Long time readers are painfully aware of Parenting by Benign Neglect, my preferred parenting style and one which I have advocated for over the years of blogging.
Come to think of it, I advocated it before I started blogging, I just hadn't dubbed it with its clever title. You know those scaredy cat moms, hovering too closely to their children, constantly reminding them in public places like parks to "stay where I can see you....?" Well, I was the mom rolling her eyes and saying annoying things like "Look, if someone had the poor judgment to kidnap my kids they'd either kill them or return them quickly. I harbor no illusions about how annoying my kids are."
Hovering moms don't cotton much to that kind of talk, I can assure you. Death and kids are not something to joke about around these mommies.
That sounds so condescending, doesn't it? Well, hard cheese. Death is part of life. There's no escaping it and if I can't laugh about that which scares me most, I may as well just wall myself in somewhere with my kids so we can be secure for the rest of our safe, but miserable lives.
I'm reminded of this because last night was the zenith of parental pride and the nadir of parental, um.......dang, I can't even think of a word for it. And it isn't often that I'm rendered speechless. You'll see later what left me so....speechless.
Last night was another proud parent moment. The Dancer's high school had their honors night. Two hours of awards and recognition for the students who really are getting out of it what they put into it. It was really something.
I watched The Dancer being draped with the graduation bling that is now all the rage, and felt such pride. I took blurry pictures and monkeycam video and sent gushing texts to MathMan who was having his own proud parent moments with The Actor on the baseball field. (Unassisted double play for The Actor, oh yeah!)
Sitting for long stretches of time with little to entertain me besides my own evil thoughts and urges , I considered how I would map out the day that was coming to a close. How would I draw it?
Yesterday was a long one. First there was a drive to the north Georgia mountains for meetings to plan a meeting. You heard me. Then there was the nauseating Mexican food-fueled drive through the mountains (I was not the one who ended up sick so shut up, CoP and Darling Sis. No one wants to hear how I ruined the 1976 trip to Cape Canaveral because I was carsick and threw up behind some bush behind a Birmingham McDonalds.). Finally, MathMan and I arrived home from work to find that someone had redecorated the kitchen with barbecue sauce, someone's backpack appeared to have exploded leaving a blizzard of papers all over the living room, and someone left something that resembled a White Castle Cheeseburger sat forlornly and moldering in the microwave, probably forgotten during some heated battle over the television remote. A couple of someones needed a good beating.
I remember the days when one was required to get up to change the television channel. In my childhood home, we had our own things to fight over - a certain spot on the sofa - and a system for dealing with potential conflict. "Saving a seat" was our method for marking territory and solving problems before they started. It worked thus: If you were so lucky to have snagged the best seat in the family room (it was the left end cushion on the sofa as you faced the telly), you were required to call it "saved" as you stood, otherwise that prime spot of t.v. viewing real estate became fair game.
The Spawn are less into the Aylesborough Rules of Sibling Conduct Management required to maintain the civilized "saving" procedures that could, I admit, become rather complicated and burdensome at times. No, The Spawn are action-oriented probably due in large part to their expectations of instant gratification. They live in a different world than the one in which we were kids. My siblings and I would have established a blue ribbon panel to investigate a breach of contract or conducted a trial by peer jury. The Spawn resort immediately to brute force, harsh words and, in a real pinch, shouting for the aid of The Mother. This is, typically, a very bad move.
Now I'm not saying my siblings and I were the perfect little poppets of politeness. Please. We were far from it. However, we did develop and live by those saving rules and by the "calling" of Front Seat by the Door when it was just us kids getting into the car with a parent. Front Seat by the Door was another piece of prime real estate. The person sitting there often got to control the radio.
Anyway, after the last round of polite applause, I was glad to collect The Dancer and Garbo and get into The Dancer's car to go home. Garbo rode in the back. The conversation turned to family matters once more.
Now would you look at how I've rambled.....
The girls expressed some disgust at how much of a seventh grade boy The Actor is lately. I was very dismissive of their attitude. He's a guy, so what? Not satisfied with my response, they pressed on. He scratches his balls! He jokes with his friends about masturbation! He's nasty and gross and ick!
"I'm sure he has cooties, too," I added unhelpfully.
Predictably, they turned on me. First The Dancer made sounds in the back of her throat that resembled wordless admonishments. I'm fully aware that although she enjoys the fruits and freedoms of Parenting by Benign Neglect, she would prefer that MathMan and I rule with more of an iron fist when it comes to her siblings. The nerve.
Then Garbo, who has reached the age of curiosity, chimed in. Not one to miss a chance to humiliate a sibling, she turned her razor sharp wit on her sister. "Did mommy tell you what I thought you should put in the goody bags for your birthday party last week?" she asked sweetly.
Now I should pause here to point out that what she is about to say is completely incongruent with still feeling comfortable referring to me as "mommy." But whatever. They're human. Inconsistency is to be expected.
The Dancer's throaty noises got louder and more vigorous. She pretended to be concentrating on the road. Garbo continued, "I thought you should have condoms and birth control pills......"
The Dancer shot her a look in the rear view mirror. "Poo poo," she smiled up at her sister in the backseat, using her favorite term of endearment for Garbo, "where do you get such ideas. That's soooooooo ......... uh.... inappropriate."
And then she looked at me pointedly, cheeks sucked in, eyebrows way up on her forehead. Mouth small and pinched.
Garbo didn't miss a beat. The little rat. "Mommy. She said something else to put in the goody bags, but I can't remember what it was. She said it when we were joking around about it the other day. Mommy, what was it?"
Oh, I see how it was going to be. I was being dragged in for sure. I resisted by mumbling my response.
The Dancer leaned toward me. "What was that? You were joking about goody bags and you said what should be in there?"
The Dancer snapped to attention, a scowl on her face. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She took a deep breath and then laughed. "You're sick mom. Edible underwear I can understand, but lubricant?"
I'd like to end it right here, but, well, Garbo wasn't done with me. "I have a question now for you, Mother," came the command from the backseat. Mother? Now I'm mother? The transition from mommy to mother is chilling.
"I reserve the right to not answer. I may plead the Fifth, but go ahead."
"Did you ever have sex with anyone but Daddy?"
I gasped. "Poo! Poo!" The Dancer shrieked. "That's none of your business!"
"I'm not going to answer that question," I finally managed. For goodness sake, I've really not got this boundaries thing sorted out, I thought at I rubbed my temples with my fingertips......
The Dancer was still aghast. "Garbo, that's wrong. Mom's sex life has nothing to do with you. In fact, we should all just assume that she never has had, does not have and will never have a sex life!" she warned.
But her little sister was relentless. "It does concern us. I mean, we know she's had sex three times, but I was just wondering if she'd had sex before that......"
Ah, and there it was. My out. "Nope. Just those three times with Daddy. That's it. Ever. Now let's drop it. You've crossed a line, my dear."
Garbo sighed. I could tell she wasn't completely satisfied with my answer. "Well then, someone is lying to me," she intoned. "Because I heard on the school bus that you don't get pregnant every time you have sex......"
The Dancer glanced into her rear view mirror again and then looked at me. We were thinking the same thing. Of that, I am certain. It's time to clear up some fourth grade sex-talk fallacies.
Some things cannot be neglected. No matter how benignly...............