Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jersey Boys

My son used his Christmas and birthday money to buy a $100 Aaron Hernandez Patriots jersey back in January. I don’t think I have a single picture of him these past six months where he isn't floating somewhere inside that jersey. He wouldn't allow it in the dryer because he didn’t want the the enormous #81 to crack. He'd take it off before he ate anything with tomato sauce so that he wouldn't stain it. He'd pull it on before the start of each Patriots game. He was wearing it when he chose Hernandez as his #1 Fantasy Football draft pick.

Last week he asked me to throw it away.

Number 81 represented all the shiny stars a 13-year-old could reach for if he worked hard enough and remembered to dream big. Now it presents just another dull life lesson. I'm sad for all the children whose hero turned into a monster.

I was reminded of a post I wrote a few years back about bad role models, middle school Sex Ed, and a man appropriately named Weiner.

From 2011 ...

As my children wrap up fifth grade this week, they also conclude a three-week unit in Adolescence, where they openly discussed the physical changes attached to puberty; matters of maturity and acceptance; and the basic, no-nonsense biology of the reproductive system.

Did I mention my sons are eleven? Trust me, there is always some nonsense. Suffice it to say that many exciting new words have been released into my house where they swoop down on me like Bald Eagles dive-bombing salmon. The onslaught typically begins when one of the boys holds up the anatomically correct diagrams of the male and female reproductive organs and begins identifying each part. This means I will undoubtedly hear the word “penis” no less than fifty times, quickly followed by a list of every slang term known to my children and all of their classmates. This makes for some lively discussions and a whole lot of laughing as my boys can’t help acting like, well, eleven-year-old boys.

It also prompts the inevitable lines of questioning about sex and sexuality that I’ve been preparing for and dreading since the day they were born. After much reading and research, and countless discussions with fellow parents, I finally developed what I deemed to be the most suitable and appropriate answers. They go something like this: “Ask your father”, “Your father can answer that”, “Oh, that’s a perfect question for Dad”, and finally, “Dad knows all about that, go find him, I think he’s hiding in the broom closet.”

But we do answer all their questions and participate with them in the very necessary discussions. As it turns out, it’s much easier than we thought. It’s the sex scandal du jour that keeps throwing us off our game.

My children, like all children these days, can never be completely shielded from the media and its gleeful penchant for broadcasting ad nauseam the bad behavior and missteps of anyone in the public eye. My kids have been hearing, in their periphery, about the dirty deeds of such “role models” as Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and John Edwards for the majority of their lives. But most of it skimmed over their heads, as they didn’t understand enough of it to interest them. It was essentially background noise. No longer. With each new scandal, gaps are being filled and lightbulbs are going off, catching their attention, their curiosity, and their amusement. But more often than not, they are left confused.

Their new enlightenment into the world of sex has collided head on with their often hero-like worship of athletes, celebrities and politicians. And it’s their parents who are left to guide them through the wreckage.

What is a love child? What is adultery? What is a high-priced call girl? Why does she cost so much? (All actual questions, by the way.)

Beyond the sex-related aspects, I must help my children separate and reconcile the real and admirable achievements of a superstar athlete, governor and president with their very human failings. It’s an opportunity to talk about core values such as respect for women and, most importantly, respect for yourself.

And then, just when you think you can close the door on the latest scandal, in stumbles the biggest punch line EVER for a fifth grade boy. Drum roll please …


The twit.

I mean, come ON. It’s impossible for my children not to latch on to this one. The name, the pictures, the jokes … everything so attractive to a tweenage boy … and it’s all right there on the 5:00 news. And on the playground, and in the lunchroom and just about everywhere else they look. It’s like a middle school Molotov cocktail. It obviously blew up in Weiner’s face, and yet it’s the parent, once again, who must run damage control for this person’s stupidity.