Cosplay daughter and I will be going to a new convention in March: Kawakon in St. Louis.
And that has me struggling once again with the issue of safety and the M&M problem.
Cosplay daughter is a girl. A teenager- at the crossroads of protective sheltering and independence. I want her to be strong, and confident and self-reliant, to move through the world with her head up- staring down challenges and confronting danger head on. Like Chell:
But as her Mom, I also worry. A lot. (She is absolutely bad-ass in her own way- but does not, in fact, have a functional portal gun.)
After the bad man went hunting sorority girls in a misogynistic fit in California, there was a movement- #notallmen in which good men, anxious to distance themselves from the violence, sought to make sure we knew they weren’t all like that.
But the thing is, we knew. And the men and women using the counter-hashtag #yesallwomen made some excellent points. The one that always sticks with me is this tweet:
“Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned. Go ahead. Eat a handful. Not all M&Ms are poison. #YesAllWomen“
And that’s exactly it. 90ish% of all men (and all people) for that matter are wonderful. Fine. Friendly. Safe.
But some percent are not. And you can’t tell by looking at them.
So how do I confront the tension between my desire to hover protectively at conventions (oh my gosh, how LAME), and my equally strong desire to instill self-sufficiency? (and why, by the way, is the opposite of “helicopter parenting” called “no rescue parenting?” that’s terrible. I can want to not hover and smother but still be available for rescuing. Sheesh)
I don’t have a perfect answer. But I have some rules.
The manager at the last convention told me that many parents of teenagers rent the hotel room, drop the kids off on Friday and then leave- only to return on Sunday. Um. No.
On the other hand, I’ve seen and spoken to cosplay/geek parents who don’t allow their teenagers to leave their sight for the whole of the weekend. Also, no. (though more appealing than that first option).
So I’ve settled on a plan in the middle. I talk to cosplay daughter frequently about safety, about boundaries and about the importance of her sovereign right over her own body.
And then there are the rules.
Firstly– we always bring along cosplay best friend, so that she can always use the buddy system with another excellent kid who I know and trust to look out for her. Often the friend has cash flow difficulties that would normally prevent her from getting to go to conventions, but me paying for both the girls isn’t an act of charity, it’s making sure that they can be co-bodyguards. (Note: When I was a girl scout leader, I always insisted on that buddy system, even in the school itself where we had meetings. The girls chafed at this until a soldier friend came to speak to them and shared that women in the U.S. military do the same-use the buddy system while deployed- because there is safety and deterrence in numbers.)
Secondly– they have very specific rules about leaving the hotel, not ever, ever going into another hotel room, etc. They know very well that consequences would be swift and severe if I ever caught them breaking these rules. We’d leave. Immediately.
Thirdly– while of course I always stay public and circulate (I’m fond of lobby bars and lounges in the middle where I can sit and read a book and see them go by regularly)- they have to check in once an hour, at least by text- and always, always respond to my texts if I message them. This is usually not a problem. They change cosplay outfits like 5 times a day, so they appear very regularly, going past me in the lobby on the way to costume changes.
However, one time they were waiting in line for a panel, I hadn’t seen them for a while, they were talking to new friends and and didn’t respond.
I tracked them down, not to yell, but with water and a couple of bananas and did the overwhelming, annoying smothering Mom thing:
“oh sweeties, I was so worried you hadn’t eaten!!!”
humiliating (imagine eyes rolling) but point made. Hasn’t been a problem since.
Is this enough? Gosh I hope so.
But is anything ever enough?
I don’t know. Parenthood is hard.
I can’t wrap them in bubble wrap. And I know that I will not be able to hover helicopterily over them forever.
Cosplay daughter wants to go into coding and game design- a field in which she will be in a significant gender minority and where there are some serious issues about the way women are allowed to participate in the industry.
But again, I’m not going to not encourage her to follow her dreams. I’m not going to go to her first coding job with her to protect her from the mean kids. What I believe (though I am sure others will disagree) is that she needs both the confidence to confront the challenges and the knowledge that while I may not hover, I am still. always. totally. here.