Boyhood

I saw this movie the other day and it unhinged me. The boy grows up too quickly. Right? That’s the reality around my house too.

One of my classmates said this movie changed her parenting. She no longer yells at her kids because she realizes that life goes by in a blink of an eye. And she is trying to savor her children while they are home.

The film was shot over 12 years with the same cast.

I was particularly moved by the mother’s plight, played by Patricia Arquette. She has to hustle so much to provide for the family. And yet, the kids idolize their father who only shows up occasionally. I relate. So many times I feel like a workhorse. In my quest to provide for the kids, emotionally and financially, I may miss out. I may not always make the best choices. I may not get all the fun.

My heart breaks that the sister, Lorelei Linklater, has to grow up. The most spirited child, she becomes a surly, monosyllabic teen. Ugh. I worry this will happen to my spirited children.

There are scenes of an alcoholic stepfather. As moviegoers, we want our preteens to rise up as heroes in their alcoholic families, defending one another or speaking out against injustice. But children cannot mount a mutiny over the tyranny of an alcoholic leader. Their helplessness’s heart-wrenching.

Families are going to be okay. Much as we worry, endlessly, about our kids’ possibly embarking on drunk driving or texting when driving or excessive Xbox use or getting pregnant. All that. There’s a message throughout the film of resilience. It’s going to be okay. Our family is good enough.

When I went into the movie theater, the ticket collector, an older gent, told me, “I love this movie. Everyone loves this movie.” I do, too.

I just wish boyhood would last.

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Boys Are People Too

English: , American author
Rosalind Wiseman, courtesy of Wikipedia

I have blogged about my son driving me insane with his Xbox habit.

At Trinity School last night I got some insights into my son and his boy culture. Rosalind Wiseman spoke about the social pressures and dynamics of being a young man in today’s hyper connected world, based on research from her new book, Masterminds & Wingmen.

Here were some of my take aways:

We say to girls, “‘You can do it. You can do anything.’ And girls have a vibrant support system.” Wiseman is not knocking this important empowerment base for girls — after all, she’s also the author of Queen Bees & Wannabes so she knows girls. But Wiseman says, ‘If you are a 13-year old boy, you don’t see that you have power.” Because, at 13, a boy is still a boy and a girl is a young woman.

Wiseman likened the emotional life of 11th grade boys to 8th grade girls. This cracked me up. This is who I’ve got at home!

For her book, Wiseman interviewed 200 boys and 40 girls. She came away with some surprises.

One gem? “Straight theater boys get more hookups than football players.” (All right! Let’s hear it for the theater boys.)

More gems:

Happiness is …

  •  Meaning beyond one’s self
  • Hope of success
  • Social connection
  • Satisfying work

I love archetypes. And Wiseman, with the boys she interviewed, came up with some types:
The Mastermind
The Associate
The Bouncer
The Fly
The Entertainer
The Punching Bag
A Conscience

But these boys don’t mind being stereotyped. Remember that rule for happiness? They are happy to have social connections.

I loved Wiseman’s advice to a boy when he criticizes another boy’s sensitivity, “You cannot deny someone’s emotional truth.” So true!

She also says, “There is a difference between snitching and reporting.”

And this! “It is a social skill to get help.” One mom I chatted with after Wiseman’s presentation said she she was going to put this quote on sticky notes all over the house.

When a boy comes to a parent with bad news, here’s what to say, “1. I’m sorry this happened. 2. It’s hard to come forward. I respect that you did. 3, Now let’s think about what we can do about this.”

And when there’s conflict, expect push back.

When you get a “Bad news bomb,” Wiseman says a parent can realize:

  • This is one moment, not a lifetime.
  • Don’t make excuses.
  • Ask for what you need.
  • If it gets heated, you might say, “Let’s talk in 10 minutes. I can’t hear you over the sound of my heart beating so loud in my ears.”

I am going to try and talk about the tough stuff with my son. Wiseman advises, ‘Talk to your son about falling in love and breaking up. Don’t expect the generic advice to ‘respect a girl’ to be useful, especially at a party. What does respect mean?’

Boys, like girls, feel used and confused over relationships. Some boys asked Wiseman how to deal with aggressive drunk girls.

Wiseman began her lecture with a scenario of how one boy felt shamed by other boys’ comments around his body. Yes, body image is important to boys.

This lecture helped me realize my son’s “emotional life is deep and rich.”

Even though my boy always seems to have some tech thing in his hand, he still needs his hand held!

And I’m going to hold his hand — and yes, embarrass the hell out of him while doing so.

20130911-160541.jpg
Rosalind Wiseman talks about boy culture.

Modern Warfare 3

I hung my head, ashamed. I was not alone. Every parent at the Upper West Side Game Stop store was embarrassed to be there, ashamed to be buying the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

I assume that’s what we, these pairs of parents and sons, were buying. The updated game was just released last week. How do I know this? I have no idea. It has simply seeped into our family culture.The posters with the dystopian world in the background and the gun-slinging hero in the foreground.

We, parents, have to be there to buy the game because it’s rated M for Mature. My 14-year old could not buy it without me, and he cuddled me as if he were a toddler, while we wanted in line for the purchase.

The cashier handed the mother in a business suit ahead of me the DVD X-Box game in the plastic bag.

“This is not mine,” she took the bag, like it was a dead mouse.

“It’s all yours,” she passed the bag to her son. He could barely suppress a smile. These teens and preteens get their way and they know it.

Why do I do this? I wondered. I am basically a pacifist. Maybe I let him have this game, because I want him to be happy, popular and a part of pop culture (UGH! I did just write that!). My son runs track, gets good grades, has the money ($65) to pay me back. Yet I am enabling an addictive activity. And I know it.

Yesterday he had three friends over and they had a great day. They played all day. They stopped to eat at Shake Shack; played a brief game of Apples to Apples; and watched Saturday Night Live; but otherwise, they were glued to the game.

The boys believe war gaming is useful because, my son tells me, “It develops hand-eye coordination and teaches about guns and modern-day battles.” Hmmmm. Doubtful.

My son’s friend’s dad, Daniel, told me he believes the boys talk about important things besides slaughtering one another while playing MW3. He said he’s overheard them talking about school, girls, and the Yankees. I don’t know. I only hear, “I need another kill” kind of thing.

If I didn’t have a 14-year old son, I would think parents, like me, who buy this kind of game for their sons are irresponsible. Wait, I still think that.

I want to write more on this, but I have to pry the boys off the XBox game (yes, one of the boys spent the night so they could play more) and get them ready for church. It’s a beautiful day in New York City and I don’t want them to miss it. There is a time for everything, a time for peace and a time for modern day warfare?