Recently, Hubs and I watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix. (Yes, I am aware that this is the second post in a row referencing our Netflix addiction.) If you don’t know, it is a show where you choose options for the character throughout. This type of thing was tried before in a Final Destination movie that I recall being highly disappointed in despite the hype. The buildup was real for Bandersnatch, though, and I was waiting for this for some time, as I have loved Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books since I was a kid. I still have a couple somewhere, their covers long torn away and possibly missing perfectly good endings as well. I would read them over and over, trying to find my way to every possible ending before putting the book down. So, when I heard Netflix was going to try this format, I was excited. Even more so because their first foray into it would be with a Black Mirror episode, one of my favorite shows. Hubs and I popped popcorn and grabbed our PlayStation remote and settled in for a good time, and boy did we have it. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. We watched it three or four times. M is here today (for once the sole child in the house) and I was considering going back for a rewatch with him. That’s how good it was.
But this post isn’t about Netflix formatting or Black Mirror or even CYOA books. It’s about parenting.
My sister, who is thirteen years my junior, often says things you would expect out of the mouth of some wise old owl. Just the other day, she says, apropos of nothing, that it seems to her that parenting is a lot like a CYOA book. It was as though something slid into place, clicking into its spot. Hubs eyes grew wide as he realized that every single question your child asks every day is another option for a different storyline. Just then K entered the room and asked to use the laptop. We honestly had to think about it for a second. What if we say no, and she resents us? Or doesn’t at all and just goes and finds something else to do, but misses out on something that could have proved useful in life elsewhere? What if we say yes and she spends all her time watching videos and becomes addicted to screens and ends up homeless on the street? Or she learns some new information or skill that she didn’t have in her arsenal before? In the end we said yes and a fight broke out between the girls, not remotely one of the planned-for scenarios, only cementing the obvious: you don’t know how the story is going to go.
M is staying with us for a couple days and also again for a week in May. In May he will have to go to school, and he wants to walk. Now, if I were 13 and it was 1996, I would have happily allowed such things, but HE is 13 and it is 2019 and times have changed, buddy. Mark is less comfortable with this than I am, and that is saying something from a man who has walked everywhere since he was ten years old. Mark is worried about older kids, cars driving onto sidewalks, cars plowing through stop signs, kid-snatchers, drug pushers, and M falling over his own two feet. Choose your own adventure: Let the boy walk home from school and learn independence and responsibility, or let the boy walk home from school and get snatched by methheads? Don’t let the boy walk home from school so that he never learns to be independent or don’t let the boy walk home from school so he doesn’t DIE?
Obviously, we will let the boy walk home from school for the independence and responsibility bit, and pray all the rest is just the pipe dreams of parents who worry too much. But you never know, from the smallest decisions, to the big ones, what effect they will have on the lives of your children, and your life by default. You make a million little decisions for your child everyday without even knowing it, and then you have to hold on for the ride and hope to God the story doesn’t send you back to page 5.
Now I’m going to go hang out with M, probably debate Godzilla vs. King Kong, discuss new Mortal Kombat characters, and try to get some teachable moments in there somewhere. Maybe watch Bandersnatch. Maybe go for a walk.
So many options.