So you know last week I was trying to figure out the “good mom” thing to do, about whether to drag my son with me to family night (I don’t want to be misleading here—“family night” is not a thing we manage to pull off regularly; we aren’t the kind of fam that has a stack of Milton Bradley games that we pull out and rejoice in every Friday night nor, as you probably know from previous posts, the kind of family that sits down every night around the table. This is one of the reasons why the dilemma last Friday was sort of a big deal). (And, as another parenthetical, am trying to work away from wording my decisions as “good mom/bad mom” ones; I do know better. But the cultural thinking about this dichotomy is so entrenched, I have to work really hard at thinking of it some other way. I wish the news media would work at talking about moms some other way too. More on that later.)
One of my commenters suggested that we do a version of double “date night”—my son doing his thing and my partner and me (and, as it turned out, my daughter and hers) going to see the play Lysistrata. And indeed that’s the course we took and a good one it turned out to be too. His sister took him and his date to the mall, and from there they walked with another young teen couple to the movies for a double date of their own (her parents are two of the very few in our community who will actually LET their children walk anywhere on their own, who will LET the children have time independent of them. Don’t know what that’s about—not having taught them how to function on their own, or fear of media-sensationalized bogeymen of one kind or another but I can tell you my son’s usually the odd one out on that one. Lenore Skenazy is my heroine on this issue. She’s the mother of the “free range kids” movement. Her story is here, in her blog, and her book is here along with a video clip of her talking about mothering and her book).
I talked with him early that morning about what I thought was appropriate dating behavior for someone his age, and about how kissing was OK but that more than that was probably not, that people can get caught up on passionate moments and do more than they wish they had later, and so basing decisions-in-the-moment on the feelings-of-the-moment could be problematic and the source of relationship troubles down the road, like the following Monday in junior high school. I didn’t have to do much with “no means no,” since I’ve been teaching him that since he was quite small—beginning with him carrying a “no means no!” sign in a Take Back the Night rally on my campus when he was in pre-school. My language was more explicit in our conversation than I am being here, but that’s the gist of it. I had expected that he might do a good bit of eye-rolling and embarrassed looks to the side, but he was super cool about it. In fact I’m remembering now that I had said to him, “I want to talk with you about something and you may already know all this and it’s probably going to be a little awkward but I want to be a ‘good mom’ and to have had this conversation with you.” There’s that phrase again. Anyway, it was all good on his end I do believe.
On the other end of our double “family date” night was attending the Lysistrata production on our campus, which was a delight. I’m happy to say that the director did a good job of portraying women as both sexual and powerful—a tricky thing, since so often we see either images of women as sexual OR powerful, or we see men’s versions of women’s sexuality which doesn’t, in the end, function very powerfully for the women, though the men in these images seem to rather prefer that. Now there were problems with the show. The men, deprived of sexual activity by the women until they lay down their arms and wage peace, are driven to the peaceful negotiations by erections, which ostensibly are caused by sex deprivation, which I’m pretty sure is not how erections typically work. This element was portrayed in early Greece by the actors sporting large phalluses, but in this particular production it was portrayed, quite cleverly, by having their long neckties constructed with wire or something so they stuck out erect. Another problem was the use of elder women and men who were comedic characters which, at some level is OK since the players were rather cartoonish throughout, but at most levels functions as insulting and cruel and unnecessary. I think it’s OK to laugh at ourselves at life’s various ages and stages but I think we draw too heavily on the “old people” trope for comedy which functions, in the end, more as mockery than comedy. So that was a bit disturbing for me. But the production for the most part was very funny, very sexual, and very playful. It would have been, as it turns out, fine for my son to see, though it’s a very “talky” play and, while modernized, retained a good bit of the ancient language structure, so he may have drifted off wistfully thinking about all the richness that the mall has to offer a young teen.