The other night my two sons and I were curled up together on the couch. Somehow the three of us had managed to compress ourselves onto a single couch cushion. We had one massive blanket that covered the three of us which was pulled up around our faces, ready to hide our eyes if we needed it to. My oldest son had told me numerous times, he wasn’t scared, but that it was just a little ‘intense’ but my younger son had no reason to ‘fake it’ – “should I close my eyes yet?” he kept saying, snuggling into me. I’d ask him if he wanted to leave, but he was adamant, he was staying.
The three of us were watching The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a book (and later movie) series based on the premise that 24 children are chosen each year to compete in gladiator style games and fight to the death. There was a good reason we were all huddled together in the corner of the couch!
Our collective love for The Hunger Games started a few weeks ago when my oldest son was looking for something to do.
As a mother, I knew what he needed, he needed a good book!
I love The Hunger Games, it models resilience, bravery, friendship, forgiveness and a wide range of complicated human emotions, it’s excellent!
So, when my son was moping around the house bored because his baseball team only meets every other week for practices and I had capped his screen time, I passed him my own copy of The Hunger Games. That day, everything changed. My son hid away in his room and for three weeks he worked his way through the novels.
Every once and a while he would come out into the hallway and just stare at me, his eyes wide.
“What just happened?” I’d ask him and he’d tell me what part he’d just read. Sometimes he cried and I cried too – because the books still suck me in! Sometimes he just stood in shock at a twist he didn’t see coming, or at a death he was hoping to avoid. Once he finished the first book, my two sons and I sat down together to watch the first movie. The next week was the second book and the second movie. Last week we watched the last two. As a reader and a momma, it was the most amazing few weeks of connecting with my boys, especially with my eldest son.
We all know how much less cool parents get as kids get older. We know nothing, have no experience and ‘NEVER UNDERSTAND ANYTHING!’ I’m constantly out of my depth. I have on occasion wondered how my mother made it through my own adolescence.
Sometimes my house feels like a real-life version of The Hunger Games. When everyone is screaming and fighting over the toothpaste or the last drip of orange juice or comparing (to the second) how long their siblings have had in front of a screen, it can feel like an intense, all or nothing gladiator fight. There’s very often yelling, and socks being thrown at each other and toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror – it’s a blood bath!
I am more often than not at a loss, I read everything I can and even took a fabulous teen parenting course a few weeks ago – but still, each day there’s a new thing for me to learn, try or wish I had done differently.
So, when my son took that first novel from me, when he holed up in his bedroom reading and loving every minute of it, when we watched the movies, curled up together on the couch, or hugged each other when a character we loved was killed, there was something so special and moving and perfect about that connection.
There is something unifying about the joint experience of loving a good book. Something that my son and I could share as we worked through hard concepts and new ideas and that weird feeling of leaving this world behind and joining another fictional one.
I rarely know what I’m doing as a parent. I’m almost always at a loss and calling out to the heavens to offer some sort of divine intervention or provide some unearthly strength as I navigate the surge of teen hormones that have infiltrated my house. Then, one day, I find myself sitting on my couch, my boys snuggled into me watching movies or I find myself sitting on my kid’s bed, listening to the latest concept his brain is wrestling with and I realize that for all the things I don’t know and all the things I definitely do wrong, there are those surprising times when things go right. Who knew that introducing a violent novel about slaughtered youth would be one of those things, but hey, I’ll take it!