If you're like me, you sometimes think if I had said that to my old man, he'd have had me against a wall. Such was the sense the other evening as an encounter with my teens and a few of their peers blossomed into a surreal fencing match over Seth McFarlane's Family Guy. The point of the conversation was whether I was (huh)whipped, and if you watch Stewie, you get the reference.
For the record, I find Family Guy to be screamingly funny even if it does occasionally veer into the realm of the insensitive; McFarlane's parody song about Terry Schiavo is a case in point. My wife however, finds it utterly distasteful. Consequently, I - and the older kids - have watched it in her absence but make it a point to keep it off when she's around out of some respect for her opinion. Years ago, I even purchased Season One on DVD but after realizing how much she hated it, I put it away in a secure place and have never actually watched it, again, out of respect for her real dislike of the program. I've never actually gotten rid of it because I'd forgotten about it.
The situation occurred when the two teens, along with several of their peers, asked if they could watch the DVD collection and I refused to get it for them. They persisted - no self-respecting teen stops at the first shot - and when I held my ground and explained that I'd put the set away out of respect, was informed that I was whipped. The sparring continued and in reference to the fact that it was Family Guy, I corrected them by stating that I wasn't whipped, but actually (huh)whipped (for the uninformed, when a word starts with "wh", Stewie pronounces it by saying "huh" in front of the "w" and hence the joke). My initial thought was that the comment was truly disrespectful and I admit to almost losing my temper, but decided in the moment to pursue the discussion. My goal was to make them think about adult relationships and the question of what a couple owes one another. This multi-level, multi-player conversation continued on one level, funny, and on another, deadly serious as different scenarios were explored. What does it mean to be "whipped"? Several of you have boyfriends or girlfriends - if you refuse to do something out of respect for them, does that make you whipped? How do you feel if your significant other does something, knowing that you really detest it?
The encounter lasted for several minutes, about what you'd expect from a pack of teens looking for a few yucks, with the result being that they settled on another movie and they then disappeared downstairs.
The points are these.
- Parenting is going to take you outside of your comfort zone as you're challenged by kids who are pushing the boundaries in their testing of independence. It's much easier to somehow simply slough off the topic but it's our obligation as parents to swallow our bile and stick through the unpleasantry just so that the words are out there. The kids might not like it, but I guarantee you that they're listening and processing if you're willing to proceed.
- The kids will learn about how to manage their relationships by watching you and how you consider your mate. Each adult relationship has its dysfunctionality and the kids will pick up on that, but they'll also pick up on the good things that you do and how you choose to honor your mate. In that moment, to allow myself to be manipulated by a pack of teens so as to not appear (huh)whipped by my spouse would have taught horrendous unspoken lessons.
And for the record, I'm throwing out the Season One DVD set when I can remember where I put it.
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