I love the feminist/lesbian metaphor that is Tara. Her redneck family tells all the women in it that they’re demons who will actualize their demon presences when they turn 20. What a wonderfully evil way to keep female power (in this case, literally magical power) in check! And Tara is completely terrified by the story to the extent that she lets it stop her from performing magic to her full ability, and lets it stop her from opening herself completely to her friends, even though her friends happen to be super-powered demon experts.
It takes Anya and Spike to uncover the secret and prove that it’s a lie. Anya’s brilliant and frank questioning of Tara’s dad (“What kind of demon?”) exposes the lie. Spike proves it by punching Tara to see if it hurts him.
So what we find out, in the end, is that Tara is an amazingly powerful woman who just needs people to love her for who she is. And the love she gets, not just from Willow, but from Buffy and her friends, will let Tara grow into what she needs to be.
We all need friends like that when we’re in college, or at that age. Friends who accept who we are and let us grow beyond our families, who might be actively holding us back, like Tara’s, but who more likely are just keeping us within the limits of their own experience. College is the time when we extend past our family bounds and grow into the people we choose to be. For women, it can be a tremendously powerful time or a really damaging one.
Xander did the Snoopy dance! Love!
We got to the part on Buffy where Willow comes out. Once again, hopelessly dated. At this point, Willow and Tara have been flirting and working their way into each other’s lives for about half a season. Nobody notices. Nobody. Tara even starts coming to Scooby meetings, and when Oz returns to town, Xander tells him Willow doesn’t have a guy in her life.
But okay, Xander is a social moron. One doesn’t expect Xander to be the most perceptive guy in the room.
However, Willow’s best friend and roommate Buffy does not seem to care at all that Willow is spending all her time with a new person. She doesn’t ask Willow the kind of questions Willow is asking Buffy about Riley. Okay, it doesn’t occur to her that Tara is a romantic interest, because Willow has heretofore only been interested in men (Xander and Oz.) This kind of blindness did happen in the nineties. I saw it happen to people I love. But Buffy also doesn’t seem particularly interested in the fact that her best friend is spending so much time with another “friend.” Of course, when she first meets Tara, Tara has just saved her butt, so that would tend to dispose her positively toward the woman, but suddenly there’s a new Scooby, and nobody wonders why?
It takes Oz to see it. And then Willow comes out to Buffy and Buffy freaks out a little bit. (Side note: I love the moment where Willow asks Buffy if she’s freaking, and Buffy makes a decision not to freak out. She sees that Willow is hurt by what she’s doing, and she stops. Just stops. One sees that Buffy still has some mental rotation to do on the subject, but she decides she’s not going to let that hurt Willow, and she doesn’t.) So that part isn’t bad.
One wonders for a moment if Oz’s anger is pure jealousy and anger at Willow for not telling him the truth, or if it’s tinged with homophobia. And then it’s a little unclear whether Willow makes her choice because a) she loves Tara, b) she’s realized she’s gay and whatever relationship she has with Oz in the future, it won’t be a romantic one, or c) Oz is dangerous when she’s around, and he’s leaving anyway. I think in this case, the whole first-lesbian-relationship-on-TV thing was not well-served by the format. The show works hard to draw the parallel between Werewolves and gay people. I kind of see it–it’s not Oz’s fault that he’s a Werewolf any more than it’s Tara’s fault she’s gay. But…Werewolves =/= lesbians. Just…no.
And then there’s the ending. Where Buffy’s relationship-beginning episodes end satisfyingly with a kiss, this episode ends with Tara blowing out a candle, leaving her dorm room unrealistically pitch-black.
That’s right. The show that brought us blood-sucking orgasms chickened out on a gay kiss.
Still, the whole thing let me have this parenting conversation, which I’m pretty proud of:
Kid: Why isn’t Willow telling Buffy she was hanging out with Tara?
