I confess, I’m a bit of a redneck. I like rodeos, car racing and even demolition derbies, and now, I’m also a Supercross fan. I hadn’t been to a Supercross motorcycle race until just a few weeks ago, but it was a big WOW. The dirt bikes, high-powered enough to damage your hearing even up in Row 20, went off jumps as though from a slingshot, sometimes sailing 40 feet into the sky. And I probably shouldn’t even say how much I enjoyed the pyrotechnics: head-splitting explosions, giant balls of fire, and big black mushroom clouds.
But until that evening Supercross was way outside my purview; we got our tickets courtesy of a favorite babysitter we hired frequently when our kids were little and still call upon from time to time. My first clue as to how little I knew about Supercross was when the babysitter called the day before the race and asked if I could bring a cake.
“Happy to,” I answered, utterly mystified. But it turned out cake was not for the race, but for the mandatory three hours of tail-gating in the parking lot before the race. And here’s where things got interesting, because the assortment of people who attended our tailgating party, or just stumbled over from their own RV to horn-in on our tail-gaiting party, were . . . um . . . colorful.
They were drinking like fish, and most of them had cigarettes dangling from their fingers or lips, and many of them were indiscriminate in their use of terms beginning with S, D, and yes … F. To wit:
“That’s a [expletive] good cake, did you make it? Oh [expletive] — are those your kids? — sorry.”
“That’s okay,” I said, though my protective side wanted to take Belle and Joe and run away. Knowing that might be perceived as rude, I just smiled and tried to hold up my squeaky-clean end of the conversation, hoping that my failure to use terms beginning with S, D, and F would not itself be perceived as rude.
I know many parents might think I was derelict in my duties as a mom to have let my children keep company, even for three hours, with a crowd whose conduct was so different than what we have always told our children is best.
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But I certainly hope Belle and Joe can have gentle manners and healthy habits despite the very visible fact that many people in the world do not. I believe they’re smart enough to know the difference between what they might witness and what they should do. Sure, go ahead and watch Wiley Coyote strap a nuclear missile to his back. Doesn’t mean we do it, too.
Besides, there are people we like, people we admire, and people we can learn from who do not always make personal choices we would emulate. It doesn’t make us superior, nor does it mean we toss out our own principles just because we are exposed to people who choose differently.
In fact, if your own standards mean so little that you abandon them the moment you encounter someone who doesn’t share them, then you might as well not have them to begin with, right? My husband and I try to set the right example, and we’ve told Belle and Joe the reasons why we believe as we do, but we also know that ultimately it’s up to them. That they have to make up their own minds about how they’ll go through life. And I suppose, as they sort out their options, that the bad examples might prove to be just as instructive as the good ones.
In the end both kids had a lot of fun at the tail-gating party and didn’t seem bothered by the smoking, the drinking, or the swearing. Don’t get me wrong; they noticed it, and we talked about it later. But they kept it in perspective. And in the two weeks since, I haven’t heard either of them use the S, D, or, heaven help us, F-word once.
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