Friday, May 20, 2005

The Supporting Characters

Sharing my life with three teenage sons and a daughter hovering on the cusp of adolescence, I'm not always sure whether these four are the sidekicks of Masked Mom or a band of her archenemies. Son-One is weeks away from being seventeen, carrying a newly minted Learner's Permit in his wallet. Son-Two is fifteen (and a half, though he's past the age where he thinks that half counts for anything), two inches taller than his older brother. Son-Three is thirteen, careening toward fourteen (in July), hyper-aware of the age (and privilege) differences between his brothers and himself. Daughter-Only is ten, with eleven coming a week after big brother's seventeenth and a week before other brother's fourteenth, she is not only aware of the age and privilege differences between herself and her brothers, but the gender inequities as well (real or imagined). There was a screaming fight over her being left out of a volleyball game last night--the boys were playing in the backyard with a group of their friends. They excluded her first on the basis of age and height, but she rightly pointed out that one of the boys playing was only a month older and an inch taller than her. Worse yet, one of the boys who is a year older is her height exactly. There was nothing left then but the fact that she's a GIRL (notice it's a four-letter word...and they always pronounce it exactly as they do other four-letter words).

What's a Masked Mom to do in a situation like this? My first impulse--to make them let her play (on the grounds that someone let them play even when they weren't, as obviously they are now, Olympic Volleyball material and on the grounds that gender-discrimination is very not okay with me)--would have only caused more friction. Several of the boys--mine and the guests--threatened to quit if Daughter-Only was included. But to just let it slide also did not seem right. In the end, a pointless, and no doubt tuned-out, speech was made for the benefit of Sons-One through Three and Daughter-Only. No one felt better and Masked Mom lived on to fight (in vain) another day...

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