Me: Remember I told you that your body will be sending you signals over the next few years about who you’re going to fall in love with and who you’re going to want to have sex with? And that it’s your job to listen to those signals and figure out what kind of grown-up you’re going to be? And that most people need to try out different things before they figure it all out?
Me: Well, Willow’s body is giving her some signals she wasn’t expecting, and she wants to spend some time figuring them out before she brings her friends into it. But she will when she’s ready. Does that make sense?
Kid: Yes…but Tara lied about that spell and she’s a demon or something. What’s Tara lying about?
Me: Spoilers, Sweetie!
On Wednesday, I came home from work and was forced to eat a chocolate chip scone before I even had my dinner.
On Thursday, I was instructed not to enter the kitchen at all, but to wait patiently for my dinner, which consisted of pasta with four-cheese sauce and vegetables, fruit salad, and hot chocolate and homemade cookies for dessert.
On Friday, my Kid asked to leave the water park because she wanted to go home and bake.
On Saturday afternoon, she instructed my parents to come over to the house immediately so that she could teach them to make cookies.
On Saturday evening, dinner was delayed because the Kid was in the kitchen making another batch of cookies. After dinner, the Kid complained that she is “addicted to baking.”
On Sunday, the Kid’s best friend came over to make cookies. They then made us scrambled eggs with cheese and a fruit platter for lunch. And then we ate the cookies.
Nerds do things thoroughly.
Yesterday, we went to Action Park, the NJ water park that has been made famous by videos about how dangerous it was in the 1980’s. I grew up going there every summer. My brother loved all the crazy water rides, and I enjoyed a lot of them, too. So when I heard that the place had finally re-opened under its old name, I was dying to go.
We had been talking about this trip for weeks. The Kid and I watched every video on You Tube (she likes to be prepared for things) and KPD and I were talking over memories of going to the park back in the day. Then, as we were putting on our bathing suits, KPD says, “I never liked it there much as a child.” I was flabbergasted, but he said he still wanted to go, so we went.
While we were there, he realized that the reason he hadn’t liked it was peer pressure. There are some big “rides” at Action Park (and there were even bigger ones back before law suit were common) like the Tarzan Swing and the Cliff Jump, where everybody watches you and mocks the people who wipe out. For me, this was never a problem. I was a girl, I went mostly with another friend who was similarly risk-averse, and I never had much compunction about telling people I didn’t want to do something. (Or telling people I did want to do something. My friend and I used to love the mini Cannonball ride in the kid’s section of Action Park, which was supposed to be for kids much younger than we were. We also enjoyed the ball pit.)
I knew lots of nerds who spent time at Action Park when we were kids. It was one of those places where a nerd could prove himself. While there were always plenty of bros there, and people don’t really make friends at a water park, unless they’re regulars, I suppose, on the Tarzan Swing, one is judged by one’s performance. If you can do something clever or athletic, you get cheers. If you wipe out, you are mocked. Everyone else is treated with a measure of respect for trying and succeeding. So nerds and bros could enjoy the park side by side, even in the 80’s.
For me it was always a place where I could enjoy thrill rides that were the right amount of thrilling for me. I never went on the Tarzan Swing or the Kamikaze. But I loved the basic water slides and the inner tube rides. And they had the best mini golf course I’ve ever played on. The Kid absolutely loved the place. Of course, she loves water, so she was (literally) in her element. And I think she enjoyed seeing how many different ways a person can have fun in water. Like my brother, she doesn’t like feeling out of control, so she didn’t go on any of the really high water slides, but she loved going on the Tarzan Swing and was happy to jump off a cliff once we showed her that the water was deep enough. And she positively loved the Wave Pool.
Of course, KPD and I were thinking and talking about physics and sociology all day–why this ride was scarier or more difficult or harder to ride than that ride–so I think we get to keep our nerd creed. I, for one, can’t wait to go back next year.
A woman has been arrested for letting her daughter play alone in a park. Her 9-year-old daughter.
