Please make the eye-rolling stop. The aaaarrrrghs and frustrations on both mine and my tween daughter’s parts are a regular occurrence. Not to say this emotional state is constant, it’s just more interspersed among the easy-going conversations that used to be the norm. Sometimes it escalates to Total Drama Island (TDI).
If you’ve never watched TDI, don’t roll your eyes just yet. I happened upon the kids’ interest in this show last spring and took some time to check it out for myself. I’m obsessive on Lost, but only a lukewarm viewer of Survivor, which is the show that TDI spoofs. The animated series from Canada recounts the misadventures at Camp Wawanakwa, an island retreat where 22 teens compete in extreme challenges while vying for the $100,000 grand prize. Every three days, at a campfire ceremony, the host passes out marshmallows to players who are safe. The sad camper who doesn’t get a marshmallow must walk down the Dock of Shame to the Boat of Losers, which will bear him back to his mundane life.
TDI, on air for four seasons since its original air date in July 2007, was created based on researching findings on what teens did and didn’t like about reality TV programs. Common Sense Media gave TDI 4 out of 5 stars. And TDI content, aimed at 12-18 year-olds, was a 4.5 by my 9 and 11 year-old’s ranking (Courtney and Duncan got their votes for the island’s IT couple, pictured here).
As tweens start to have more emotional imbalance and complex relationships, households can feel like a total drama island. When the kids were younger, I sometimes felt like our family was its own little island – intentionally, blissfully isolated from the outside world. Now, we can still be that island, but rather than always sharing campfires on the beach, sometimes we want to climb up our own tree and find a private haven. In fact, that’s a lot more common.
It’s occurred to me once or twice that I may have been a difficult teen. As parents our natural inclinations are to fix things for our children. We help them overcome uncomfortable emotions, sometimes by rationalizing, downplaying or covering them up. I don’t have a clue as to what I’m doing, but I’m always testing different approaches. This usually involves commiserating when the mood is low, offering to toss dishware into the fireplace, stomp or scream; or just dramatically changing up the scenery to bring an alternate perspective to the challenge at hand. Sometimes just letting her know her feelings are validated then leaving her be is the best solution.
My take on Total Drama Island is divided into two drama-causing halves (not to even mention the hormonal changes going on behind the scenes): 1. the relationship-induced drama (cited in the prior paragraph) and 2. the daily-task, energy-level induced drama. As a parent, I get swept up in the daily drama, most noticeably in the chaotic morning and whenever we leave the house to be somewhere by a specific time. I wish it were easier to locate a matching pair of socks, a sharp pencil for homework, random field trip forms and the like. It just isn’t, but I continue to work on this with the children, bless them.
Sending them off on their day on the right foot is so important. It gives them a foundation to feel confident and make good choices. There have been mornings I regret — all in a rush to make an insane school start time of 7:30a.m. Everyday I get in that last “have a good day,” send off and a kiss if I’m lucky, but the events leading up to send off could have been less TDI.
Living in the daily emotion for tweens and teens and working through them confidently is a skill. Sometimes I wonder if I know the navigation well enough to impart these skills. I do admit (a lot) that I’m not perfect, I have my own issues and I don’t know what to do about said dramatic situation. Watching TDI might be some suggested co-therapy or an outlet and OMG! lucky for you and your tween, there are 93 episodes on Netflix available now.