What I learned about Parenting from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

You might question the knowhow of someone who gains life wisdom from a late 90’s/early aughts cult classic. And maybe rightfully so.

In comparison to today, some of the special affects were a teensy bit (*cough*)  dated, the cinematography in the first few seasons was usually grainy and Buffy and the Scoobies handily tossed out jokes of the pun variety that may fall flat with some folks.

Still, Buffy seriously changed the game, in both films and television. Imagine that for a non-major network t.v. show about vampires. 

If you have ever found yourself obsessed with shows like The Vampire Diaries, Tru Blood or Supernatural, you owe Buffy. Big time. Even if you don’t understand or particularly like Buffy, you should still give her a cursory nod for seriously changing the way females were portrayed on the big and small screens.

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Oh, and also for saving the world. A lot. 

 

Warning: Spoilery Bits and GIF’s Abound

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I just finished rewatching all of season 5 of Buffy for the third time last week. With half of the people in my house recovering from sickness, myself included, I consoled myself with chocolate milk for my raw throat and lots of Buffy on Netflix. Because I am a genius.

Even after almost 15 years, I still discovered something new about my favorite season of my favorite show.

 

Here are five things Buffy taught me about being a mom:

Sacrifice means being a hero, and being a hero means sacrifice.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be the hero. I watched Xena. And Dana Scully on the X-Files. And Ellen Ripley. And, of course, Buffy.

I was enamored with females who could make things happen, females who could do the saving. Females who were actually complicated, and not because they were caught in a love triangle between two different boys. 

Watching season 5 of Buffy again as a new-ish mom a few years ago, and again very recently, helped the show take on an entirely unexpected incarnation for me. What was once an empowering experience became something emotional and grounded.

In a time in my life where I was surrounded by new life, life that I was now responsible for, the issues of mortality and evil in the world left me quaking. Buffy and I suddenly became kindred spirits more than ever before. I was learning the ropes about how to care for my children just as Buffy was doing the same for her sister and her mom. Gone were the unassuming high schoolers and bouncy haired young girls. We both had to put on our big girl pants and take care of business.

Those early experience were the first times in my life that I knew, wholeheartedly, that I could give my life for another, or spend my life making the world a better place for the sake of someone else.

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Watching Buffy sacrifice herself by leaping off that tower to her certain demise in the ultimate moment of season five, and for me the series, meant something indescribable to me.

Heroics is not only sacrificing oneself in the physical sense, but also the sacrifices that you make when you love people. How sometimes, that means getting hurt.  How sometimes, it means loving them even they don’t deserve it.

It probably sounds silly, but when you’re doing marathon breastfeeding sessions all night with a baby who demands every inch of you, you have to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Because babies don’t say “thank you.” Because nobody is there to give you a pat on the back when you keep your cool after the kids spill finger paint all over the carpet. 

Parenting is sometimes nothing but a series of obstacles, from the flu running through everyone in the house to the angsty teenage years. And every time we think we have a handle on something as a parent, something new rises up. This is the nature of loving little people until they turn into big people. 

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And sometimes, to parent, we have to be brave.

A lot of the time, being brave means sacrificing ourselves in a thousand little ways over the course of our every day lives. Sometimes, being brave means letting go of just one more thing when you think you can’t. Sometimes, being brave is leaping without looking.

Actually, a lot of the time, that’s exactly what it is. 

 

What it means to be me:

In a reoccurring theme throughout the course of the show, Buffy finds herself consumed with wanting to learn more about her mystical abilities. Where do slayers come from? Is violence their sole function, and was Buffy destined to become hardened by it as the years went on?

In the same way, I sometimes struggle with understanding who I am as a mother. My life doesn’t belong to just me any longer. And I can become dull to the joys and excitement going on around me.

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Buffy had to figure out ways to intricately balance being a slayer and a young woman with the world at her fingertips.

 Sometimes, I pull away from my calling in life. I tell myself that I quit. I quit with the pb&j sandwiches. I quit arguing with tiny people about the ridiculous stuff. And I just give up. 

But I could never. And like Buffy, sometimes, when I look deeper, I find new ways of understanding what it means to be a mom, and who I am as a person separate from that.

