The other day one of my kids called. “Did you know Mary and Laurel are watching ’13 Reasons Why’?” he asked.
I knew Mary was. The show about a girl who commits suicide had created enough rumblings before the final episodes that I was aware of it and asked Mary about it.
“It’s really well done,” she said.
“Does it glorify suicide?” I asked.
“No,” she said firmly.
When I found out that Laurel was watching too, I cringed a little.
At that point, it was too late though. The lid was off the jar; the fireflies had escaped. I can’t really change that.
“What do you think of it?” I asked Laurel.
“I dunno,” she said, the standard teenage answer for almost everything, not because they don’t know but because it’s hard to articulate thoughts and feelings.
Last night my friends were discussing it, and not favorably.
“Does the show glorify suicide?” I asked Mary again.
“No,” she answered, “it does not glorify suicide.”
“I feel like I shouldn’t have let you two watch it,” I said to them. “I’ll bet so-and-so (and here I mentioned the name of a wonderful mother I know) wouldn’t have let her kids watch it.”
Laurel laughed. She was sprawled on the couch with her head in my lap. For all her grown-up height and attributes, she still likes to snuggle.
“If she hadn’t let her kids watch it, they would have watched it anyway,” she said. “Saying no would just make them want to watch it more.”
It reminded me of when I was around Laurel’s age and “Summer of ’42” came out in the theaters. Everyone was going to see it. Everyone but me, that is. My parents were adamant.
Back in the 70s, I couldn’t sneak up to my room and watch it anyway. I would have had to walk two miles into town and hope the ticket person at the theater wouldn’t question the scrawny pre-teen trying to buy a ticket to an R-rated movie.
Nope, couldn’t do that — so I read the book.
Laurel was right. “No” to a teen means find a way.
I suppose it would have been nice to process Summer of ’42 with someone, but I also suppose if my mother had asked me if I had any questions, I would have said, “I dunno.”
But for my children, especially my daughters who watched a show about a girl who commits suicide, let me give you 13 reasons why not.
- I will always love you. There’s nothing you can do to change that.
- I will not get tired of you. I won’t push you away. You won’t reach a limit with me.
- I will fight fiercely for you. I’ll spend hours on the phone, or in doctor’s offices, or at schools, or wherever you need me to advocate for you as best I can. I will actively pursue getting you help if I can’t do it myself.
- I’m not alone in loving you. One of the blessings of a large family is that you have small army at your back. We’re a mighty group of swordsmen who will surround you if needed and fight off your foes.
- You fill a spot in my heart that no one else can fill. If you were gone, you’d leave a terrible hole.
- Henry. The next generation is here. He thinks you’re pretty awesome.
- Grampa. You brighten an old man’s life. You are a blessing to him. Yes, he repeats himself and the things he says to you, but I see his eyes light up when you share your world with him.
- You are not the biggest screw-up in the world. That would be me.
- If you need me to, I can complete this sentence a thousand different joyful ways — “I remember the day you…..”
- Whatever the terrible thing is that you’re dealing with at this moment will someday be a distant memory. Throw the stick in the river and let it disappear down the bend on the way to the Chesapeake. Or, better yet, throw the stick in the fire — you know we’re big on doing that.
- Tomorrow is a new day.
- You’ve already made a difference in the world. Think about a time when you were kind. If you can’t think of one, I can — and I’ll tell you about it.
- Know that I will accept “I dunno” as an answer. I know sometimes it’s hard to put feelings into words. And that’s okay — but I’m here to listen if you ever want to try to find those words.