Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Adventures in Real Parenting: Boy Was My Face Red
When I was a kid, I would want to sink through the floor in embarrassment when I was watching television with my father and an advertisement for feminine hygiene products would come on. He's my dad. The very idea of something suggesting vaginas or bodily functions other than farting did not need to be spoken about in front of him.
Over the years, I became a little less embarrassed. When The Dancer was an infant, MathMan and I were terribly broke, buying groceries on a Shell credit card. The baby and I were sweating out a hot summer in our un-airconditioned apartment and MathMan was working about eighty hours a week as a manager for Radio Shack. For weeks at a time, I would pack up The Dancer and flee to Indiana for breaks from the monotony, hunger and heat.
One night, in my old bedroom at my parent's house, I was wrestling with a breast pump and having absolutely no success. In a huff, I tossed the vile sucking machine back into my suitcase, shoved my milk heavy breast back into that stupid bra with the flap and stalked out of the room to pluck The Dancer from my mother's arms so that I could nurse her before I exploded in a rain of milky, white sweetness all over my parents' family room.
In front of my father, I was self-conscious about nursing the baby, but I was determined to get over it. Nursing was a healthy and perfectly natural thing to do. I sat discreetly under a blanket, The Dancer sucking away like a Kirby vacuum and griped to my mother about the breast pump. Being the cheerfully helpful man that he is, my father suggested that we take a trip out to my uncle's dairy farm where I could be hooked up to the milking machines.
I responded with a simple, "Moooooo."
I never really got over the ick factor of nursing my babies with my father around, but I did what I had to do and just tried not to think about it.
You'd think at the age of forty-three and the mother of three children, I'd be over it. I assume my father might have a clue about the things I do with my private parts or that I even have them, but I am loathe to admit anything. I think it might be part of the dynamic between my generation and our parents. My parents were not terribly demonstrative, affectionate people and they certainly weren't open about things like sex and love and all the complicated and uncomplicated pieces of the human condition. There was oh so much that we never discussed. Hell, for the longest time, my mother referred to our private parts (see, there I go doing it) as "your body." For a while after I started school, I was a bit confused whenever someone used the term "body," but didn't mean privates.
How times, and parents, have changed. And so have kids, as a result. Last weekend, The Actor had two friends stay over and they watched the movie Stepbrothers. (Spoiler alert below.) Oh my. I was there, too, working away at my computer while they watched the movie, laughing at all the jokes. They didn't seem terribly concerned by my presence when one character talked about stuffing things in vaginas. They even saw me shake my head and laugh at a scene where one of the main characters rubs his scrotum on the drum kit of another. (Links not safe for work)
I tried to imagine watching a show like that with either of my parents around and I came up blank. It would just have never happened. I remember once watching a Cheech and Chong movie with my mom in the house, but, if memory serves, her eyes bugged out of her head and she stormed out of the room in disgust during one of the racier scenes.
I watched The Actor react during the movie the other night. There were times when he made eye contact with me and put his hand over his face or shook his head or rolled his eyes in embarrassment. But then what do I really expect? MathMan and I are open about sex. We discuss it in a straightforward way with the hope that we can convey both the pleasure and the responsibilities of being sexually active. We use the proper words for the genitals and we make up a few of our own, too. You know, so as not to be so bloody clinical about it.
MathMan used to hate the euphemism that I used for vagina when The Dancer was little so he came up with his own word and we've used it ever since, when we don't use the proper term, that is. I coined the term badgina, but not to imply shame of the vagina, but rather more like badass. A strong woman, a tough chick. You get the idea. A sort of family short-hand or inside joke.
So why should I expect my son to be chagrined to watch such a movie in front of me? I wondered if I was bothered or surprised or a little of both. I thought about whether it meant he and his friends were showing some lack of respect for me and did it matter? Then I wondered - would The Actor watch that movie in front of someone else's parents and be laughing and burping and farting and generally carrying on like his friends did here?
And then I got a pretty good idea of who I am as a parent, the alleged keeper of the moral flame in some societies, because the very idea of The Actor behaving that way sent a shudder up my spine........