Dibs on the Future.
With only young sons of my own, I spend very little time with girls. But they’ve been much on my mind.
My fifth grader and I spent all day Saturday at a basketball tournament. His team played five games, and we watched many more, including two girls’ games. I was not an athlete in high school (nor since), so maybe I’ve just been missing something, but to me these girls looked like a new species. They were very fast, graceful, and aggressive. They made astonishing baskets from unlikely spots. They took game-breaking foul shots with no bare emotion. They were all — honestly — lovely. And they played for schools with famously high academic standards. What a lot to perfect.
It occurred to me, sitting in the bleachers, that being a mother of girls now must be so much about winning them the chance to own a reshaped future. So many new paths, so many fresh models and roles. So much in the culture urging them to be newly fierce and in charge.
Even the path to self-destruction’s given a dramatic, epic quality, if you count the cover-girl stars of Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant. How to harness and steer all that cultural thrust — all that, “you go, girl”? I don’t envy that job.
Still, it’s very different with boys. The culture has degraded so many traditional roles and behaviors for men (as for women) BUT without offering boys good new alternatives. Sure, maybe not every boy should grow up to be the dad in My Three Sons — adult, devoted, peaceful, responsible, energetic, job-holding, tie-wearing — or Andy Griffith, but who in the popular culture would I want my boys to emulate instead? I have a hard time coming up with a list (though I would love any suggestions). So at our house, we’re always pulling backwards, resisting the cultural thrust. We pretty much ban commercial television and radio, most video games, and almost all movies with a rating above PG. We drill table manners, saying “ma’am” and “sir,” writing thank-you notes, and making eye contact when you shake hands. We practice how to hold up your end of a dinner conversation without drifting off or taking over, either. All that finger-in-the-dike work.
So far I’ve thought it matters.
But will it prepare them for Sasha Fierce?