Why Our Household Has A Zombie Apocalypse Surival Guide, Defending Facebook, and Various Other Reasons Why I’m a Good Mom
We are a family of full obsessions. We get involved in them deeply and then one day wake up and find a new one. Just like that. My husband and I have managed to make our biggest ones into careers—his as a historian and mine as a writer.
These days, my younger daughter is obsessed with zombies, and I for one can’t wait until this particular interest of hers disappears. Some may argue that at almost 13, she should NOT be watching The Walking Dead. I would agree. I would prefer that she not watch it, period. But she became hooked at a friend’s house, and there’s no turning back. Now she watches it every Sunday night—and has even been inspired to write her own zombie apocalypse novel. It’s very good—and I don’t like zombies–but I’d read her book. Of course.
I know I probably should not let Tess watch The Walking Dead. But I also know that if I make an issue of it, this will become a bigger issue than I want. So I’m waiting it out. I’m waiting for the next obsession.
I took the same tack with my older daughter’s middle school donning of the “emo” or “goth” clothing. Emma wore dark eye make-up and as much black as humanly possible for several years. Then somewhere between middle school and high school, she started embracing color again. Just the other day she said neon pink is her favorite color. Not that I care for the color, but hey, it’s progress.
Sometimes letting our kids explore who they are is uncomfortable for parents. They may embrace things we’ve long given up respect for—like guns, which I’ve outlawed in my house—much to my daughter’s dismay—because, after all, the folks on The Walking Dead use them all the time for their survival (in fighting against the zombies‑-not something we will ever have to worry about). So this prompted some very important discussions in our house, conversations we may not have had if she had not become such a Walking Dead fan.
Ultimately, this is why I’ve let her watch the show—as uncomfortable as I am. Keeping open lines of communication is a number one goal in my parenting. I want to know if my daughter is thinking about guns, drugs, or sex. Or any other sticky life situation. Sorry, but I do. Then I find we can reasonably discuss these issues, rather than being shocked into them by a real situation where it’s much too late to handle it objectively.
The same daughter—Tess—is also fixated with all things Disney. I think it’s a good and healthy obsession. She practices drawing the characters, likes to research little-known facts about Disney, and has asked for a trip to Disney for her 13th birthday—coming right up. We celebrated her sister’s 13th birthday in New York City and told Tess then we’d take her where she wanted to go—within reason. So Disney it is. I’m hoping our trip will ignite that passion a little more—with The Walking Dead fading into the background. Where it belongs.
Sometimes it takes a shift in location to jar your perspective a bit and find something else to think about.
I’ve taken a lot of grief from some members of my family for my “lenient” attitude when it comes to things like goth attire on Emma or watching the Walking Dead in Tess’ case as well as the fact that I allow my kids to be on Facebook. But you know what? I am on Facebook and see what they are doing. I know their passwords. I know what they are up to—because I myself am on it—probably way too much, promoting my books.
One of my husband’s relatives was very upset about Emma’s possible exposure to foul language and sexy content on Facebook. This is someone who is not even close to our family. And I had to sort of laugh. It’s been years since her kids were in school—and even longer ago since she herself was in the pubic school system. And while our first inclinations as parents is to protect our kids from growing up too soon, there’s not much we can do when we send them off to school. I blush to think of the language my daughters hear on a daily basis—words that I never knew until I was in college. (I am not happy about it, but there it is.) So I’ve switched gears a bit from what I thought my efforts would be at this age. I have to trust my daughters will communicate with me— so far, so good—and we can discuss things. We can disagree. We can argue. And we do. I think that’s okay.
I’m adamant in my struggle to let my children find themselves and be who they are. For example, I’m a vegetarian—yet I don’t impose it on them. Nor do I impose my religious (or lack of) feelings on my children. I firmly believe that these things only have meaning in your life if you come to your own realizations, and I also believe in not giving them much to rebel against. Even so, however, Emma went through a rebellious meat-eating stage that still makes me cringe and laugh at the same time. “Look at me, Mom, I’m eating meat,” she would often say. Sometimes I’d scowl—but then I’d turn from her, hiding my grin. That’s the spirit, I wanted to say but wisely kept to myself.
I think becoming parents later in life has given both my husband and me a much longer view. As the cliché puts it, we’ve learned not to sweat the small things. Some may argue that we shouldn’t let Tess see The Walking Dead or let Emma dress like a goth girl, or let either be on Facebook. But we like to think we’re giving them what they need to discover who they are, within limits, of course. (We are carefully watching them, commenting on what they do, guiding them, as well).
I’d bet whatever money I have in the bank and then some that my sweet, thoughtful, smart Tess will never wield a gun to fight off zombies—or any other kind of creature. Tess, on the other hand, has a written a book of instructions on how to survive the zombie apocalypse. “You just never know, Mommy,” she says. Indeed, you don’t. But I’m hoping our mother-daughter discussions will help us be better prepared when that “unknown” happens.