They say, “Do what you love, and love what you do.”
I have always been a believer of that concept. It’s been my marching order, a goal to work toward. It’s a quality I hope to instill in my son.
As a new parent, I’ve often found myself thinking about my son’s future employment, his every newly discovered skill serving as a jumping-off point for my fantasy. When he first rolled over, I thought he might become a gymnast. When he became infatuated with eating twigs, I knew he’d become a conservationist. And when he erased all the apps from my phone, it became unmistakably evident that this little savant was the next Steve Jobs. As his mother, I have made the unwavering commitment to support and encourage any activity he falls in love with and lead him toward a career of doing what he loves with steadfast dedication. A commitment I may regret.
My baby boy wants to be a stripper.
Early Saturday morning, my son and I were watching reruns of a show I used to watch during my childhood. The commercials aired were for weight-loss pills and diet shakes, clearly aimed at moms like me, nostalgic for our own childhoods, sitting on the couch, crying into cereal bowls precariously balancing on the baby-weight bulge we have yet to lose. Or so hope the folks behind these commercials.
Attempting to play into our postpartum psyche, a commercial popped up for pole dancing lessons, an opportunity to get our sexy back. And it was at this point that my 21-month-old son scooted his bottom off the couch, walked over to the TV and stared at the gyrating woman in her underwear.
The stripper slid off her pole and began scantily cat crawling across the floor, and that is how my son came to find his newest obsession: the striptease. Following the stripper’s every move, my son got down on all fours, arched his back and flipped his hair back and forth. I was both horrified and disappointed that I didn’t have my camera.
The 30-second commercial ended, but my son was hooked.
He would toss his hair and laugh. Shake his booty and giggle. Sure, this move wasn’t entirely new. My kid would occasionally head-bang on all fours when a particularly rockin’ song came on, but now that he had seen stripping as a viable career option, his dance moves seemed tainted. Now every time he took off his clothes and ran around the house, it was as if he were screaming, “Hey, Ma, I found my calling! And I found $1 bills in my diaper!”
My son the stripper. Where had I gone wrong? He was going to be a conservationist, not a cast member in “Thunder From Down Under”! Did I dress him in too many layers during the winter months, giving a subconscious need to rip them all off? In my excitement to give him his toy fire station, had I neglected to assess the irrevocable damage caused by the shiny pole in the center?
I wondered whether I would have to stick to my previous commitment of supporting my son in any life path he chooses. In order to be a good mother, would I have to bedazzle G-strings and hem pants that can be ripped off?
The concept behind doing what you love and loving what you do is rooted in the desire for happiness — the only thing we parents tout as our desire for our children. But is that real? I don’t only want happiness for my child; I want a million things. I want for him education and adventure and love and self-confidence and courage and humor and comfort in his own skin. And if showing off that skin is what makes him happy, I hope I can lead him in the direction of streaking on the football field during the homecoming game instead of streaking for a living and guide him toward following the career path of a different love.
And, my boy, when you are college-bound and choose to relive your first childhood love by mooning the parents at your high-school graduation, I promise to applaud that bare bum, bragging that I made those cheeks. Now that’s a commitment I can keep.
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