The Ministry of Netflix

This year, I had one goal for me and my older daughter: relationship. Enter Netflix, and thank God it did.

I’m not sure when the panic set in that our time together was running out but it was probably sometime last year.

My daughter is a sophomore in high school.

I know it sounds cliché but I don’t know where the time has gone.

Those two+ years that she never slept through the night.

The sixteen months of breastfeeding.

The strong-willed tantrums — hers and mine — that prevailed through the preschool years.

The five years of homeschooling her.

Each stage felt like it would last forever and now I’m looking back and wondering if a thief snuck into our life and robbed us of a few years when we weren’t looking.

When the panic showed up, I became overwhelmed with all I still wanted to teach her and show her and share with her. I felt like I hadn’t been a good steward of my time with her for so many years.

And now?

lorelairory

She’s fifteen. And her life is full. And there’s not much time.

When last school-year began to wind down and I started envisioning some loose hopes for our break, I had just one summer goal for the two of us:

Relationship.

mi and breezy

Just be with her. No agenda. No plan to sneak in a Bible lesson after I’d buttered her up with a grande milkshake masquerading as a coffee drink from Starbucks.

That may sound obvious and simple to you. Why would I try and make our time together more complicated than it needed to be?

Because overcomplicating simple things is totally my specialty. And it’s often fueled by fear, the illusion of control, and regret.

As a Christian mom, I haven’t “discipled” her like I’ve wanted to. We never got through all of the catechism and memory work because, honestly, it made us fight. And it stressed us out. I only have so many battles in me per day. As a family, we’ve been hit or miss with lots of the stuff Christian families are “supposed” to do, like regular family devotions and meaningful discussion around the dinner table every night.

It’s not that I don’t think these disciplines are important and useful. We’re still trying to figure out ways to ground our family with our faith in a way that works for us and it has looked different in each season. But for all sorts of reasons — some valid and some not — we haven’t been super systematic and consistent over the years. #guilt

Instead, we’ve simply tried to love them with the love of Jesus and use the opportunities that everyday life presents as a springboard to talk about truth.

Still, I had this low-grade panic and Christian parent guilt following me around and I felt like I had to DO SOMETHING. You might think I employed some amped-up plan to squeeze in All The Things I could over the summer. {In the past, I’ve been known to turn my panic into indoctrination, steamrolling my children with righteous intentionality.}

It’s summer and you’re 15 and we’re running out of time! Let’s read through the Bible in 3 months, memorize a verse together each week, and discuss a coming-of-age topic every Friday through a Biblical World and Life View.”

We did none of the above.

Had I tried to descend on my teenage daughter with all of that, she would have done the same thing I would have done at that age — “Um, no thanks. And have you seen my phone charger?” #eyerollemojifordays

Teenage Marian had this inner resistance to anything that felt forced, contrived, preachy or self-righteous. Grown-up Marian is pretty much the same way.

So why on earth have I resorted to these tactics with my own kids?!?

Again, I’m gonna go with fear. And probably comparison. Plus a hefty dose of so many “shoulds” that have lodged themselves into my mind over the years.

3197_79803887055_1138087_n

I can hear the critics now. And by critics, I also include my own naive mom-voice even 5 years ago: “You have to be the parent, Marian. Kids don’t always want what’s good for them, like having to eat their veggies, but this is part of training them up in the way they should go.”

And while that is true, I’m no longer dealing with a toddler. I’m dealing with a child who is 2 1/2 years away from legal adulthood. There are things I still want to teach her, but I began to realize that all the knowledge and training in the world will fall on deaf ears without relationship.

Enter Netflix.

As Summer embraced us with her lazy ways and long days, I had one supreme goal:

Spend as much time with this girl as possible, doing things that we both love. No hidden motives. No forced conversations. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Teenagers can sniff out an agenda a mile away. This is frustrating but weirdly freeing! Because it means you can just relax and enjoy the show.

