I may have scarred my daughter for life with four little words – “Finnick Odair is AWESOME!”
My 14-year-old daughter looked at me with a quizzical face. She began to speak, but then swallowed her words. A few seconds passed and then she turned to me with a smile, “Team Finnick, baby!” she exclaimed. “Forget Peeta and Gale.”
Whew, no damage done. Chalk it up as mother-daughter bonding over a rather attractive guy who protects an old lady and is really good with a trident.
We had just left the movie theater after watching “Catching Fire” with the entire family. My husband rolled his eyes at my comment, and my son reminded me I was a married woman who was old enough to be Finnick’s mother. I had to correct him for his mistake, “I am old enough to be YOUR mother,” I said. “I am old enough to be Finnick’s favorite babysitter.” My daughter mumbled, “I’ll be old enough to date him in four years.”
My daughter and I share an unusual bond thanks to “The Hunger Games” trilogy. She came home with the first book three years ago, and when I asked her what it was about, she responded, “Oh, it’s about a government that makes kids kill kids.” She definitely got my attention. I was ready to have a stern conversation with the English teacher who recommended the book, but I decided to read it before going on a tirade. The trilogy created the best mother-daughter bonding experience we’ve ever had.
The bond has made a few other mothers chastise my parenting and clutch their pearls over the books’ violent content. Much ado about nothing. While violence underscores the premise of the series, it is certainly not glorified or used as a primary focus. The trilogy promotes the importance of relationships and loyalty while providing a cautionary tale about freedom. Author Suzanne Collins deserves kudos for creating an amazing heroine and role model for young women. Katniss Everdeen is not another hormonal, rebellious or selfish teen; she’s a brave, smart, compassionate, honest and unflinching loyal young woman. My daughter idolizes Katniss, and I’m okay with that.
“The Hunger Games” has opened up countless conversations for me, my daughter and her friends. There have been many discussions about the books’ characters, and just like every other teen girl conversation, their focus always seems to drift back to boys. They talk about which guy Katniss should choose. Some want her to be with Peeta Mellark, the loyal baker’s son who secretly loved her and fought to protect her during the brutal games. Others support a relationship with Gale Hawthorne, Katniss’s hunky best friend and fellow hunter who promised to look after her family. My daughter and I really don’t care who she chooses; we simply love Finnick, the veteran tribute who risked his own life to save his elderly mentor, Katniss and Peeta during the horrific Quarter Quell.
The conversations have also helped my daughter understand our world a little better. I’ve used Panem’s government control and social inequality to talk about real world tyranny and poverty. The districts’ rebellion has been used to show how just one person can influence millions to stand up against evil. The callousness of the career tributes points out how desensitized society can be about the value of human life.
The most important Hunger Games lesson for my daughter has come from the characters’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for others. Katniss takes her sister’s place during the reaping and begs Haymitch to save Peeta before herself, Peeta nearly dies after placing himself between Katniss and the career tributes, Rue saves our heroine after the tracker jacker attack, Finnick rescues Peeta from near drowning, and the elderly Mags volunteers for a younger woman and then silently walks to her death when she realizes her friends won’t survive with her around.
The characters demonstrate the power of unconditional love, a love that involves the willingness to lay down your life for someone else. The trilogy gave my daughter tangible pictures of this in action and allowed us to have a conversation about what real love looks like. It’s not about chemistry or how someone makes you feel; it’s about a desire that puts another person’s well being and happiness above your own.
The self-sacrifice lesson has also helped me teach my daughter about what’s important in friendships and dating relationships. I don’t want her to be a girl who lowers herself to appease the popular crowd or settles for a bad relationship because she thinks it’s better than no relationship at all. I want her to see herself in Katniss and recognize she too is inspirational, strong, brave, compassionate and worthy of great love. I also want her to find friendship or possibly love with her own Finnick/Peeta, a young man who puts her first, accepts her for who she is, demonstrates kindness and fights by her side for what is right.
I promise not to drool over her Finnick, but all bets are off if he shows up at our house wearing swim trunks and offers to carry me on his back.