. It’s rated PG-13. The thoughts started running around in my mind like bad mom bad mom bad mom and then – I stopped. And after I’d swallowed the urge to be like
I smiled, and said that if Aryn likes it, then I like it. I mean, I wouldn’t let her watch Silence of the Lambs, or anything. Not until she’s at least five, geez.
But I’ve seen this a lot. Not just in the mothering community, but in the Christian community, as well. I’m smack in the middle of that, so I hear a lot of that’s not suitable/appropriate/ I can’t believe you let her watch that.
I have to smile through grit teeth, because it makes me want to scream. In order to fully understand this, you’ll have to sit through the cracked, strange part of my childhood that I’m always hesitant to bring out. Then I remember, hey. It’s my blog. If you want normal, look somewhere else.
I’ve had a severe anxiety disorder since I was eleven years old. I’d had anxiety before then, but my first week of middle school it exploded. Those three years pretty much suck for everyone, so dumping a heaping pile of OCD and panic attacks just made the world break open beneath me and swallow me whole. I fought it for two years, but it became so bad that I didn’t finish eighth grade. I stayed home and watched daytime TV, waiting to have lunch with my mom when she came home on her lunch break.
My mind was an unraveled live wire struck down during a storm. No one could get too near it because they were afraid the coils would snap and bite if they came close. I just stood there, sparks cracking around me, frozen.
My faith kept me alive during those years, though it was hard to relate to people. I had no friends, and the anxiety had become so bad I was knee-deep in extremely embarrassing OCD and thought if I told anyone the extent of it, they’d make fun of me. So I turned in on myself.
And I discovered story. I’d always loved books and movies; my Dad reading The Hobbit to my sister and I is one of my earliest memories. But this was different. One night, when my parents were both out, I watched Interview With The Vampire on TV. My only other exposure to it had been months before when I stopped to look at the VHS box at Blockbuster and my mom was like “Nope never never in a million years do you understand?”
But my mom wasn’t home, so naturally I was like
And I was enthralled. It was bloody, and dark, and parts of it were straight up sick, but — so was I.
Louis was in a bad situation. He hated who he was. He hated what he did and what he wanted to do and that he was so isolated and alone. So was I. But he fought. He pushed back. He was also Brad Pitt, so. There was that.
I met Maximus from Gladiator, and Cora from The Last of the Mohicans. Movies with blood and kissing and death.
Suddenly, I saw the bravery I wanted to emulate acted out in a way I could understand. And my mom, even now, will roll her eyes and cover her face when I mention it like “Oh, Kate-o! I can’t believe you watched those things!” and she still doesn’t get it. Nothing I saw on a screen was worse than what I saw in my head. Virtue set against a glowing, happy backdrop made no sense to me. Happiness born of a normal life was foreign. But this? This weird little light in the darkness? I got that. Watching people stand against completely impossible odds helped me breathe.
It gave me hope.
I’ve felt that way ever since.
So when people tell me that something isn’t suitable, I have to laugh. I believe that the most beautiful, loving thing ever done in history was done during a brutal execution. The Bible itself is full of things that aren’t pretty or suitable. But that’s not the point. The point is that it’s true, and that there is hope in the midst of all the blood and dirt.
This feeling is even heavier on me as a writer, especially as I handed my mom my latest manuscript for her to read before I query. And I remembered some of the cussing and some of the kissing and I was like
But I want to say this loudly, and I want everyone to hear.
There can be good stuff in the dark stories. There can be hope in things that others deem “unsuitable”.
I need Dean Winchester because he’s fucked up and tries to be good anyway. So am I.
I need Kara Thrace because she tries to be brave when she’s terrified and so do I.
I need River Tam because her mind fights her and she fights back, and I’m learning to do that.
So if Aryn wants to watch dinosaurs, I’m going to let her watch dinosaurs. Those characters teach her how to be brave; how to look up at something completely horrifying and carry on anyway.
(Also, how to pit one carnivore against another while wearing heels, which I think is a skill we all agree is important.)
I’m going to teach her that evil is real, and it’s as real as the good she’ll see. But the good is stronger – that she is stronger. And if she wants to watch something that reminds her of that truth, then I’ll take that over Sophia the First any day.
Now let’s see how this goes over at the next church potluck.