Picture the scene. Or don’t picture it. That’s not actually a requirement here. But the scene is me and my 8-year-old son, working on a jigsaw puzzle while the 7-year-old watches Monday Night Raw nearby. Well, he’s partly watching the show and partly engaged with his tablet, building a roller coaster empire. Say what you want about screen time, I honestly do not know how they built Disneyland without it.
So anyway. Everyone is doing their thing and glancing up at WWE on the TV now and then when the 7-year-old says, “Hey! Mom. Mick Foley is on.”
For those of you that don’t know, meaning all of you, Mick Foley is my very favorite WWE wrestler of all time. He’s just brilliant. And funny. And unlike most of his counterparts, he seems to be in a good mood like, all the time. He never swears because he doesn’t see the need for it. He’s never been really anything like any of the other wrestlers. He was Dude Love, he had a sock puppet, to put it plainly, he IS WHAT HE IS. Period.
“Awww, look at him,” I say now, fondly. “I love that guy. And his pants are a little too short, that’s so cute. You see that?”
“Huh,” say my children. Perhaps a little less than interested.
“No, look,” I tell them. “Really. Those pants! Those pants just make me love him more.”
No one says anything right away, and I figure that will be that. You know kids. You try to throw a lesson at them and they yawn, every time. Of course the lesson here might have been a little unclear or perhaps missing altogether. I mean – occasionally it might be okay if your pants are too short? Is that my lesson? It seems weird. Really when you think about it, it’s probably no wonder they ignore me half the time.
Mick Foley starts talking on the TV screen, and I wonder if he wears his hair so big and bushy in order to hide his right ear, much of which is missing. That doesn’t seem like something he’d do, unless maybe he’s trying to protect the kids. Which would totally make sense. He’s so freaking nice.
“I know why you like Mick Foley so much,” says the 8-year-old. Quite casually.
“Oh, really?” I say, still distracted by my own musings.
“Yeah,” he says. “It’s because he’s like Prince. Obviously.”
My heart stops beating and my lungs stop breathing. Well not really. But for a moment I feel like nothing but a semi-animated corpse with a puzzle piece clutched in its hand. I stare at my kid.
“What?” I say.
“You know,” he tells me. “Like, he wears what he wants. He acts like himself. Like Prince.”
He goes back to the puzzle as if nothing unusual has happened. As if comparing these two men is something that 3rd graders do on a regular basis. As if a child understanding something a parent has told them is totally normal.
BE HOW YOU ARE. This is something I have told my kids maybe 17 million times. 14 million of those were right around the time that Prince died.
“Why do you like him so much?” they asked me, as Purple Rain played out on the TV. “He dresses like a girl.”
“Exactly,” I said. “Look at him. That’s a man who said, I don’t care what you think of me, I’m gonna be how I am and you can take it or leave it.”
“Lots of people thought he was weird. Lots of other people loved him. Because it doesn’t matter how you are, someone will always think you’re weird but someone else will think you’re the coolest thing ever. The ‘someone elses’ are your friends. You don’t need to bother with the ones who think you’re weird, you just need to be how you are, be how you are, BE HOW YOU ARE.”
And what I am pretty sure my kids heard: BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BE HOW YOU BLAH BLAH BLAH. Let’s face it. When your kids are seven and eight, you are the teacher from Charlie Brown. That’s just life but if you’re anything like me, you keep trying anyway.
And then one day, your kid notices that Mick Foley is just like Prince. Because even though all he heard was BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BE HOW YOU BLAH BLAH BLAH, he understood. He got it. It is like magic.
And then he goes on to ignore you when you say it’s bedtime, or to push his brother down the stairs, or any one of six thousand other things that go against everything you’ve ever told him. But you know that now you can never give up, because you have seen a miracle happen. And so you keep telling him about being kind and trying his hardest and taking responsibility and so on. And then you sit back for the next 12 or so years and relive that Mick Foley/Prince moment, because it’s probably the only one you’ll get until your kids are well out of college and living on their own and thinking that “take responsibility” is something they thought up all on their own.
But, you know. You take what you can get and you don’t complain, because no one likes a whiner. Which reminds me, there’s something I wanted to tell my kids.
All you parents out there, keep up the good fight. Charlie Brown might actually be listening.