Monday, March 26, 2012

Hunger Games: What We Chose

He waited for nearly a year.  Benjamin counted the days, read and reread the books, studied the actors who had been cast and talked with excitement about the film's opening.  Noah joined the conversation.  We listened in as they discussed the plot and talked about the lessons found in the books.  They chatted about violence, about character flaws, about future possibilities and about where our current culture can take us.

Yes, they read these books before us.  Our boys are avid readers and keeping up with them can be hard to do.  Teachers had recommended the books and though the plot seemed dark and difficult, we let them read the series.  They read without stopping, hands passing through their hair, tears in their eyes, thoughts flowing through their minds.  They asked us questions and struggled and hurt and we let them continue to read.

Finally, we read them ourselves.

I began Hunger Games just after Christmas and was sure I would hate it all.

Except I didn't.

It is not my type of book and the momma in me wanted to pick up Katniss and hide her from all that is wrong.  The protector in me wanted to trust Peeta to do what was right for them both.  To the core of my being, I wanted to stand up for what was right and call an end to all that was not.  I wanted to save these children.  I wanted them to have a safe place to live.  I wanted them to eat until they were full, to run in the bright sunlight, to trust their mommas and to play and laugh... and it broke my heart when all of this was just not so.

(Sometimes books say something about who we are.)

We can fuss about the violence or we can listen to the message... to be honest, I did both.  And when the movie was being shot, I felt strongly that my boys would not see it.  How could they?  Why would they?  Reading of such darkness and despair is one thing.  Seeing it is something else.

And yet... I think my decision was made in an effort to protect their hearts, when their hearts were already broken, already affected, already connected to these characters, this story, these lessons.  I had already allowed it.  And I  had entered into this with them, too.

So, we chose to change our minds.

Benjamin saw it first.  Surrounded by friends, most of whom had read the books, he sat in that dark theater and watched the story come to life.  Noah saw it next.  In a packed theater with all his soccer buds, he thought it through and felt it deeply.  Both boys came home and talked and talked and talked some more.  They noticed the differences between book and movie reflected on the power of the written word.  Reading of the death of one character in particular affected them more than seeing it portrayed.

Finally, Mark and I got to go.  I watched the beginning in wonder and slumped low, hands over my face, as the inevitable battle began.  I was surprised to feel that I wished I didn't know the end, the way the final book finishes.  Seeing characters I love and knowing their futures brought unexpected tears to my eyes.  Though they were not in danger yet, I knew it was to come.

It was a lot to take in.  A lot for my boys.  A lot for me.  But, in the end, I am glad we share this experience.   Everything in me wants to wrap my arms around my babies and shield them from this darkness.  I want them to read books that end well and make them laugh.  I want life to be tidy and neat.

Except it's not.

And if that is true, if life is messy and things go wrong and we find ourselves in situations that break our very hearts, I want to help my boys think it through.  I want to talk with them about it and listen to them and I want to be quiet enough to learn from their teenage words.  I want to journey with them.

 And I want to save my "No."

Because every movie and every book will not be okay with us.  This one, we could release.  This one, we could share with them.  Even in the midst of so much hurt and violence and sadness, the story we found and the characters we met made it worth it in the end.

How did you make this choice?  Did you see the movie?  Read the book?  Decide that this deserved your "no"?  What factored into what you chose?

As parents, there is a lot to review.  Media provides endless choices for our children and ourselves.  But, if we are careful and think it through, perhaps it can become a tool for us to use to meet our parenting goals.  I think that's what happened this weekend for us.  However controversial, this story became a connecting point between us and our boys.  The story is hard and feels heavy and sad but that is reality, too.  And maybe, if we squint, there were lessons inside about our world, about our insistent focus on appearances, about our obsessions with violence and our desire for control.

I am thankful that I got to talk about all that with my boys who are growing up.  Because we shared this together, it is to us they turned.  So, in some small way, I provided for them what I wished Katniss had.  A safe place.  Parents nearby.  Family to draw them near.

Blessings on your day.


Nicole said...

wow... I'm so thankful that my boys are too young for me to have to deal with this. But I know I will have to eventually.
I think that there are necessary exposures and then pointless ones. I loved every minute of the 3 books and I also loved the movie. I see true VALUE in this story. I think it is powerful and meaningful and instructional. This is a necessary one. Twilight... not so much.
I think you did good in not just allowing your kids to be exposed to it, but also exposing YOURSELF to it and taking the ride with them. You were able to answer questions and help them through those emotions, as only an adult can.
I admire your parenting style and I hope I remember to be "in-touch" with my boys like that.

lisawilco said...

Kudos to you nadj!

We need to engage with our kids as they engage with the world. They need us when things are light and beautiful, but how much more when things are dark and ugly. I think that is part of my job as a parent to teach them how to engage with, grieve over and learn from the dark and ugly in life. Because it will come, they will see it and feel it.
I think sometimes our desire to protect our kids isn't totally for their benefit, but also to avoid the pains it brings us to see them wrestle and hurt. I cried over and talked about these books with my 15 yr. old, who is thoughtful, but analytical. I want him to KNOW that all families aren't like ours and to know how to step into that and not run away. I want that for my other boys as well, but although my 11 yr. old is able to read these books, his sensitive heart and deep thoughts mean that actually reading them will be put off until he can bare them.

It reminds me of that part in Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place. She's a young girl on the train with her father and asks him about "sex sin". He doesn't answer her, but when the train stops asks her to carry his suitcase. When she protests that it is too heavy and she is too small, he relates it back to her question, telling her that some knowledge is too heavy for young children, but that she will know as she gets older.

The balance is both not avoiding heavy topics with our children, but knowing when to talk with them, as well as helping them to be strong enough to bear the burdens when we do talk with them. The only way to do that is to build up their "muscles" of hope, faith and love amidst the darkness, bit by bit. It's work for them and it can hurt, but we can be good coaches and not exasperate them.

SO COOL to hear of the great conversations in your home and the trust between you and your kids!