More than that, as a woman of faith, I find my identity in what it means to be a daughter in Christ. Forgiven. Covered in absurd amounts of grace. Loved wildly. Knowing that my origins are rooted in love helps me to love. 

Every time Buffy thought that she had nothing left to give, nothing left to fight with, she remembered she had perhaps the greatest weapon of all. Herself.  

And a lot of the time, that’s all we need.

Duality: Me/Mom

In the same way that Buffy explored her role as the slayer, Buffy also learned how to balance her calling with being a young woman with a penchant for shopping and who also had the occasional odd brush with death. She had to learn to not let her slayer role isolate her from the people in her life.

Yet, while Buffy craved normalcy she sadly often never saw it realized in her life.

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As a mother, I sometimes wonder…where I have gone? I wonder if being a mom is all that I have, all that I am. All that I can ever know again. When I sit down and contemplate exactly how tired I am, I wonder if I’ll always be struggling this much to keep my head above water.

And I become afraid.

Even though I deeply love my children, I wonder if there is a way to pursue my creative passions and hobbies while also being a faithful mother. How can I even find myself when so much of what I have and am is given to the people around me?

As time goes on, I am learning to find my relief in my family, rather than seeing them as another potential burden. My mothering ability gives me a profound sense of worth, power and purpose. As Buffy progressed in her calling, she learned to trust herself and her abilities, and sometimes even, her flaws. She learned to see her uniqueness in the burdens that only she could carry. And her humanity was one of her greatest assets.

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There is no such thing as a perfect mother. But we have a profound purpose in this world. Sometimes, that purpose is exhausting. But it is always worthwhile.

And we have the chance to make it one full of love, if we let ourselves. 

Family keeps you alive

One of the biggest differences between Buffy and slayers of the past is that Buffy was never went at it alone. She was hardly ever without Giles, Xander and Willow, among others. Ultimately, the hard choices and risk fell squarely on her shoulders. But Buffy clung to her mother and her friends, both for comfort and help. And for hope.

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Buffy prolonged her life by letting herself feel, by letting herself love. Though time changed the way that her relationships functioned, they were always the same in essence. She needed the people around her to have something to fight for and something to live for.

Sometimes, the things that I often see as the biggest inconveniences in my life are the things that keep the blood pumping in my chest. They keep the fight in me. Sure we inevitably enter and leave this world alone, and in some cases, the burden isn’t always shared equally.

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But my children, my husband, are always reason enough to fight another day. 

It is important that moms find their tribe. People who understand them as best as they can, and who are willing to lift them out of the mud on the days when they fail. They need people around them to remind them of who they are, and what they are worth. 

We need people around us to remind us why we have hope planted deep, even when it seems like the world is ending. Even if it usually was in Buffy’s case.

Humor always helps

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, Buffy always reminds me to laugh and not take life too seriously. Only yea, sometimes, take it very seriously.

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These were, after all, early millennials doing battle with the forces of darkness. Which means that there will be puns. And donuts. And good times, as long as no one ever speaks latin in front of the ancient books.

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Every time I think that my day can’t get any worse, when I think that I’m going to break, I sometimes find myself…laughing at the absurdity of it. I can’t always convey how on edge a day in the life makes me feel. But sometimes, remembering to laugh reminds me to find the joy in living an utterly ridiculous life with little people who think that going out in the yard pantless is a viable option. 

Taking this life as a parent too seriously is a great way to rob it of its joys. 

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Watching my children grow has given me one more shot to be a child myself. To see the mystery and wonder of this world through not just my now seasoned eyes, but also through the eyes of innocence is a gift.

Snow on a Christmas morning. A visit from the tooth fairy. The taste of ice cream on a hot summer day. The sight of fireflies on a warm evening. I get it now, I get that all you need a little magic in your life to appreciate all that the world holds. 

Also, wine. I appreciate wine more now than ever before. 

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There you have it. Nearly 2,000 words professing my undying affection for an offbeat but surprisingly wonderful show. Buffy streams on Netflix and Amazon prime. Do yourself a favor and check it out. 

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