One evening a few months ago, I took my fourteen-year-old daughter, her friend, and my eleven-year-old son to see the band ‘Blink-182’ on the coast about three hours away. (I now know it’s closer to five hours in Friday afternoon traffic.) After the show, we were in line to buy t-shirts and my daughter said, “You should get one, Mom.”
Um, I don’t think so, dear. I’m over forty and, quite frankly, not that cool.
“Oh, but you’re close. Really, it’d look cute on you.”
Nope. I’d have felt more comfortable wielding a four-prong cane.
I didn’t take the kids to the concert because I’m hip nor did I go for the music, though admittedly it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected especially with earplugs. I took the kids because I’m hoping that through such experiences they will learn how to handle themselves and make good decisions. By indulging things like concerts, the kids learn to fly with me before they leave my cozy nest. They have now practiced avoiding crowd members who were that special brand of drunk where you can see the live contents of their bellies feeling around for the ejector switch. They’ve also practiced identifying and moving discretely away from those who weren’t making good choices.
No — I don’t think my kids should practice getting trashed at home because “they’ll be doing it someday.” (I’m rather hoping they won’t.) However, I do think there is benefit to their arriving at college understanding the effects of alcohol because they’ve practiced with wine over dinner in the company of responsible adults. (Though so far, the few sips had have resulted in poor reviews, and I hope it wasn’t because of the quality of the wine.)
At one point during the concert, there was some musical mishap. (I think it may have been a broken drum head.) The megalomaniac lead singer who must have been on something began to sing about how, “A blow job would be really nice right now.” The two demure fourteen-year-old girls looked at one another and sniggered uncomfortably. I tried to laugh-it-off while covering the eleven year-old boy’s ears.
My son brought up the incident after the show as we were wandering the parking lot trying to find the mommy-van we had come in. (It wasn’t terribly hard to spot.) “I don’t even know what a blow job is,” my son reported. “It’s a sex act,” I said. “Oh,” he replied, flushing, “I think I’ll learn about that when I’m older.” (“If he’s lucky,” a friend quipped when I told her of the exchange later.) I made a mental note to discuss the term “blow job” at some future opportune moment. While I’d rather they not practice “dancin’ in the sheets” while they’re still hanging their hats in my house, I never want my daughter to be a wide-eyed ingenue nor my sons to be foolish wet-behind-the-ears boys, easily taken advantage of.
In a rare real conversation, my uncle, a starchy conservative patriarch who raised a batch of kids relatively successfully, listed among his parenting mistakes: Having not given his kids enough rope-to-hang-themselves while they were still at home with supportive parents to help them put their humpty-dumpties back together again. He said, “We moved our eldest daughter into her dorm and there were boys and girls coming and going from one another’s rooms willy-nilly.” (Remember Brother Jed’s springtime campus visits, pregnant wife and passel-of-little-ones in tow, and his rants about the moral decrepitude of college students? He wasn’t entirely wrong, I’m afraid.)
Still, in my house there are no boys allowed in the girl’s room and no girls in the boys’ rooms. I’m just not that cool. (… and, yes, I’m assuming none of them happens to be gay—can we just keep that particular can-o’-worms sealed tight until, say, next week?)
I might occasionally curse when playing an especially competitive game of Bananagrams or when some jerk cuts me off in traffic and I don’t have my zen on, and my seven-year-old knows Lady GaGa lyrics no seven-year-old should know, but he sings the end like this:
Space Cowboy, Lady Momma, Lady Momma,
here we go
Cherry, cherry, boom, boom.
But, well… It is okay to be a just a little hip, isn’t it?