Phases come in and out of your child’s life. It is a part of parenting that becomes clearer the longer you’ve been at it. The problem is that it’s difficult to recognize which obsession is a visitor in your kid’s life and which one will become a member of the family when you are in the midst of it. The only way to realize it was just visiting is to look back on the other side once it has packed its bags and moved on. In the meantime, you decide whether your kids’ interests are ones you want to fuel and encourage or ones you’d like to send packing.
I was with another parent this weekend as she lamented her daughter’s love of Barbies and princesses of all sorts. Believe me when I say I get that. I can understand what that must feel like as a mother. You want your daughter to have strong goals and aspirations. You want her to be proud of what makes her valuable and worthwhile, not what dress she is wearing or how pretty her hair is. Strong role models are extremely important in forming a sense of self. When most of us think of Barbie, despite her many – ahem – attributes, being a strong role model is not one of them.
Because that’s what we want for our kids, right? Whether we are raising a son or a daughter, we want them to have interests that we hope will help them. We want strong role models and exposure to the values that we wish for them. We don’t want to spend our energy explaining around their interests or saying, “Honey, I know you love this but…” We are happiest when their passions or interests align with our values and dreams for their lives. This is especially true if their current passion feels like one that will stick around for a while.
And this brings me to football.
I’ve written before https://www.parentmap.com/article/mom-stories-the-great-pretender about not being entirely comfortable with my son’s love of football and my desire to respect him and connect with him over what he loves. But, recently, my relationship with the game has gone from uneasy to downright queasy.
Now, my discomfort over cheerleaders in tiny outfits whose sole purpose is to be out there to glorify a bunch of men seems quaint. As in, “Aahh…remember when it was only an old-school sexist throwback that bugged me? Those were sweet days…” as I drink my tea out of a flowered cup and saucer in the sunshine kind of quaint.
Also, the presence of cheerleaders is literally on the sidelines of the game itself. In addition, I don’t love the commercials they often play for a few reasons but I could overlook that as well. I felt like you could love the game and enjoy learning about the players or talking about their achievements without having too much of an emphasis on the aspects that I find troubling.
Then, my son saw the video of Ray Rice punching his wife (then fiancée) out in an elevator. He told me after the fact. I would never, ever have allowed him to see that had I known it would be a part of him watching the game on a weekend afternoon.
It was my bad. I accept that. I should have been watching it with him. We don’t have cable TV for a reason but I let my guard down and allowed him to watch a game on a mainstream network and he saw that horrifying footage. I cannot take it back. It wasn’t pretend. It wasn’t a movie or a show. He knows who that player is, what team he plays for and he knows that the person he knocked out cold and dragged around is now his wife.
That feels like way, way too much for me to help a 10 year-old understand and there is no going back and having him unaware that it exists. I did not want to have a conversation about domestic violence with my kid yet.
Remember that these men are also his current heroes. How do I help him understand that?
Just this morning, it happened again. As we eat and get ready, we always listen to the radio. A sports reporter was discussing the upcoming College Football Bowl games that were just announced. My son was really interested and asked me to turn it up for him. I obliged.
What I did not expect was for the discussion to turn to the rape case against a star player for one of the teams. I do not want to field a question about rape at the breakfast table with my 2 young sons because my kid loves football.
Doesn’t Barbie seem kind of quaint now?
As I said, I don’t even begin to feel equipped to field – I know it’s a pun – these questions yet. I know that this stuff happens in parenting. We have to answer questions before we’re ready. It comes with the territory to a certain degree and I accept that.
But I also feel like this is the second time in the span of a few short months that I have been forced to discuss a pretty horrific topic because of this specific sport. I’m really pissed about that.
This line of allowing him to follow his current passion is getting harder and harder for me to walk and I’m mad. I would love to tell myself that this is just a phase because, dear NFL, I would love nothing more right now than to send you packing.