Tag Archives: permissive parenting

A Shameless Mom

21 Mar

Lately, my son and I have been watching the Showtime series, “Shameless,” together. He’s not a very demonstrative kid. He hasn’t kissed me since he was eight and has to be coerced into giving me a hug. So, when he voluntarily bonds with me over something, I welcome the opportunity. We’re having a good time watching the show together, talking about the characters, loving the songs and downloading our favorites. The problem is, deep inside, I feel like I’m a bad mother for letting my son watch what is clearly a series for adults.

I’m sure other parents wouldn’t allow their teenage children to watch “Shameless.” It’s loaded with graphic sex. The characters smoke pot. The father is an unrepentant alcoholic and a con artist. The children do whatever they need to get by, including stealing an entire truckload of meat. There is, in short, everything to which a child should not be exposed. I remind myself that my son has the digital version of girly magazines and that he regularly locks his bedroom door to, I’m sure, avail himself of them. Still, every time my son and I watch “Shameless,” I feel I’m a bad influence on my own child.

Certain of my son’s friends’ parents would agree. I’m thinking, in particular of the parents of one of my son’s closest friends. His parents are fine, upstanding people. They would never let their children watch “Shameless.” On the contrary, I’m sure they only watch wholesome family shows. They probably have a boxed set of “The Waltons.” I’ll bet they don’t allow girly magazines, digital or otherwise, in their house. I’m pretty sure they are a little intimidating to their son. Hell, they intimidate me.

My husband thinks I’m insane when I tell him I’m a bad influence on our son. He points out that our son has similar values to ours. We happen to think our values are pretty good ones, though they are rather to the left of many of our neighbors. Our son’s friends were amazed to hear that he sometimes—ok, often—uses the “F” word at home but he is not allowed, under any circumstances to use the “G” word. Recently, a friend of his posted, “Are you gay?” on his Facebook wall in response to something our son posted as his status. Our son responded, “Why, yes, I’m pretty happy right now.” My husband and I were pleased. His friend was confused.

I worry about different influences with my daughter. She’s become quite sassy lately and has developed what my parents called a “smart mouth.” I never really understood that phrase. Wasn’t very smart of me to use it. It always got me in trouble.

I’ve been trolling other mommy blogs, scoping out the competition, particularly those who’ve managed to turn their rambles into cash. On one such blog, I found moms complaining about their own children’s smart mouths. They attributed the phenomenon to “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and its sequel, “The Suite Life on Deck.”

As in many shows targeting children, the characters in the “Suite Life” series sass talk the largely incompetent adults. It never occurred to me that the show might be a bad influence other than to convince my daughter we should be living on a cruise ship.

I started tracking her behavior following episodes. Damned if her mouth didn’t get smarter almost immediately after viewing a half hour of the show. I decided to follow the blog moms’ prescription and encourage exposure to a different sweet life.

The remedy was The Food Network. According to the blogosphere, kids eat up cooking shows. So we tried Food Network for a while. My children have never watched a television show that I didn’t watch with them the first time. This means I’ve suffered through Telly Tubbies, SpongeBob, Dora, Bob the Builder, Imagination Movers and some strange thing called “Bobobo-bo Bobo-bo.” I’ve pulled the plug on a number of requested programs but what I saw on Food Network was truly frightening.

I try to eat a healthy diet and encourage my children to as well. I buy lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, low-fat milk, yogurts. My son routinely spits them out then buys the junk he prefers with his allowance. I’ve pointed out to him that he is literally crapping his money away, but it doesn’t faze him. He won’t walk his dog, but he’ll walk ten minutes to the local Walgreen’s when he’s jonesing for a Mint Milano.

I’m particularly interested in teaching my daughter the importance of healthy food choices. She’s got more holes in her teeth than a block of baby Swiss and a sugar habit that’ll keep Willy Wonka in top hats for the next ten years. But thanks to Food Network she now has recipes for pink lemonade layer cake, corn chowder chock full of heavy cream and brownies the size of The Hulk’s fist.

I should have known better than to flip the channel to Food Network. I once witnessed Paula Deen cook a juicy hamburger, top it with cheese and a fried egg then place the whole works between Krispy Kreme donuts. Paula says she doesn’t eat that way every day, but geez, eating that way once is bad enough.

Paula’s not the only bad influence on FN. The Neely’s lay on the sugar and fat in ways that make their corpulence make sense. And have you seen Ina Garten lately? I’m loath to say it, but she is morbidly obese. I’m loath to say it for two reasons. First, I realize obesity is a complex problem. Second, Ina is apparently a very nice lady and has lots of fans that flame anyone who criticizes her weight. But Ina’s health and temperament are not my concern. My daughter is back to watching “The Suite Life on Deck.”

I feel a little bit better about my parenting lately. My son’s friend had dinner at our house. The dinner conversation ranged wildly from my son’s condom sandwich caper at school to the shows the boys watched when they were younger. The friend was gob smacked to learn that I not only knew the names of the shows my son watched, but I actually watched them. When I said, “What was up with the hair on that Bobobo guy?” his friend said, “Wow. My parents never watched anything I watched.”

“Woooo hoooo,” I thought and gave myself a mental pat on the back. Finally, something I can be parentally smug about. My son may make sandwiches with condoms in them. My daughter may clap her hands together and say, “Breakfast! Now!” But I’ve approved every bit of media they’ve consumed. It is definitely something to feel gay about.

 

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