I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix last week and it was a lot.
I am the mama to five teenagers. That’s right, five — count ’em. I have a 13-year-old daughter and four sons age 15, 16, 18 and 19. Pray for me. It’s a miracle I’m still alive to tell this tale.
Anyhow, I needed time to process.
Raising Teens is Hard
I love my babies with every inch of my being but listen…navigating the teen years is scary. It’s hard. In my experience, starting any and all difficult conversations at a really young age is ideal. When they’re young, they are open to all the conversations and they get used to the idea that they should be having them with you. I refuse to raise my kids the way I was raised, with too many taboo subjects to even consider. Just yesterday my 11 year-old daughter asked me about douche bags, so I told her everything. She didn’t even bat an eyelash when I mentioned “vaginal cleansing”.
Something happens as they mature and go through puberty. They become quiet. Secretive. They internalize everything. Communication becomes strained. Earbuds stay in all day. Some days, the only laughter I hear is their chuckle in the distance over some meme a friend sent them. They become strangers in your own home. And it’s painful for a mother to accept.
This is what struck me the most while I watched 13 Reasons Why. Yes, this series touches on many topics (some of them heartwrenching) such as bullying, rape, drugs, sex, underage drinking and suicide. But it was the duality of these teenagers that struck a chord with me.
They had one face they wore at home with their parents and a completely different one around their friends at school. When things started to happen, the parents were blindsided.
I feel like 13 Reasons Why provided us with a wide range of parenting styles to gain perspective. There was the doting dad (Jessica), the two dads (Courtney), the overachieving mom (Zach), the strict dad (Alex), the rich, absent parents (Bryce), the troubled mom and her abusive boyfriend (Justin), the in-the-dark parents (Clay) and the busy, financially-strapped parents (Hannah). Their children were an enigma to all of them.
That frightened me to the core of my being and gave me heart palpitations. I don’t want it to be that way!
I began to look at my own kids and wonder, what kind of life struggles are they dealing with that I have no idea about? Am I not paying attention to their clues? Would they come to me if they were in trouble?
Don’t Tell Anyone
Throughout 13 Reasons Why, it was like the blind leading the blind. The way the kids took it upon themselves to “figure it out” and leave adults out of the equation was frightening. They had way too much freedom, privilege and liberty. They knew a crime had occurred, people were getting hurt, lives were being ruined and they were willing to keep quiet to keep themselves out of trouble. Not one of those kids felt it was necessary to confide in their parents, they clung to their own skewed moral code. To me, this speaks of a deeper, societal problem. That totally freaked me out, too.
Watching 13 Reasons Why With Your Kids
Of course, my kids heard about this show from every possible source, especially my two daughters (age 11 and 13). Mom, can we watch it? I promised them that after I watched the entire season I would have an answer for them. At first, I was leaning toward a yes but once I finished the final episodes, I knew my answer was a resounding no. Yes, I know these are real-life scenarios. Yes, I know that watching a show like this can open up a dialogue between us, but…the idea of letting my daughters watch a simulated rape and suicide was just too much for this mama. Tbh, it was too much for me.
Since they were still incredibly curious, I did my best to talk to them about what the show was about. We talked about bullying (something my youngest daughter was a victim of), suicide and rape. The last two were the hardest to talk about. I had to be really descriptive in order for them to understand. I needed a mug of herbal stress relief tea, a couple of melatonins, a dropper full of motherwort and a really long nap to recover.
My sons, however, are watching it. According to a study by Netflix, 74% of teens are willing to open up and talk to their parents about the shows they watch. With entertainment as a common ground, parents and teens can bridge the conversation gap and tackle those tough topics. This show is a great conversation starter. Just listen to these parents and their kids:
Just so you know, my sons are taking forever to finish this series. Just binge watch it like a normal person, I keep thinking. It has taken everything within me not to give them spoilers. Can you guys please hurry and get to episode 13? I can’t wait to talk about it with them.
I want to know where they’re at. I want to know they are good. I want in.