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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May Day

Things have been dreadful around here. 

Okay, so maybe the word “dreadful” is taking it a bit too far. But, I don’t want to lie to you, things have not been fun. 

The Northeastern sector of the country, where we live, has been drenched with rain for nearly the entire month of May. I am not exaggerating. At all.

This means a lot of days inside. A lot of television watched. A lot children going crazy from cabin fever. 

I must have jinxed myself. Because I started going to the gym again. I dared to catch up tremendously on lots of house work, and even thought I might be able to manage repainting my master bedroom this summer. I did all sorts of productive things. 

Which meant that, naturally, half of the family would be wiped out with sickness over the course of the last three weeks, and I would be considering fumigation as a viable housekeeping option.  

Let me back up to the three-solid-weeks-of-germs thing.  

I have had boogers smeared across my shoulder, and in my hair by grumpy and needy children. Fevers. Wakeful nights. More fevers.

Now, I’m even infected. 

I recently put all of the medicine bottles back in the bathroom the other day. We normally keep them handy in the kitchen when we are dosing children around the clock. Decorating with ibuprofen bottles and medicine droppers is kind of the hipster thing to do. You wouldn’t understand if you’re not a parent. </sarcasm>

This is what I get for deigning to think that we were done with sickness. Or that life was calm.

I brought this on myself. 

I feel like this is the way it always goes. 

We have a few good weeks. I feel on top of things. Things are running relatively smooth. 

Then the pendulum swings back the other way… 

And handily knocks me over. 

This is the cycle of being a stay at home mother. 

You feel as though you pay dearly for those lulls in activity and stress. When things seem too easy, you come to find out that they probably are, and you are reminded of the way that life is supposed to be. Or really is? I’m not sure. 

Everyone is telling you that you’ll wish you had these days back, but truthfully, nobody wants cold and flu and allergy season with small children. We just think that we do. We love the idea of nursing babies and kids through colds with soup and crackers, love and snuggles because it seems so easy. We don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Then we live it, and we try not to bang our head against the wall. 

See? The pendulum does a-swingeth. 

The best that I can do, as I console myself over the amount of television my children have watched and the amount of frozen meals that we have heated over the last month, is remind myself that I’m doing my best. 

It’s nothing magical. There is nothing outright soothing about reminding yourself that you are doing the best that you can do. It doesn’t magically do the dishes in the sink, or get the laundry folded, or the smushed banana out of the carpet. It doesn’t quell the fevers, doesn’t wipe the red noses. It doesn’t make that five hour stretch of sleep you had feel like eight. 

But sometimes, it does restore a bit of sanity. It helps us reset. The only thing that we can do sometimes is our best. And maybe try to tell ourselves that our children will remember us rocking them to sleep when they were feverish. Or how we laid in bed with them until they were able to fall asleep. 

I dare say, that my kids aren’t gonna remember how messy or how clean the house was on that Tuesday in May when they were four, and I were busy realizing that the place was trashed, yet again. But they do remember how I laid with them on my shoulder, with a wet rag draped across their forehead. 

They probably won’t notice the way that we moms breathe in the scent of their hair. Or how we couldn’t get over how pink their cheeks were when we were standing over them in the dark. 

Those moments are just for us. They’re our due as we try to reconcile the perpetual hurricane that is mothering. It’s the things that only we can notice, because only we can mother them. Only we can find a couple of snot-nosed, grumpy kids the stuff of poetry. Only we can sense the divine in days spent dealing with children who argue over granola bars or dumping toilet water on the floor in the bathroom. It’s a harvest that is ripe for the gathering. 

I’m off to medicate. 

Happy Tuesday. 

What I’ve Learned in Six Years of Parenting

I thought about writing this post when I was feeling wittier, but it didn’t feel right. I have thought about writing this post when I was feeling more emotional, but I didn’t want to potentially bludgeon all of you over the head with seeming needlessly saccharine.

So, it’s a Monday. The kids are at school. The baby is napping. The kitchen is a hot mess and I’m putting off cleaning it for as long as possible. Which means that it’s time for a blog post.

Here are the things I have learned in six years of parenting:

Sit down first – seriously. When you put them on the bus. When you lay them down for nap time. When you turn on a cartoon. Yes, there are things to do. There always will be. But do you know what is hard to come by when you’re a parent? Sitting! So sit.down.

Cereal is absolutely an acceptable dinnertime option.

Don’t be afraid to cancel appointments if you’re overwhelmed in your current season of life. Seriously. Reschedule those trips to the dentist or their three-year check ups. Don’t worry about joining the PTA this year. Put off getting your flu shot one more week. The world will keep turning anyway. 

Yes, parenting toddlers is a battle. That doesn’t mean that the boundaries move. It means that you battle to reinforce the boundaries. 

