Last year, I wrote about watching “Stranger Things” with my daughter. I described how the series helped us connect during the pandemic. I was conflicted about whether or not to publish the piece, but finally felt that sharing what we went through might be helpful to other parents – and it was. I heard from so many people that they had also shifted habits, gotten more lenient with things like television watching and chores, all in the name of making things a little bit easier for our children, who were going through so much.
It got pretty bad, for us. Here’s what I wrote then:
Parents aren’t supposed to try and fix our children’s problems. But even in 2018 – before the pandemic – suicide was the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14. I didn’t think my daughter was suicidal, but I worried that her self-neglect might become self-harm: Today, some estimates suggest 20% of American teens are depressed and up to 30% of adolescent girls report hurting themselves. Once, while she was sleeping, I inspected my daughter’s arms for scars – thankfully finding none.
Then we started watching “Stranger Things” together and, miraculously, things got better:
Just like a portal to the “Upside Down” that these characters access, the show provided a space through which I could connect to my daughter’s world. Maybe it isn’t so bad, I thought, spending a few hours together each night, gripped by a drama to which we could both relate: a plague that overwhelms a community, with dark death at its heart. Sitting side-by-side, without looking directly at each other, we discussed everything from first kisses to world-threatening contagion that had a lot in common with coronavirus. And, after so many months of physical and emotional distance, the scary scenes gave me an excuse to hold her close.
The long-awaited Season Four just dropped and I can’t wait to watch it with my family. But re-reading my essay drove home just how much has changed. Yes, we still snuggle up on the couch with the dog but often my youngest isn’t even home. She’s out with her friends, having fun in the world – as she should be. It’s a stunning change, and one for which I am so very grateful.
What changed for your family during the pandemic (besides everything :-)? How are you doing now? Please tell me about it, in comments below. Thank you!