My 6-yr-old son, Mineological, and his daddy take great pleasure in watching ABC’s “Wipeout,” wherein people succumb to an ass-beating by way of a crazy obstacle course to win $50K. Especially entertaining, apparently, are segments in which guys take sterilizing shots to the family jewels. Anywho. The other night, Todd wasn’t home, so I was forced to watch Wipeout alone with M. The unspoken rule is that I am expected to laugh like a rabid hyena and generally enjoy myself, like Daddy. But being the sympathetic person I am, I can’t keep myself from “ouching,” and gasping in empathetic pain when someone nearly decapitates or castrates themselves. After about an hour of viewing this masochism, I am talking aloud to the TV (like my mother does), and saying, “Oh, you poor, tired man. You can hardly walk, you’re so exhausted,” and am clucking along in this manner until M. abruptly pauses the show.
“Mommy,” he wails, “You’re not supposed to FEEL PAIN for them! You’re supposed to LAUGH at them! You’re making me sad. You’re RUINING it!”
I realized then, that the moment I had most feared as a mother of three boys, but had not yet been subjected to – scorn and potential ostracism for being so hopelessly female – was upon me. I had a choice to make, a choice that could very well become the prototype for all future attempts to connect with my sons. Either yuk it up and pretend to be something I’m not, in turn making my little boy happy, or continue being the kill-joy I am by voicing my humane concern for injured idiots. In the end, I did neither. I nestled my little boy in my lap, pressed Play, and kept my mouth shut. (It did seem to make him happy).