Mar 22, 2011

The children, they a-grow

The lights dimmed on stage as some 15 pairs of nubile young male and female bodies began gyrating to the tune of You can leave your hat on - yes, the striptease song from the film, The Full Monty. The scene is complete with low chairs, hip thrusts, slow posterior stretches by the girls (a la Beyonce) and T-shirt-ripping-apart chest-baring by the boys. The audience is eerily quiet, no catcalls and whoops, everyone watching in stunned silence. Including me.

Don't get me wrong, I would have enjoyed this scene anywhere else in the world. But in my daughter's school, as part of a high-school annual day production? Uhh. Whack me awake already.

I don't consider myself a prude from any angle, but even I was shocked last week when The Shri Ram School presented their version of the Shakespearean rom-com As You Like It. It started harmlessly academic enough, but by the time the word 'slut' was being used in dialogues between Touchstone and Audrey (it's in the original, but even so...), I was shifting in my seat. Since the play was designed as a musical, the scene is followed by this striptease dance. By now, my cheeks had turned bright red.

And I was one of the younger parents. I can't imagine what must have gone on in the minds of the 40- and 50-somethings next to me.

I mused about it later - maybe the school figured that their senior kids are already sexual beings so may as well bring it out into the open. Maybe the school didn't know - since it was an independent theatre agency handling the production. Maybe the school did know but were so used to having the kids talk about sex and dating and sluts in school hours that they didn't realise it would be a culture shock for the poor parents to have their teenagers turning each other on in public.

I can't help comparing schools, since my younger one is in DPS RK Puram. At their annual assembly, their teacher gave them strict instructions on NOT selecting a song with the word 'baby' – "Too American". Their theme was 'spiritual teachers of India', and after the sage play, to end on a more 'happening' note, they danced (very decently) to We will rock you. Parents clapped with pride, other sections cheered, the principal gushed about what good morals and ethics our children had.

Then again, this is the same school that broke the MMS scandal of the previous decade.

Last month, my girls and I had got into a heated debate about teenage pregnancy after we watched the film Juno together (they think it's alright and that parents should support in such circumstances. I thought a pregnant Indian teen would need to be banished to another country). A few days ago, the girls deliberately shook me up with statements over the dinner table, with their friend as witness: "Mom, I'm gay." "Mom, she's dating her classmate." "Mom, I wasn't deliberately trying to show my bra strap; it was a wardrobe malfunction."

As I grow more experienced in parenting, it becomes less like parenting and more like a treacherous boot-camp, full of holes in deceptive marshes and unexpected missiles coming flying at you. You're constantly on your toes, alert for the latest ambush from above or behind. With every hit or miss comes the risk of a lifetime of pain, potential "What ifs" that can weigh on relationships for pretty much forever.

I never know how to react to things any more. Do I become like my own parents ("No conversations with or about boys until you're married"), turn a blind eye, investigate further, scream and shout, laugh and tease, go cold and serious, try emotional blackmail... What?

So far, I've been doing my best trying to be me (ahh, understanding the self, an entirely different blog post) but I only end up being slightly shocked, bemused, confused, amused, friendly and worried all at once. It seems as if I just about manage to figure out one stage of growing up when another comes crashing on my head. And the teenage years have just begun.

Sigh, let me get out the helmet. You can leave your hat on...

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