My sons are obsessed with WWE wrestling. I’m talking about the big budget, spectacle of spray-tanned men in shiny underwear and tights (not the actual sport of wrestling). For well over a year I have lived among plastic replicas of these “sports entertainers,” purchased trading cards, learned their terminology of “finishers” and know the difference between “Raw” and “Smackdown.” As my sons reenact their favorite matches, I remind them that this is all staged and scripted, not to be attempted by small children.
But last week I crossed the line from going along with a slightly unpleasant boy fascination to full-on bad parenting. My husband and I took our sons to a live WWE event, Extreme Rules at Allstate Arena.
As I sat horrified with 10,000 fans screaming, jumping, cheering and swearing, watching adults (pretend to) beat the life out of one another, I wondered what I was doing there. More importantly, I wondered what my children were doing there.
I blame my mother.*
She provided the tickets to this event, buried in my sons’ Easter baskets, which they located only after an exhaustive, wrestler-inspired basket hunt.
Like many grandmothers, she spoils my kids with love, attention and presents. Plus, she has connections with many theatres and production houses. This was really great when my sons were obsessed with The Wiggles, who we saw live, or with dinosaurs, another cool live animatronics show. I even sat bemused at Miranda Cosgrove’s concert, our first ‘tween show. But WWE wasn’t so cute.
Both my husband and dreaded going; but the boys were so excited about making signs, and seeing the superstars. They wore their favorite wrestling shirts, sweatpants and even masks. I couldn’t help getting caught up in their enthusiasm. I promised I would try to enjoy the night and just accept it for what it was.
I tried. I did. But then I saw parents in the front row lifting 2 & 3 year olds dressed like John Cena toward the ring in the form of taunting. I’m not sure if that was any more disturbing than the adults who seemed to believe all of the action was really happening. “Aww man. He made him bleed.” Possibly nothing was worse than hearing my sons take up the chant of “Cena sucks” along with thousands of others.
I sank deeper and deeper into my seat the more the crowd jumped up and roared, my sons included. I looked around the arena searching for other parents as horrified as I. I couldn’t find anyone but my husband, who looked at me and simply said, “We don’t belong here.”
So I am currently enjoying a wrestling-free week. I know better than to forbid WWE. As much as I hate it, forbidding it will only deepen my sons’ obsession. But after seeing it live and experiencing the culture first hand, I told my sons I was overloaded. We won’t be watching it for at least a week. It will take me at least that long to get over my bad-mommy guilt.
I hope that my sons’ memories of the event last a lifetime, because I have already vowed, “Never again.”
*To her credit, my mom asked me if it was OK first. She also had the sense to admit that she wasn’t willing to actually take them herself. Smart lady.