And that’s literally what we did.

We burned through four seasons of LOST, two seasons of Friday Night Lights, and jumped back into Gilmore Girls.

We went shopping.

We ate dinner together on the sofa.

We yelled at characters when they made stupid decisions and cried together when they died.

We laughed our faces off at Sawyer’s nicknames for people and rolled our eyes at Lyla Garrity because hashtag sheisoannoying.

It was one of the best summers I’ve ever had.

/////

As we began to settle in to our summer routine of Netflix, followed by more Netflix, a funny thing happened. She began to talk. About real stuff. The kind of stuff that’s deep and honest. And I wasn’t the one who started the conversations.

This is still happening. And it feels like magic.

jump

Spending time with her in seemingly superficial ways opened up the door to meaningful, substantial dialogue. That part wasn’t even the goal, but it’s been the sweetest gift ever. All these months later, we’re still watching our shows and hanging out on the sofa. And because our relational roots have grown deeper, I’ve earned the privilege of being able to speak into her life and even teach her in ways that she’ll actually receive.

At one point over the summer, she mentioned that she wasn’t as excited about going to a sleepover because it would mean we couldn’t watch our shows together. What?!?

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me I was making it too hard?

/////

There is this one thing about relationship that I should probably tell you though.

It costs something.

It will cost you time, energy, and productivity. Relationship can never be measured with or grounded in efficiency. It might cost you money, advancement, and being a person of influence in your community or larger world.

For me, it means that my summer wasn’t super productive from a writing or home improvement standpoint.

It means that I don’t read as much as I want to.

It means that I probably spend too much money on Frappuccinos, cute t-shirts, and scented candles.

It means that I stay up later to watch something or talk, even though I’m tired and want to go to bed at 9:00.

It means that I sometimes feel inexplicably sad when she’s off with her friends, even though this too is as it should be.

It means that for now, I say no to most invitations for good things like leading a Bible study or doing ministry that others can see because I have to protect my availability and relational energy.

It means that I’ve said no to pursuing my own work in the exact way that I’d hoped to because I have this quickly passing season and I don’t want to miss it.

I won’t lie. Sometimes these costs are hard to swallow. I’m independent, creative, aspirational and also an introvert. I like productivity, efficiency, influence, and being my myself.

One-on-one relationship feels the opposite of all those things. But I can already tell you that it’s totally worth it.

/////

I’m not sure when parenting became a fear-driven list of shoulds instead of loving relationship. But let’s start over, shall we? Let’s do this with grace, freedom, and common sense.

skirt

Maybe for you it’s not the Ministry of Netflix. Maybe it’s the Ministry of Legos or the Ministry of Read-Aloud time. Perhaps it’s The Ministry of Golf {my husband’s and boys’ personal favorite}, The Ministry of Playstation, The Ministry of Manicures, or The Ministry of Baking Together.

You get to choose.

If you’re a parent of littles or bigs, I hope this post encourages you to embrace the possibility of a simpler way.

While training and systems and passing on one’s faith and traditions all matter, I’m learning that relationship is the fertile soil in which those good seeds can grow.

For so long, I was trying to plant seeds in hard, resistant soil that hadn’t been cultivated.

While I wish I’d understood this truth sooner, I don’t believe it’s ever too late to stop, say I’m sorry, and begin again.

This article originally appeared MarianVischer.com.

Marian Vischer
Marian is a wife, mom, Communications Director for a local non-profit, and writer. She's been writing on the Internet since 2007 and in scattered journals since adolescence. Marian believes in the power of personal stories to tell a greater story and she inspires others to recapture the hope and possibility of their right-now lives, no matter how messy or impossible things seem. When she's not running a taxi service for her three kids, you can find her at local thrift stores hunting for buried treasure or on her screen porch with a book. She loves personality tests, solitude, making things pretty, taking pictures, and leaning ever more into the love of Jesus. You can follow her blog at MarianVischer.com.

Comments