Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Part of the Gig

It took me thirty-five years, six months, and eighteen days (give or take) to become a mother.  Three of those years were spent thinking about getting pregnant, and eleven more were spent actually trying to get pregnant.  So I’ve had a lot of time to think about this whole parenting thing.    

Zeze’s dad and I worked it all out before she was born.  We figured we had only three jobs as parents: love her, let her be who she is, and enjoy her.  The rest, as Hillel once said, is commentary.  If we could keep it that simple, we thought, she would turn out all right.  

That’s pretty much how it’s been, and now she’s thirteen.  Of course, I make her do her homework and I make her buckle up in the car.  I talk to her about politics and fair play and God and music and all the dangers she’s bound to face as she gets older.  Ok, so I’m a terrible housekeeper and I’m terrible with money (I mean, I’m really terrible), but I’m pretty sure she knows I love her and I’m hoping that counts for something.  She’s kind and funny and talented.  Once in a while she’s not so nice.  Just your basic, terrific, perfectly perfect kid.

I know I can’t take too much credit for her successes, but I’m proud of how I’ve done as a parent.  Even as Zeze heads into adolescence I believe she knows she can come to me about anything.  Drugs.  Sex.  Cigarettes.  Alcohol.  Shoplifting.  Boyfriends.  Girlfriends.  I mean, I’m ready for anything!  

Or at least, I thought I was.  But then, it came into her life.  Even now, it’s hard to say the words.  How could it have even gotten my daughter’s attention, much less her devotion?  How could she have been drawn in without my knowing?  Hadn’t I been diligent?  I Hadn’t I provided adequate discipline?  I never let her watch Power Rangers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  When she was little, I watched Barney so much I still wake up humming “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.”  So how did these people sneak past my watchful eye?  I didn’t see how they could have, but there in my own living room, in glorious living color, was the incriminating evidence.  

Now, I know she’s not supposed to like the same things I do.  I learned that from my mother.  I remember how carefully she listened to everything I said, even though everything I said was about horses.  My mother once got a second-degree sunburn from spending a whole day with me at an Arabian horse show.  And yet, gradually, and despite the sunburn, she learned to love horses – maybe not with the same fervor I had, but she loved them just the same.  

So as part of this parenting gig, I knew that my daughter would have interests that might not match my own.  And I actually looked forward to it, because that meant learning about something new and maybe even exciting.  Sometimes I fairly shivered with anticipation when I thought about it.  What would it be?  Skiing?  Engineering?  Astronomy?   Firefighting?  Stamps?   Spelunking?  I didn’t care what it was, as long as she was happy – although secretly, I hoped she wouldn’t join the Young Republicans Club.

But as children often do, my daughter chose an altogether unexpected path.  It’s … this is so difficult … my daughter’s love is television wrestling.  

Overnight, I found myself awash in tales of wrestlers whose names seemed interchangeable . . . and then started to become despairingly familiar:  Rey Mysterio.  The Undertaker.  Triple H.  Miss Jackie.  Scottie Too Hottie.  Eddie Guerrero, my daughter’s favorite (may he rest in peace).  Oh, and that other guy.  Ask me next week; I should know his name by then.  

Suddenly the Young Republicans Club didn’t sound so bad.  Especially when she told me she wanted me to watch with her.  

I resisted as long as I could, but finally I told her I’d watch it – just so I could decide whether to allow it in the house.  Good parent that I was, I decided to keep an open mind, although I knew I was going to hate it.  To me, television wrestling was about a bunch of muscle-bound rednecks in their underwear beating up anybody who says wrestling is fake.  

But since I promised, I watched with her once.  And then I watched again.  

The second time I watched, something horrible happened to me.  It happened when a wrestler known as JBL – who is sort of a mix between J.R. Ewing, George W. Bush, and Arnold Schwarzenegger with a Texas accent – walked into the ring.  Now, JBL always makes his entrance in a limo with cow horns on the hood, and he always – always – sports a 10-gallon Stetson.  But supposedly JBL had been injured the week before, and he walked in with a ridiculous-looking neck brace that had wires sticking straight up to about six inches above the top of his head.  JBL wore his trademark cowboy hat balanced delicately atop the wires.  

And that’s when it happened.  Honest, I couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t help but laugh.

And that’s when I got it.  Don’t ask me to explain it, because I don’t understand it myself.  But I get it, which is quite different and, I suspect, more important.  

So I watched a third time, and a fourth, and I started to ask questions.  I learned about tag teams and frog splashes and tapping out and 619 and choke slams and lumberjacks and divas.  I learned new uses for folding chairs and television announcers.  And every now and then – G_d help me – I laughed.  Damn television wrestling!  

So now, whenever we can, my daughter and I watch wrestling together.  I can’t figure out if that makes me a good parent or a bad parent.  If it makes a difference, though, I have at least refrained from yelling “You suck, you suck!” whenever Kurt Angle comes out.  Even though he does.

So what do you do when you’re supposed to love her, let her be who she is, and enjoy her, but she’s into television wrestling?    

Well, I guess you do the equivalent of getting a second-degree sunburn at a horse show.   You watch with her.  You learn.  And every now and then, completely involuntarily, you laugh.  You laugh along with your interesting, talented, slightly wacky, terrific kid, and you thank your lucky stars she still wants your company.  In short, you start looking forward to wrestling night.

Oh – except for next week.  Zeze wants to go see MacBeth at the local Shakespeare theater, so we might miss the first few minutes of SmackDown.  But only the first few.



  1. Lovely post...lovely daughter and as the ancient wisdom goes:

    "If you love them, let them go. If they come back, they belong to you. If they fall in love with TV Wrestling... you belong to them."

    Or something like that.

    Reminds me of the 4 years I served my son's hockey addiction. Crack of dawn practices, long drives in blizzards, asshole coaches, 2 ambulance trips...and I wanted him to take violin lessons instead.

    Now he plays guitar and bass, writes poetry and reads philosophy. Me...plunked in front of the TV, screaming for the Vancouver Canucks to finally win an effing Stanley Cup!

  2. That's very interesting. I guess if you watch something enough times, you can learn to like it. Maybe there's hope for all of that crap on TV after all.

  3. LOL...I will admit it's very addicting.

  4. LOL...great post, sounds like you are a great parent for doing this. My brother and his friends use to be into Wrestling, they watched it every Monday like true fanatics. They soon got over their Wrestling phase when they found out that it was all 100% staged...LOL great post.

  5. What a loving post about parenting.

    As for the wrestling, I think it's an adolescent thing. I actually remember being slightly into wrestling for a bit when I was a teen ... Cyndi Lauper introduced pop music fans to pro wrestling and I got a bit caught up in it. But I outgrew it quickly.

    I think your daughter will be just fine.