I can only assume that I haven’t been arrested yet because when grilled by a stranger about where her mother was, my daughter replied, “at home.” Or, you know, maybe it’s because I’m white and middle-class.
The Kid has been playing outside unsupervised since she was five or six. Sometimes with a friend, and sometimes alone. She runs errands alone sometimes. We’re negotiating to let her do more things and go farther from home on her own all the time. She’s ten. It’s part of growing up.
I’m a big believer in Free-Range Kids. There are things one can only learn by being out in the world alone. Big things, like self-reliance, and little things, too, like what goes on inside your own head. A kid should have her own, private world of imagination. A tree is a secret hideout. A rock is a throne. A shady place is where the dryads live. Whatever it is, it’s hers, and hers alone. And the only way to develop a private map of your neighborhood is to be alone in it.
We worry that kids today aren’t assertive enough. That they can’t solve problems. That they bore easily and have no attention span. You know the solution to all of these things? Get out of their way and let them do things on their own. Nobody even walks to school alone anymore. How do we expect kids to succeed in college and in life if they can’t even walk to and from school unsupervised?
I’m not saying to abdicate responsibility. Teach them about stranger danger. Game out things that could (reasonably) go wrong and what they’ll do. But if a kid can’t spend the day in a park alone, what do we expect that kid to do when she grows up? How will she fend for herself in the world if she can’t even pass a day without constant supervision?
UPDATE 7/17/14: You should also read this post by Kadija about the importance of risky play.
I’ve invented an inspirational saying:
What would Worf do?
When your Kid wants to do less than her best.
When you want to back away from a fight.
When your husband is less than thoroughly dedicated.
When you consider doing something that is not honorable.
Just ask yourself…
What would Worf do?
Somebody make me a necklace.
Yesterday my parents visited and the Kid took them outside for fighting lessons. She taught them fencing, quarterstaff, and archery. They used wooden weapons–souvenir daggers from the Renaissance Faire and Medieval Times, a big stick, and a bow that KPD made for her a while ago.
Being an athlete, Kid is pretty good at learning athletic skills. And being a nerd, she’s had a lot of exposure to battle scenes. So she did a great job teaching my parents to spin the staff and whack swords against one another.
In the game they were playing, Kid was the teacher and she was preparing my parents for battle against some imaginary enemies of her own invention. She’s been battling the same group of bad-guys since kindergarten, if I remember correctly. So I can’t claim a direct line from Star Trek or Buffy or the Renaissance Faire. But she’s been working on her fighting skills for years, too, and I love that there is some authenticity when she pretends to fight.
I love that this is how the Kid chooses to spend her free time. She’s out there finding good training ground, and coming up with lesson plans, and planning a “talent show” so that KPD and I can see what my parents have learned. She is a kind teacher who makes sure that her students feel good about what they have done. She encourages and challenges them to move to the next level. In all these ways, she’s playing out her own experiences in school and in practice, she’s exploring what it means to be in charge, to be responsible for others, and to fight against danger. There is so much going on in this kind of play, and I’m glad that she has the time and space to explore these things.
Of course, physically she’s working on balance and hand-eye coordination and strength and agility. And of course, she’s out there burning calories and using her brain. But she could work on most of those things at soccer practice or tennis lessons, too. What she can’t learn any other way is how her own brain works, what to do when there’s nothing to do, how to solve problems, and how to work with others. She’s also working on time management and negotiation when I tell her that dinner will be ready in 20 minutes and she asks if there can be a talent show after dinner.
I guess my point here is that while it’s important to expose your kids to good source material, it’s also important to let them run with it a bit, in whatever way works for them, but in an unstructured way. It lets them build their imaginations, sense of self, and internal resources.
The Kid just decided she felt like watching Toy Story 3. And then she decided she’d watch it upstairs by herself because she knows it makes me sad. Somehow this makes me feel like I’ve succeeded as a parent.