One of the difficult things lessons of parenting adolescents is that they still need you in the background of their lives but the moment you take up some space in the foreground, you become anathema, and sooo embarrassing.
This is one of the reasons I missed out on the Rokia Traore concert a couple of weeks ago. Rokia Traore is a singer from Mali who was in Australia for the WOMAD festival in Adelaide. I hadn’t quite got to the point of organising to go see her, when AM got an invitation. A (mixed) friend of his, whose father is a musician, had free tickets to Traore’s only Sydney concert and was inviting his four best friends to come with him, as a way of celebrating his 14th birthday. So I decided I wouldn’t go to it myself. I didn’t want to jeopardise AM’s fun – perhaps by dancing in public. Anyway, the idea of a quiet night in without him was pretty attractive.
Now as it happens, AM is going through an anti-African phase at the moment. His bad memories of our trip to Ghana have completely over-ridden the good memories and he shudders theatrically whenever anyone mentions the country or even the continent. Whenever I talk about this to (usually white) parents of younger mixed race children they get very, very worried. Many of us have put a lot of time and effort into trying to connect our children with Africa, so they don’t want to imagine it all evaporating after their child turns 12. I am less worried. A friend of mine with a son in his late teens went through a similar experience but her son now appears to have ‘come out the other side’ and is again prepared to contemplate, and perhaps even appreciate, his African heritage and connections. So I’m hoping AM will be the same. But yes, I still worry too.
So it was in this context that AM got invited to the concert and I held my breath – wondering if he would turn down the invitation when he realised Traore was (shudder) African. But the allure of going out on a school night with friends proved far stronger than his aversion to all things African. It also – to my relief – proved stronger than his prejudice against all music that is not Eminem.
And off he went. And I’m told he enjoyed it. True, the other boys all jumped around yelling right in front of the stage, whereas AM sat quietly in his seat and just tapped his foot. True, he didn’t come home raving about it. But he didn’t come home groaning about it either, and said it was “ok” when asked – which from an adolescent Australian male is high praise, really. So perhaps there is hope. Hope that AM will rediscover a wider world of music than Eminem, and hope that he will remember that Africa really isn’t all bad.