As parents we have all sorts of questions and ambitions for our kids. For myself, to be honest, I want my son to be himself and at the same time be exactly whom I want him to be.
When I say that, I of course mean I want him to be happy, have interests that are healthy, be loving and open to love, to have success and friends – all the things we hope for our children so they will have what is ‘laid out’ to be a successful life.
When my son was little he threw food all over the place when he was being fed. All kids do this but I got worried after a while because as a single mom, who especially in the early years had no one to bounce crazy notions off of. I was worried that he’s be rude and without manners when he got older. After a little too much worrying that my son would be throwing food while dining with the Queen I checked in with my sister who said, “Of course he’ll be well mannered – he’s your son”. Of course, right. I am well mannered and I would teach my son to be. As a toddler well mannered at the dinner table was not in his wheelhouse. He is now eight and as eight year olds go, he’s a very polite young man and the food stays on the plate and into the mouth. No detours.
I wondered as well, as I do, hopefully some of you do too, what his taste in things would be like. I can only suggest things to him but I cannot make him like music or movies or styles of clothing. He is, after all, an individual separate from me no matter how annoying and joyous that is.
I introduced him early on, once he got past the baby stages to rock n’ roll and he loved it. Good. Cool. Check. The Beatles, Led Zep, Queen, Heart, Fleetwood Mac. Loves them. He then started to get into pop, not through me but through summer camp. Good, cool. Not cheesy pop that is manufactured and disposable but cool dance stuff. He loves the Black eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Maroon 5; he likes to dance. He hates Katy Perry (I don’t know why). I wanted him to understand something about music. Not just hear it and respond but understand it so he could know what made it work as such an important part of many of our lives.
When Adele’s song “Hello” came out, people went nuts. As we wll know, a lot of people responded to it. My son and I played it on YouTube and he loved it. I decided this was the opportunity to tell him why this song works – here would be his lesson in music and then, as always, he takes it from there.
I explained that beyond the great voice and the chorus which swoops in (and he loves), the songs message was universal. Everyone can relate to the lyrics in some way or another. It’s in the cocoon of a great vocal and tune but it’s the words – the “I must have called a thousand times” pull of the heart. The wanting, the wondering, the letting go. He can relate to it on some level with friends and wanting more and teachers and his Mommy and on some level he gets it. He lives in the world. That’s why the song is huge. Because we live in the world and we interact with people.
My son loves movies and while he loves the movies most kids do he has recently started to venture into more grown up (PG) fare/ On his birthday I let him watch the most recent Mission Impossible for the action (which he loved). With kids movies they hit the emotional beats and they’re funny or they have fantasy which kids immediately relate to. Though he liked “MI: Rogue Nation”, he didn’t understand any depth of the story. We talked about it, I made sure he understood what was happening but it wasn’t the point. The story was not the focus of the event, as we know (but the action was great fun!)
The other night we had come home from playing baseball in the park and I was chilling on the couch. “The Devil Wears Prada’ was on HBO. I will watch this movie whenever it is on. The writing is fabulous and who doesn’t love Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt’s fantastic performances?
My son came and asked if he could watch with me and I said yes, I didn’t think there was anything that would scar him in here. I told him a little about Meryl Streep’s greatness and a little about the story but not much, just bare bones. After about 45 minutes he said, “This is a really good movie!”. The movie lover in me smiled and asked him why he thought so. He said it was simply put, “a good story” but he meant it. I hadn’t pulled it out of him and when he doesn’t like something he has no problem leaving. He didn’t want to chat about it for the fact we’d miss out on watching the rest of the film. However, the joy I felt was immense. Silly, I know, but one wants their children to understand what is good. And frankly, “The Devil Wears Prada” is excellent. He doesn’t know anything about fashion, how perfectly droll Emily Blunt is or anything about the flashy or celebrity aspects of the film; he simply saw a well told, well acted amusing story, and he understood that in the end, Andy (Anne Hathaway) looked out for herself. Ironically, the moment where Miranda Priestly tells her she reminds her of herself is the moment when Andy knows she must get out. He understood this as that moment and I, having been in that place before, felt he might have a future of psychoanalysis.
Now, I’m not saying everything he will like I will, or that his taste is so erudite or that it surpasses anyone else his age (he loves “Alvin and the Chipmunks” – cringe!) but it has been a small comfort to see that he doesn’t think that Justin Bieber is the be all end all and while he doesn’t want to sit and listen to Barbra Streisand, he recognizes she has a beautiful voice and listens when I play her (only on occasion and especially with Judy Garland when I feel like crying) because my mother loved her and he knows that matters to me. In fact, that more than anything else I’ve written makes me the most proud of him.
Coming next: The times I want to throttle him. It’s the yin/yang being a parent.