I know the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer really well, and hold Joyce Summers up as one of those TV mums I really do not want to be. Whether she’s slut shaming Buffy, telling her to just be a different person, or blaming Buffy for all of her woes, I’m not mad keen on the parenting style of Joyce Summers.
As I grow up, and as I deal with motherhood, I do however find myself having a degree more sympathy. When she doesn’t listen to Buffy telling her about cheerleading because she’s busy working, I used to feel totally on Buffy’s side. It’s not fair that her mum wouldn’t put enough value in what her daughter cares about to look away from work for thirty seconds to hear her out.
Now? Now Rose tries to enthusiastically tell me about what Twilight Sparkle is doing with one of her ninja turtles and I nod along whilst folding laundry or working on my computer or loading the dishwasher.
“You’re not listening to me, mummy!”
She will complain. She’s right. I’m not. I’m aware she’s talking, I can ascertain by her tone that it’s not a crisis, so I just smile and nod and let my brain focus on the work at hand.
I used to judge Joyce for it harshly… now? Now I think eek. I do that. I let my daughter feel like the things that matter to her don’t matter to me, and no matter how dumb they might seem to me, they’re not dumb to her. To Rose it is important what’s happening with her toys, and not just that but she wants to involve me and share with me what’s happening with her toys. It’s significant and I dismiss it, just like Joyce dismisses cheerleading.
For our Patreon subscribers, we’re currently doing a DVD commentary to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and it’s great. We get to criticise Joyce’s parenting techniques. Judge her when she treats our beloved heroine poorly. But, going through it and discussing it now as a mother, I am realising more and more how many similar choices I make. But, fortunately, not all.
In that same scene where Buffy talks about cheerleading, Joyce remarks that it should help her keep out of trouble, and when Buffy protests that she’s not in any trouble, Joyce remarks “Not yet.”
As a mother to a mischievous little blonde lady, I have a degree of sympathy for the thought. Not yet. I watch our children play and I know that they’re playing nicely… now… but how long for? They’re not in trouble… yet. But how long will it be?
I think the problem is with voicing it. She puts a degree of disappointment onto Buffy in advance. Instead of celebrating that Buffy isn’t in trouble and is enjoying school and making friends, she puts a timer on it. Tells Buffy she has no faith in her and that she’s expecting her to disappoint her like she always does. Joyce goes on, how they had to move all the way to Sunnydale just to find a school that would take her.
I get it, it’s inconvenient. Joyce had to uproot her life and her work, go through the stress of moving house, leave LA and move to a small town and find a new life and new work. It’s hard. But it’s parenting. She, of course, doesn’t know Buffy got expelled due to the damage done when fighting vampires, she just thinks it’s naughty behaviour and I do symapthise. But really.., blaming Buffy for all her sadness isn’t fair. Buffy’s a little girl. Essentially, despite the strength and obvious maturity, she’s really still a child.
This is where I need to make sure I don’t follow. I don’t want to make Rose feel that she’s an inconvenience to me for who she is. That in the process of learning who she is and how to function in society that she’s putting me out. I don’t want to hold her mistakes and her bad behaviour over her head for all time because dealing with the consequences, parenting, put me out.
She didn’t choose to be born. She didn’t choose to be put through the life circumstances that helped shape her. She didn’t choose how I chose to raise her each day. She didn’t choose to be a three year old struggling with growing, and confusion, and hormones like all three year olds do. Essentially she is a passenger forced into a journey she never asked to take, and then being blamed for finding that journey a challenge.
Buffy represents all little girls who’s mums lose their shit from time to time. She represents me, tearing my hair out because Miss Rose has pushed me to the brink and beyond. She also works as a reminder for what I don’t want to let myself become.
When I pick her up from school I ask if she’s been good today. If she says yes, I don’t say “Ah but it won’t last, will it?” I say “Good girl!” If she says no, I talk with her about it, and what she’s feeling and how it’s been dealt with. If I need to talk to the teacher I do, and again she’s involved in the process. I don’t give her a long exasperated speech about how inconvenient it is to me that I actually have to parent her. That she’s not perfect. That she makes mistakes and she’s still learning.
Am I Joyce? This mother that I’ve long held up as the mother I don’t want to be?
Yes, sometimes. Sometimes I am. Sometimes Joyce is just a regular mum frustrated by her disobedient daughter. And that’s okay. That’s parenting.
Sometimes I’m the bad Joyce. Sometimes I put the burden of how challenging it is to be a mum on my little girl. My innocent little girl who asked for none of it.
But I like to think that’s rare. And if I feel myself doing it? I’ll think back. I’ll think of Buffy’s face, of Joyce’s words, how outraged I felt about it even now as an adult discussing it for a podcast. How that mothering style is not one I want to emulate.
Am I Joyce? No… not really… But Joyce is a mum and sometimes we all hit the same parenting beat.
What do you think? Is there a TV mum you want to be? Is their a TV mum you’d hate to be?
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