The question would nag at me usually as I drove to yet another horribly written, kid-targeted movie knowing that the most I’d get out of it is an outing with my child, a bucket of popcorn and a little nap in a dark theater: When do their tastes meet mine?
It’s another question in a long list of parental bittersweet moments.
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For a whole slew of really great reasons, we parents begin as soon as possible: Pack up toddler and gear, fork over hard-earned coin, pop some preventative Excedrin and head for the kiddie entertainment. But for every kid at Television Show Live, Cartoon Character: The Movie or tween-boy band concert is a parent who is dreaming of the day when the entertainment enjoyed by their child is one that they can share with them ennui free.
Some work at making that day come sooner, rather than later. How many of us skipped the nursery song CDs and taught our child rhythm and a love of music with our own personal collections? Guilty. When my youngest had his first Show and Tell in preschool, what did he bring? His (and Daddy’s) favorite CD: “Journey’s Greatest Hits.”
“Noah,” his teacher asked, “do you have a favorite song on this?”
He didn’t hesitate and answered honestly, “Yes, ‘Wheel in the Sky.’ ”
Those parental wins didn’t happen often and were replaced by entertainment choices that made me ask time and again: When are their tastes going to meet mine?
Answer: When they are teenagers.
Enter bittersweet: When it finally happens, the last person that they want to hang out with is a parent.
In theory, that’s great. Teenage years are about becoming independent and doing the final preflight check before leaping from the nest — can’t do that with Mommy at your side 24/7. But the parental reward for years of kiddie entertainment is worrying on the couch until a key scratches the lock right before curfew.
My story of hope reveals that there is entertainment that parents will truly enjoy, and a kid will willingly and happily attend with them.
And sometimes it’s not even to get a ride or to have Mom and Dad pay.
The internet is the shopping mall for today’s teen. They go there for entertainment and interaction. They shop, join fandoms, learn about the world and meet people with similar interests. When movies come out based on their fandoms, they step away from the small screen and head out into public to sit before a big screen.
Recently my teen daughter stepped away from her small screen and asked me to join her. Not just her, but her and, “Mom. Stop. He’s ‘Just a friend,’ ” Tom.
Tom lives a few blocks from us. He’s adorable, funny and a great guy. I’m happy that he is my daughter’s Just a Friend. He and she are hysterical together because they have similar interests and being members of the Divergent fandom is one of them.
And I can’t repeat this enough because it can’t happen enough: They invited me to join them.
They invited me into their fandom.
And let me sit next to them.
And shared candy with me.
And it was marvelous.
I hadn’t read the books so I couldn’t contribute to any discussion about how the movie was true to the books, but they talked to me about it like adults.
And then we went to a physical mall and they walked with me.
Not in front of me, or behind me pretending they didn’t know me, but with me.
No bitter, just sweet, ennui-free bliss.