Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Hogwarts Guide to Infant Care

After the Bub was born, hubby and I tended to recharge our batteries each evening by watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Television, I had learned, was an exercise in frustration – invariably Bub would awaken just as the immunity challenge had ended, and I would trudge upstairs, seething and guilty, to feed my baby while the survivors lit their tiki torches for tribal council. Our Buffy DVDs were much more practical (thanks to the lovely "pause" button), and we worked our way through one season after another, occasionally violating our two-episode per day limit during the run-up to the season finale. One episode featured an especially deadly, drug-addicted vampire shut up behind a brick wall. Every so often he would awaken from his stupor with a roar, and his keeper would pull open a little gate and feed him his pills on a spoon. I had the strangest sense that he reminded me of someone, and then I figured it out. Oh, right … the baby.

That déja vu feeling hit me again the other day as I contemplated the Dementors in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. These shadowy hooded figures – a mix between the Grim Reaper and the Dark Riders of The Lord of the Rings – feed on human suffering: they can suck out your soul by administering the dreaded "Kiss," but more often they simply suck all the joy and happiness and hope out of your life, leaving you a maddened, gibbering shell of your former self.

Maybe it’s best if I omit the part of this post where I explain that reference, recalling memories of the days when I would meet my husband at the door saying "Here!" and shove the baby into his arms while I sprinted to the car, sobbing, and took refuge at Starbucks.

Moving on.

Yet another Harry Potter metaphor has been bobbing around in my brain since I read Kittenpie’s post on the decision to have a second child. One of the less talked-about reasons to have more children is the Insurance Policy. We all know the saying – having a child is like agreeing to allow your heart to walk around outside your body. And the point of the saying, really, is that this is obviously a very unsafe thing to do. Even if you lock up your heart in the Dead Man’s Chest and bury it on a deserted island, there’s still an uncomfortable amount of mucking about that goes on. And if you just let your heart wander around the neighbourhood, or send it to school one day - not to mention college – there are entirely too many opportunities to get your heart pinched and bruised and stamped on and snuffed out. And so, for some of us, the obvious solution is to break off a few extra pieces of the old heart as a back-up, an insurance policy. The ideal thing, really, would be to have six or seven bits of my heart stored carefully in separate locations (and never permitted to enter the same car or, worse, plane).

And this is where I get that uncomfortable prickly feeling. What does that remind me of? And then I realize – my children are Horcruxes, the dark magic talismans into which Voldemort divided his soul. As the sixth novel in the series has revealed, the Dark Lord managed to survive the killing curse by storing bits of his soul in various objects: a locket, a snake, a notebook, a ring. As long as even one of those objects survives, he remains immortal, but his existence is a shadowy half-life, with no body to call his own, no independent agency, no freedom.

Okay, so that’s totally different. Not like motherhood at all. Right? Right?


metro mama said...

Brilliant. No, nothing like it.

Ok, maybe a bit like it.

What's your favourite Buffy season?

bubandpie said...

Oooh, good question. I don't think anything surpasses the middle-to-end of Season 2, but I really, really like the later Spike storyline, so Season 6 is a strong contender as well.

And if the Pie had been a boy, I would have named him Wes and it would have been after Wesley Wyndham-Price who has the all-time best character arc on Angel (seasons 3 and 4).

Mouse said...

Soon after our little gut was born, we found ourselves watching "Buffy" on a regular basis, sometimes with the little guy around. "He can't even focus that far," we'd reason. We changed our mind on that when the theme music came on one day and he wrinkled up his little nose at us, much like the picture of Spike from the credits.

Slightly related, via the Whedon connection: When I recently compiled a list of names I liked for another kid (not in the works quite yet, but we actually agreed on our son's name YEARS before even trying to get pregnant), two of the names on the list were Zoe and Simon. It so happens I've always liked those names and the fact that "Serenity" had just come out had nothing to do with it.

Mouse said...

Crud, that should be "guy," not "gut."

Mary-LUE said...

I love Buffy but I think I love Angel more. Wesley's character development on that show was excellent. I missed a lot of the last year so I try to catch the reruns here when I can to fill in the blanks.

Mouse: Serenity Now! I fell in love with Firefly this past April. I find myself thinking in terms of the 'verse and the world. Such a treat.

B&P: I think I'm becoming a B&P fanatic. I may have to request my own little corner with a wing back chair and footstool for extended visits. ;)

Christina said...

Sadly, I think it does relate to motherhood. The greatest legacy we leave this world when we die is in our children. Parts of us live on in them.

We're big Buffy & Angel fans, too. Although you wouldn't believe how often we have to answer the question "Cordelia? Did you get that name from Buffy?" No folks, a little further back. Try Shakespeare.

We joke that if we have another daughter we'll tell people that we're naming her Drucilla just to watch their jaws drop. (As a side note, my great great grandmother was named Drucilla.)

Karen said...

Ha. Sigh.

On a side note, do you think it's possible that any other major characters who have dies left a Horcrux or two?

Emily said...

I totally relate, but feel strange and guilty for these feelings. Why can't me kids just be kids, and not extentions of me? That's wrong, right?
Motherhood is strange.

Emily said...

Oops,spelling error/Freudian slip..."me kids." NO, I'm not trying to be a pirate.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I am a big Buffy/Angel fan too, though more Angel than Buffy. I have most of teh dvds and my husband teases me about watching them, but if they're on, he always watches too over my shoulder.

I also considered Cordelia as a name for my second daughter but it was for Shakespeare and Anne of Green Gables, not the show.

I think the insurance motive for children is just good plain sense. The world is a dangerous place. The loss of a child would be devastating no matter how many children you had (just look at Loni, but the loss of not only a child but your entire identity as a parent would be even worse. How could we go on with no one to nurture? My sister told me of a woman she knew who lost all three of her children. She ended up adopting a sibling group, because she just could not live the rest of her life without being a mother.

bubandpie said...

