As young as I can remember, my mom was always devouring some type of crime related material. She would rock in her chair, face buried in a non-fiction or fiction thriller (she doesn’t discriminate), and say, “You never know what sickos there are out there, Kay” and “I just can’t believe what happened to that Adam Walsh kid.” Needless to say, I was pretty traumatized when I heard about what really DID happen to that kid, and was glued to my parents’ sides in grocery stores after that.
I was born into this true crime, justice-seeking obsession.
My mom was a nurse, not at all squeamish, and my dad was a cop… as tough as they come. I have always been exposed to the seedy side of sick individuals, whether overhearing a conversation I probably shouldn’t have, whatever was on the TV or thumbing through one of my mom’s books. I was an addict before Netflix docuseries were a thing.
I do wish this true crime boom had been around when I was a kid. Let’s just say my childhood friends weren’t super into chatting about blood spatter, gunshot residue or the twisted minds of serial killers. There were no suspenseful podcasts, no Facebook crime groups that I could join to debate the motive of the latest family annihilator. All I had to go on was “America’s Most Wanted” and, later, the Investigation Discovery channel. (Can I get an amen for ID?)
As obsessed as I was through the years, you would think I would have become indifferent to the violence and horror, but it was quite the opposite. The more I watched and read, the more I lived in a constant state of fear and paranoia. I would glance over my shoulder every time I walked through a parking lot with my keys poking through my knuckles (like that’s going to do anything). I’d envision a van screeching to a stop in front of me, and tossing me in the sliding door. True crime was just a part of my life, though, and the anxiety that came with it became part of the terror-tory. (See what I did there?) I played it off in my head that, “At least I was always on high alert!”
A couple of years into our relationship, my husband finally asked, “Do you think we could watch something else other than ID?” “Watch something else?” I thought. What else could be as entertaining as a show called “Wives With Knives?” I had dragged him into this obsession, and while he enjoyed the occasional murder mystery, he was just plain over the gory details.
Then it happened: I became a mother to a baby girl.
At first I was pretty stoked about the prospect of binging all of my favorite gruesome shows during maternity leave, in between nursing sessions and diaper changes. As my baby grew older, however, the more I watched, the more the anxiety and paranoia shifted from me to her. Every story I read, every headline on the news: I saw my daughter’s face. It didn’t matter if it was a teenager or someone’s mother, I saw my child … 13 years down the road, 30 years down the road, and it all became too heartbreaking. It started to turn my stomach and keep me awake, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had to give up my true crime addiction, cold turkey.
Over time, I’ve been able to dip my toe into the puddle of shock and suspense. Let’s be real, I was not going to miss Zac Efron’s portrayal of Ted Bundy. I have also been known to join the occasional Facebook crime group or two. (I have to keep tabs on current events!) However, the podcasts and docuseries will have to wait … at least, until I can sleep better at night.
I was pregnant with my first son when I saw Adam Walsh’s parents on television pleading for help find their son. At that same moment, police were finding his remains. I had always been an anxious person, but I became a helicopter parent. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for parents these days with all the sad stories coming at you constantly. This is a great blog Katharine and good advice. We project our fears onto our kids and it is a good idea to avoid as much negativity as possible.
Thank you! It is tough being a parent nowadays but I try to find the delicate balance between being sheltered and being overwhelmed!