The new year is barely awake and I’m already cleaning up my messes.


As confessions of mothering gaffes go, this one’s not a doozy, but the fact that it happened on the first day of the year makes me a little crazy — so much for fresh starts and clean slates.

Here’s the deal. My friend and her teenage daughter were running out the door on the evening of January 1st to see the R-rated movie Sisters, and invited us to join them. “Yes!” my son shouted, already grabbing his jacket. His younger brother followed.

I never stood a chance. To stop this train from leaving the station would not only put me in the party pooper category with my sons, but would also throw a wrench in my friend’s plan with her daughter. If I’d said I’d heard it was very raunchy and not for kids, she’d have gone inside, googled, and disappointed her daughter. Did I want to ruin their good fun, too?

And there is this: a small part of me wanted to see the movie. I have huge crushes on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. They are smart and funny and successful and feminists! I harbor a fantasy that we could be friends if only they knew me! (This is patently absurd. I am not funny. I could never keep up.) So I let myself be swayed by the momentum, and my family hurled in the direction of the movie theater, against my gut feeling that this was not going to go well.

Depending which of us you ask, the experience was hilarious or painful. All three kids thought it was funny. Their parents squirmed and groaned with each more outlandish scene of drugs, sex, and debauchery. Worst of all, as the closing credits rolled and the audience stood to leave, I got a hairy appraising eye from a woman in the row in front of us, whose expression said, “So this is the type of lowlife who brings her child to a filthy movie.”

I put my hand on my boys’ heads and said, “Forget everything you just saw.” And then, in a 180-degree reversal, I made a last-ditch effort to find a salvageable thread for this experience and asked, “Or, do you have any questions about anything?” They shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and walked away.

I don’t want to overreact; we did no permanent damage. (In fact, I was probably my youngest son’s age when I saw Animal House, and if anything it was a turnoff. I could discern bad behavior.) Still, I felt it incumbent upon me to put in some corrective, guiding parental words before bedtime, such as, “You know, guys, accidentally overdosing on cocaine would make you dead, not ‘extra funny.’ Just in case that ever comes up.”

Today we completed the fix. We brought them to Star Wars, 3-D Imax, to overwhelm their senses and replace all those unwholesome images of an out-of-hand house party with wholesome scenes of intergalactic shooting, killing, and menace. I’m not sure exactly why that’s better, but I can tell you I received no dirty looks.

My friend felt guilty for suggesting we see Sisters in the first place, but I told her, “This is what memories are made of.” And I think back to the first time I met her, her then-three-year-old son on her hip, now a sophomore in college; her 16-year-old daughter not even a gleam in her eye. It dawns on me that we have reached one more milestone: we have reached an age when our kids are less embarrassed by R-rated movies than we are.

2016 is going to be interesting. I can’t wait to see what unfolds. But I might be looking through fingers over my eyes, cringing in the dark.

One thought on “The new year is barely awake and I’m already cleaning up my messes.

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