Sunday, November 17, 2013

Teaching Frankenstein OR discouraging teens from having children

My high school students are wrapping up their/our study of Frankenstein, a novel that I read some years ago (and again this past summer).

This time around, perhaps because I was reading it more closely with the intent to teach it to someone else, I really noticed how much the book says about parenting.  I can't remember if I was a parent the first time I read it, but now I see so much of myself as a mother in the pages, so much of every mother in the pages.

This week in class I wrote on the whiteboard, "The creator becomes a slave to his creation" and said something on the order of, "That, my friends, is parenthood in a nutshell."

And it is true.

Victor Frankenstein enters into the creation process full of excitement and exuberance, like most people who make the decision to have children.  It is all rose-colored glasses.  And then....the reality.  The baby is born, the monster comes to life, and with it the full scope of "What the hell was I thinking??"

Most of us don't run away, as Victor did.  We plug away, seeing the unpleasant, disgusting, frightening parts of parenthood glare at us full-on.  We come to realize we are slaves to those we have created.  For a time, we are physical and emotional slaves, but throughout a child's life, our hearts are held hostage.  We are never, ever free of our children.  They haunt us in a similar way that the monster haunted Victor throughout the years.

And the funny thing is, eventually our children go through the stage when they hate us just as Victor's monster hates his creator (though, admittedly, for different reasons).  We fear them, resent them, loathe them in our own ways and in varying degrees.

I had, without as much detail, painted this portrait of what having children is like to my students, and one of my students said something on the order of, "You're really making us all want to grow up and have kids."

And I had to laugh because no matter what anyone says, suggests or warns about, parenting is something you think you have a grasp on and can wrap your head around until you become a parent and realize your ass is completely overwhelmed for the rest of your life.  

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