Over the weekend, we got into a discussion on Twitter about Disney cartoons and the scarcity of sets of parents in them. (This conversation carried on between the husband and I as we ran errands--the husband went through all the live action movies by Disney on the hunt for complete sets of parents--which are rare.) (You can play this game at home. Establish a safe word if you're playing between spouses so neither of you gets into a snit over the Parent Trap.)
This is something that comes up frequently in discussion among those that write and read Young Adult books. Parents are killed-off as either part of a tragic backstory or to move forward the plot or just to keep them from hindering the adventure. Sometimes, the parents' divorce is impetus for a teen's exploration of independence or the fact that only one parent is present means a lack of supervision. Woo! No supervision! Sometimes, parents just don't care and are in the house at the same time as a teenage werewolf boyfriend for months and they never notice... ever... at all. (I'm not going to mention any specifics here.) Sometimes, the parents leave on trips, or work or... whatever. You get the point. They're not around. FREEEDOM!
Let me break to say, so I'm not completely coming off as hypocritical: I stank of this plot device. In fact, let's tally it up.
Sentinel's Run: One character with two dead parents. The other is sent off to a war setting to fight for the humans. (Teens = 2, Parents = 0)
Good Girls Don't Date Mutants: One character's mother kills his father. (Doh! Tragic backstory alert!) The other (age 17) has two uber-responsible parents---who leave her alone while they go on a quick trip. (The shame is high with this one.) (Teens = 2, Parents = 3, but 2 go AWOL, and the other is a murderess.)
Secrets of Skin and Stone: Piper has two very involved parents. Gris has two involved parents--but he's over 18 and doesn't live with them. (Teens = 2, Parents = 4)
Scorched: Sidra has two parents who've gone through a bitter divorce and a step-mom just slightly older than herself. (Tragic backstory in overdrive.) Asher has two dead parents--part of his tragic backstory. (Teens = 2, Parents = 2, divorced)
Curse Me A Story: Sheri has a mother and a very involved step-father. Thomas has two dead parents--both part of his tragic backstory. *sighs* (Don't judge me.) (Teens = 2, Parents = 1 1/2)
The Unseen Kingdom: In my defense, this is based on the Odyssey and it's not my fault that Odysseus is gone for most of that story--he's like the ultimate of absentee parenting. And, technically, the female lead in this has a very active dead father because she can communicate with the spirit world. Actually, I don't want to talk about this. (Teens = 2, Parents = I don't even know how to tally this one--one is AWOL and the other has a dead but involved parent.)
I have to say, though... while this plot device/impetus might be applied frequently, it's so completely useful! Wait, that came out wrong. It's very hard to write exciting stories when two sets of involved parents are there preventing their teens (or younger) from getting into trouble. (Not that it can't be done....) As a teen, most of the moments that I remember as being fun and exciting--didn't involve my parents.
I have super responsible parents. If they could prevent it, they tried to keep me out of danger or from making mistakes that would contribute to a tragic backstory. I never could have had a werewolf boyfriend in my room for months. They probably wouldn't have let me put myself in a position to be kidnapped and nearly killed by vampires. There was no way I'd be sent off to a boarding school where I'd discover I had magical powers--though, this I'm mostly blaming on the adequacy of public education and our middle class income. I'm sure there were times they'd have liked to send me off to boarding school.
Also, I realize I'm lucky to have parents still married and that two parent families aren't a requisite for happiness or responsible parenting.
Also, some stories are about growing up in a less-than-perfect homelife.
So, I'm not sure where I was going with this blog post other than to say that I find it interesting how other writers handle parents in their plots and to introduce the find-the-parents-in-Disney-shows game.
Also, my kids will never have any cool adventures. That's the goal. Just sayin.
So, what do you think? How have you handled parents in writing? Does your tally look as shameful as mine?