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Draw on their faces with (WASHABLE) markers from time to time.

Let them draw on your face with (WASHABLE) markers on the rare occasion, too. 

You only need diapers and food when you leave the house. The rest you can get away without having in a pinch. So what if your baby comes back home naked in their car seat. They’re alive, aren’t they?

Always keep a (HIDDEN) stash of chocolate in the house. ALWAYS. 

Schedule some time for yourself out of the house. Don’t wait for your husband to do it. Don’t wait until everything is calm and just right before doing so. Don’t wait until someone offers. Tell your spouse what you need from them. And make it happen. 

Savor any and every bit of silence you get. 

The time in your life for sitting and actually watching television in real-time will return. Until then, Netflix at 11 o’clock at night is your best friend. 

There is no such thing as a post-baby body. There is you, post-baby. And you are strong, you never stopped being strong. Just maybe your arms got a little flabby. So apologize to your arm fat and move on. 

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Yes, it’s okay to eat hot dogs for breakfast.  I’m talking about for you and for the kids.

Hold your babies because someday, it will be too late. 

Hold your babies because it’s never too late. 

There is no convenient time to have children. You’ll probably never have “enough” money. You’ll probably never have enough time. You’ll definitely never have enough energy.

Yes, we all know that having puppies and having children is not the same thing. So when your friend talks about it like it is, just smile and nod. And silently relish in the fact that one day, they’ll know what you’re all about. 

For that matter, when your friend talks about being tired, or wanting some down time or needing some space….smile and nod. Don’t cut them. 

Don’t judge other moms. It’s needless. It’s unwarranted. It’s not helpful. It’s dumb. 

Your kids just need you. Not an organic diet. Not a high-end education or fancy place to live. Not one thing besides mom and dad. That’s it. Period. 

Say no to your children. For the love, just say no. 

Let your kids fail sometimes. Let them cry. Let them learn the hard way. 

Crying never killed anybody. 

Don’t pistol whip the person taking too long to order in front of you and the kids at Chick Fil. Just don’t. 

Take your kids to the elderly folks home. Help them pack a Christmas package for someone in need. Make them donate the toys and clothes that they don’t use. Make them help other people who don’t live in your house. 

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Make sure your children know that you are the moral authority in their lives and that they can come to you with anything

You are never “just a mom.” Never, ever. You work just as hard as anybody else. You are just as dedicated as anybody else. You are just as fearless, just as smart, just as much of a bad you-know-what as anybody else. You survived child birth for goodness sake. Don’t ever let them forget it. And don’t you ever forget it, either.

Make sure your children know how to say “I’m sorry.” And even more importantly, when to say it. 

Who cares if the bus driver sees you in the same pj’s she saw in you this morning when you put the kids on the bus as when she drops them back off. Whatev’s.

Let your kids help you feel like a kid again. Let them be in the driver’s seat every one in a while.

Brew that extra pot of coffee if you need it. Just do it.

Let the pizza man look at you funny when you only open your front door 14 inches for him. That way, he can’t see the shameful amount of laundry in your hallway and the naked children running rampant behind you. 

It’s okay if you have a potty mouth. Just don’t let the kids hear you.

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Sometimes, the house is going to win. Do you hear me? Sometimes, your house is going to win. There will be messes left over when you go to sleep. There will be days with the same basket of laundry being knocked around. There will be awful days and the house will be the least of your concern. Let it win. You’ll get it all back when they’re in college. 

Yes, naked children outside are okay. 

There are times in your life where it’s okay to say no. You don’t need to join another play group. You don’t need to take on extra projects at work. You don’t need to enroll your children in three more extracurricular activities after school. If there is ever a time to say no in your life, having small children in your house is a good reason to. 

Find other mom friends who appreciate the importance of good company. And donuts. 

Don’t let the messes stop you from taking pictures. Who cares if there are mounds of dirty dishes and dust bunnies in the background of every picture. Take the shot and let your kids see what living really looked like in these busy years. When everything else was unkept but they were your everything. 

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For that matter, never stop inviting people over. Invite people into your home and then love on your family while they are there. Give people a tiny bit of hope that there are lots of good things in the world. #sharethelove

But seriously, if you’re waiting for the day when there aren’t tiny hand prints on your windows before you invite people over, then you should just wait until they’re in high school. 

Make sure your children know that you love them. Say it to them. Often. 

Love your spouse. And love on your spouse in front of your children. Cus when mommy and daddy love each other, the world makes a lot more sense to your children. 

Love your kids. Because you only have them for so long and you only have so much time to help them understand that you love them. And you only have so much time to enjoy ice cream on a Tuesday morning and bath time and midnight snuggles. So make it count, friends.