Saturday, October 15, 2005

Ambassador Me

When I was in high school, part of the sex ed instruction was a portion telling you how bad it would be to become a teenaged parent. Actually, they didn't quite remember to put in the teenaged part, and I believe the segment was written by a mother who had had a very bad day. But I digress. The overwhelming, recurring theme was that children cost money. Money that teenagers didn't have.

As an adult parent I've realized that once you accept the fact that whatever your income, the bulk of it will either be spent directly on the child or things you buy because of the child, or things associated with the child, and you become accustomed to eeking out an existence (not to mention personality) on the leftovers, the money thing really isn't an issue. It's the relationship management part which has left me lightheaded at times. Not with his father.

With other parents.

Other parents have all sorts of differing rules. In my son's life, there's the mother who's quite comfortable leaving her children (and mine) at whatever the current local teen hotspot is until all hours of the night. They are fourteen. They should not know what the outside of an arcade looks like at 1am.

On the other end of the spectrum, is a fellow 9th grader who informed me that he didn't even want to ask HIS mother about staying out late, because she'd probably say yes, and then make him carry six cell phones. With instructions. As in, "Honey, if you need to call a SWAT team, dial '5' on this one.'

Somehow, in the middle of those two extremes, I am trying to raise my child. I don't want to leave him vulnerable, and I don't want to smother him. And I especially don't want those other mothers typing blogs about ME. The line is incredibly fine.

I've had a father lecture me on the evils of drinking and driving (I was planning to do neither, but I suppose he wanted to be sure). I've had a mother allow her child to spend the night at my house before seeing my house. Or me. I could have been planning to use him to make sweaters for Kathie Lee. She was unconcerned.

Prohibiting my child from doing certain things is a prolonged conversation, because I have to explain that I don't just mean at home. I mean anywhere. Case in point: I don't want him playing the video game "Grand Theft Auto." While I realize there is violence in the world, I don't think he needs to learn about it by shooting cartoon bullets into the cartoon heads of cartoon policemen. I'm more than a bit disturbed that someone would dream that up, much less sell it to other people.

So I told him I would not buy him the game, and left it at that. I was wondering why he barely registered even fleeting disappointment: his seventeen year old friend down the street? Owned the game and lent it without a second thought. I came downstairs to the basement to find my son spraying cartoon graffiti onto cartoon cars, and explaining to me that it wasn't that bad a game, because when you shoot people, you aren't looking at their faces.

Uh, yeah. Let's modify the rule about that game.

It's difficult to convince any human being that what seventeen million other people are doing before their eyes is dangerous, much less one hormonally predispositioned to bend to peer pressure. I don't want to run through the library frantically whiting out all the bad words, but neither do I want to baptise my kid in a river of images and thoughts that would make even most adults slightly edgy. The unfortunate thing is, that be letting him choose his own friends, I am also letting him be exposed to parents who define that which is edgy in a myriad of different ways. Or parents who are so exhausted, turning one blind eye becomes increasingly easier.

I look around at my coworkers and other people that cross my path, and try as I might, I can't identify which ones were allowed to play with guns and matches. But I can guess. And if being an ambassador for change, peace and protection for my child means he won't turn out like that guy at my old job (partial to the more violent Calvin and Hobbes strips, consistently slightly rank and rumored to have people chained in his basement).... then so be it.

No comments: