I am a huge Hamilton fan! Seeing the show on Broadway in 2017 is a life experience I will never forget. Watching it on Disney+ last night was fantastic, and I can’t wait to watch it again (maybe every day, don’t judge).
I know lots of families are watching the show with their children this weekend. The show contains quite a bit of adult content and provides great opportunities to have conversations with your kids about sex/relationships. Of course, it packs in other opportunities for heavy hitting conversations about death, legacy, women’s roles in society, race, slavery, immigration, and the founding of our country. We will focus on sex and relationships in this post.
It struck me in re-watching the show last night that kids might be left wondering about a few things related to sex and relationships. We use the framework “Readiness. Facts. Honesty” to provide some ideas for using the show to open up a conversation.
For all of these questions, a child’s readiness will vary based on age, experience, and exposure. We recommend staying firm with facts and honesty, regardless of a child’s readiness. Rather, adjust the depth of your answer (i.e. a tomcat could just be a male cat or a male cat that is sexually prolific).
Questions kids might have after watching Hamilton:
What is a tomcat? What is a whore?
Facts: The word tomcat means a male cat that has reached sexual maturity.
Similarly, the word whore originally meant a woman who sold sex.
You can start with those definitions and then ask kids, “What do you think they meant in the musical when they called Alexander Hamilton a tomcat or his mother a whore?” If your kids aren’t able to make the connection, you can say, while the term originally referred to a cat, it is used to talk about men who have sex with a lot of other people. The word whore has become a mean way to say a woman has too much sex or is acting too sexy.
Honesty: This is a great opportunity to talk about your family’s values around calling people names related to how much or how little sex they have. It can also open up conversations about having sex outside of a relationship – how much, with whom, under what circumstances. Here are a few conversation starters (comments and questions) that vary based on different values we have heard families express:
· In our family, we don’t call men or women names based on how much or how little sex they have. Today, women often get made fun of when someone believes they have too much sex or are too sexual by calling them mean names like whore or slut.
· We believe sex should be shared between people who (insert your value: are married/are in love/respect each other/both want to have sex/etc.).
· When do you think someone should have sex?
We try not to insert our personal values when we empower parents to talk to their kids about sex. We believe it is important for families to insert their own values into the discussion, but I just have to say, I hate the words slut and whore. I used those words a lot in high school, even as a term of endearment towards my friends. Ugh. I wish we could erase them from our vocabulary, but they exist and Hamilton won’t be the only place kids will hear them.
Who is the woman in the red dress?
Alexander Hamilton has an affair with the woman in the red dress.
Facts: Answers will vary based on readiness. Here is a range of things that might help you consider how you would want to address that question:
· The woman in the red dress was someone Hamilton had a relationship with who was not his wife.
· Hamilton had sex with the woman in the red dress, even though they were both married to someone else. Sometimes we call having sex with someone who is not your spouse an affair or cheating.
· Hamilton had an affair with the woman in the red dress. Do you think there was any symbolism to her wearing a red dress?
Honesty: This is a great time to talk about your family’s values related to fidelity, trust, honesty, and honoring commitments. All relationships (friendships, traditional marriage, and more open relationships) rely on commitments made to maintain trust. You can ask, “How do you think that made Eliza feel when Hamilton had a relationship with another woman?” You can try to relate it to something your children have experienced, “How did you feel when Cayden said he was going to come play at your house after school, but went over to Ethan’s house instead?”
What does the word ‘bastard’ mean?
Facts: In the show, they refer to Hamilton as a bastard orphan multiple times. The word bastard means a child born to unmarried parents. In modern times, the term has been used more loosely as a mean thing to call someone.
Honesty: This is a great time to talk about how families look different. Some kids have parents who are married, who were married but are not anymore, and who never married. You can talk about your values related to families and showing everyone love, even if their families look different.
Bonus: What is the deal with all of these love letters?
Ummm, love letters were these things that people wrote with a pen and paper before texting and email. It’s like a long form meme/gif.
I will end there before we get too in depth, but there are tons of opportunities to talk about women’s role in society, and how marriage and women’s roles in marriage has evolved. For example, I love this line from the song “The Schuyler Sisters”: And when I meet Thomas Jefferson. I’m ‘a compel him to include women in the sequel! WORK!
Hamilton provides a great opportunity to open a dialogue with your children, to share your values, and to hear your kids think through their own values. Don’t miss the chance to strengthen your relationship and firm up your place as their go-to person for tough conversations. As Hamilton says in the musical, “if you stand for nothing, what’ll you fall for?” If your kids don’t know what you stand for related to sex and relationships, and more importantly, if they don’t know what they stand for, what will they fall for?