Mouse - Zoe and Simon are solid choices, no matter where they come from (though your comment and Christina's suggest that others are not as comfortable as I am to locate the source of their children's names in popular culture!).

Karen - Hmmm. Very intriguing. Do you think maybe Romulus Black (the mysterious R.A.B.)?

Emily - With you on the guilt thing. I actually freaked out a bit yesterday after hitting "publish," worrying that I would get a response of eerie silence, implying "Get help for your psychological problems, you messed-up mother, before you mess up you kids!"

Veronica - YES. Exactly. It's not about replacing the existing child in Job-like manner - it's the unthinkable idea of grieving the loss of a child AND the loss of one's identity as a mother.

Kristen said...

This was really thought-provoking, in an eerily familiar way. I haven't read the Harry Potter books, and yet it still made sense to me. (Hence, "eery")

kittenpie said...

Ha, I loved this. You are so right about horcruxes - now *I* wish I had thought of what *you* wrote!

I do wonder, though, as I mentioned in that post, whether it really helps or if it just makes life miserable for your other child in the event of disaster. I hope I have more to me than my idenity as a mother, but I also know I would be so devastated, loving her so whole-heartedly as I do. What a hole it would leave in my heart and soul...

Ugh, I hate contemplating disaster, so terrifying, but I needed to give voice to it anyhow. I've decided this cannot be my reason for another, since I see two sides to it and since I think it might be too selfish.

Mouse said...

In the end, Zoe and Simon have come off of our lists for reasons aside from the Firefly connection. One is that they're fairly common (child #1 has an uncommon name, and we want another fairly unusual name). Zoe is further disqualified because a recent addition to our extended family is a Chloe--and that would just be too cute. Simon was disqualified because I fell in love with the name after reading "Lord of the Flies" in junior high, and that seems an inauspicious origin to me.

Of course, that hasn't stopped us from considering doomed Shakespearean heroines.

Christina said...

LOL - I think it bothers me more that people can't think back any further than current pop culture when considering where a child's name came from. Had we named Cordy for the Buffy and Angel character of Cordelia Chase, we'd proudly admit to it. And we do tell people that we adopted the nickname of Cordy from the show.

But it's so rare for anyone to come up to us and say "Cordelia? Like from King Lear?" (Sidenote: I practically hug the people who do say that.)

Piece of Work said...

Oh, I don't even watch Buffy or read Harry Potter (not much for scifi/fantasy) but that sounded quite familiar to me!

Izzy said...

An insurance policy...I like that :)

Trish said...

I used to be waiting just inside the door with my little one in outstretched arms when my husband came home from work. I love this post as I could relate to so much of it. Thanks.

lildb said...

I think I need to have another baby.

sunshine scribe said...

You are so brilliant. Love your spin on this ... you presented it in a way that was fabulous.


Mouse said...

The Whedon-related remarks were easy to come up with, but it's taken me nearly two days to figure out exactly what I want to say about the Voldemort-mother analogy.

There's a part of me that wants to, needs to, rebut it. So here's what I started with:

While the making of a horcrux and a child requires a violent act; the former requires destruction while the latter is an act of creation. For each horcrux, Voldemort seeks out a hidden and protected place to store this inanimate object that contains a small piece of his soul. In the case of the locket, we saw the elaborate series of barriers he erected to keep out the world.

On the other hand, a child is animate (as my son constantly reminds me as he races around the apartment). And while there is an element of the child containing a small piece of the mother's soul, it is never an exact replica. And, ideally, the mother's goal is to raise the child so that he can head out into the world.

BUT, it was that "ideally" that caught me. And I started to see how motherhood can turn into a Voldemort-horcrux relationship. When the focus is on the child-as-mini-me, there can be a real impulse to protect the child at all costs and hide him away from the dangers of the world.

And there's a part of me that completely empathizes with that.

So I guess I'm back to where I started.

bubandpie said...

I think what got me about the Horcrux/motherhood thing is the intense fear of mortality. It isn't that I'm trying to be immortal through my children - it's that mortality has new teeth, now, because they are mortal. And I do think it would be far, far easier to die myself than to lose one of them, so long as I wouldn't know in advance that I was dying, because of course the thought of leaving my children motherless adds a whole new terror to the thought of death. My mother always said she never feared flying until she had her children - because now she has to stay alive.

lildb said...

last night, as we watched one of the older HP movies, my husband began explaining that Voldemort had hidden pieces of his soul into different objects in order to keep it safe (as well as easily transported, which he thinks is so cool, evidently), I interrupted him to say that I already knew all that, thanks to this post.

I think it bummed him out to have had my blog friend steal his thunder.


Gwen said...

When my son Aidan was born we did the same thing with Firefly and Battlestar Galactica. I also rewatched all the Buffy and Angels (I had watched each season at least twice) so that I could watch something while Aidan slept his 15-20 minutes in my arms. It kept me from going insane. Thank god we had Myth TV (a linux system PVR) because when your family is in NS and you are in Vancouver, Grandmas aren't babysitting very often.

I understand where you are coming from with the Horcruxes but I doubt Voldemort would see the connection. Maybe our children are kind of like the portraits, reflections of us, but not entirely the same. Some imprinted personalities, but the canvas and the paint when mixed together change with the artist and the time in which the portrait was painted. I don't know maybe I am taking it too far.

Anyway, I am glad to know of another Buffy/Angel/Harry Potter fan. Now if only we could get Spike his own show.

Kristin said...

This is one of the best posts I have ever read... I just love it.

nonlineargirl said...

You are awesome.

Soul sucking indeed. Some days I'd be standing in the street when my husband got home.