Pedestals are dangerous, man.
I rarely rewatch things.*
Especially television. But I finished rewatching Big Little Lies a few nights ago. This time with Becca. And it held up a second time. HBO's masterful seven-episode series about a murder in an upscale coastal California town touches on so many themes and dynamics that are most notably centered around a group of moms and their relationships with their children and husbands.
Hilarious, disturbing, spellbinding, suspenseful, and killer dialogue. Revolving around women, it also features a supporting cast of men who shine some uncomfortable light on character traits and attitudes indigenous to my gender. Uncomfortable, but also enlightening and entertaining.
The one big suspension of belief that must be taken...I think: parents,
talk to and with your children.
There's an idea running throughout of parents simply accepting that their six-year old children won't tell them something (a key plot point). It's a recurring idea; and unfortunately mirrors a lot of real life these days. The idea that we should be - or it's normal to be - scared of our children; that it's somehow our job to entertain them at all points and to help gain and preserve social status with their peers and that to respect them means that they get to do (almost) whatever they want...an idea that they get from...where?
I'm not scared of children. I'm not scared of saying No to children.
I respect and dialog with children from the time they're born. I don't and won't talk down to them.
But I will not be cowed or scared of them.
That is the sad reality displayed frequently on BLL. A reality that kids are often running the show and it's our job to be at beck and call, to wait on hand and foot, to quickly forgive their lapses of conscience, character, behavior, and point the finger elsewhere; to put them on a pedestal.
Toys don't belong in glass cases. And children don't belong on pedestals.
They're human beings. Human beings with agency. Which means they make mistakes and we help them learn from them and move on. With kindness, with love, with respect.
And human beings, period, don't belong on pedestals.
Becca and I tell our kids, over and over:
You don't need to be perfect.
We expect two things from you when you're learning or doing something new and challenging:
1. We expect that you will bring your best
2. We expect you to improve in a linear fashion. Steady improvement.
We help them in encouraging and positive ways...and also constructive and challenging ways. And we give them the gift of knowing that while they're children,
we are running the show.
We will listen, will answer any and every question the best we can, given that they are asked in respectful and relevant ways, and we will love them with all of our being. All.
So when something comes along that might affect our young child's safety, we do not accept the answer:
"I can't talk about it. I can't tell you. I promised I wouldn't tell."
We talk. We hold conversation. We dialogue. Every day. About little, little things, over and over, so when the occasional big and tough conversations come along, we have a pattern and foundation for how to talk.
Endless conversation, endless questions from us to them and them to us and Becca to me and me to her and all of us to each other. We have set a roadmap of neo-Socratic discourse that is our course, for better or for worse.
As they get older, there will be a time for secrets; that is part of breaking away and creating a separate identity.
But ideally, no place for lies. Big or little.
In the meantime, we talk. With each other.
We do the best we can, parents across the world, to keep our children safe. To give them a life that is first of all, has safety and love, and second of all, is filled with curiosity, joy, and a core understanding that
they don't exist to be served.
Part of their existence is to
fill their part of the world with goodness, with love, and with their special skills and talents and interests.
To recognize there is a bigger world out there than their little group of friends and acquaintances and that they have a mandate, as a human being,
to help look out for each other.
That should be our aim.
*the are approximately two exceptions:
1) the long list of films we have been rewatching over time with our children, as certain ones become age-appropriate and relevant (i.e. no Pulp Fiction...yet),
2) rewatching for educational value when I'm working on curriculum and pulling examples from cinema or art for students to learn from,
3) rewatching for bonding, for example, a viewing of MacGruber with my brothers,
4) certain films just because they're super good for rewatching, such as Hugo