Sunday, February 7, 2010

Adventures in Real Parenting: Perhaps Silence

Vignette #1

The setting: Dialogue from South Park is on in the background...Sophia is in the living room, I'm in the kitchen testing out a new recipe.

Guy with goofy voice #1: So we just watched each other masturbate. That doesn't make us gay, right?
Guy with goofy voice #2: No. We're not gay. It's just some innocent experimentation.
Guy #1: So nothing has changed between us, right?
Guy #2: Right.

Me: Doesn't this embarrass you?
Sophia: Nah, this is just stupid stuff.
Me: I would have died if this stuff was on with my parents around. Heck, I'd still die if I had to watch this with Grandma or Grandpa around.
Sophia: That's because they are your mom and dad.
Me: But why doesn't it bother you around me.
The look she gave me might be described as incredulous. "Um, because it's you? I don't know. Now be quiet, I like this part."

I need to work on my pursed lips and bugged eyes, I guess. I mean, I wanted to die when a minipad commercial came on the air when I was watching t.v. with my dad. And he was perfectly happy to pretend I didn't have girl parts or a period. To this day, I'm quite confident that he thinks my three kids are freaks of nature, created by some act of Monsanto genetic engineering or something. Who knows what he carried in on his clothes from the Monsanto plant he worked at for thirty plus years?

And it was no more fun when those commercials came on when my mom was in the room. With the utmost delicacy, she would pull the pursed lips, bugged eyes thing and, occasionally, wonder aloud if anyone in the house needed any of those "things." There were words for those things, but she wasn't about to use them.

One just hoped that she'd not forget that there was a boyfriend in the room, too, when she blurted out such a question.
Vignette #2
"So how was your day?" He took a large bite of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he'd just made.

I looked at the crumbs on the counter and stifled a sigh. They were just crumbs, after all. "Fine. I wrote some. I read some."

He chewed and nodded. I could hear him swallow. He started to take another bite and stopped. "I found a book at school that doesn't bore me."

"That's excellent. Did you bring it home?" I reached for the washcloth that hung over the sink and turned on the water, waiting for it to warm. The water always took such a long time to warm in this house.

"It's in my bookbag. It's a suspense. Kind of." He took another large bite and with it, his sandwich was gone.

"Cool. I'm so glad you're finally finding things to read. I love to read. I didn't realize how much I'd missed reading for pleasure." I wiped the counter, sweeping the crumbs into my hand. A sigh escaped my lips. A glob of strawberry jelly was hanging precariously from one of the drawer pulls. I thought about asking him to be more careful, but stopped. Maybe it would be nice to just have a conversation without it turning into me nagging, him denying any responsibility. Sometimes I got very weary of the need to parent and teach, just I'm sure he got tired of the constant correction.

"So what are you reading now?" He was standing in front of the open refrigerator. I remembered my own days of coming home from school, being ravenous, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for myself and my brother so we could eat them as we watched Popeye cartoons and The Flintstones.

"It's a book about the girl who inspired the story Alice in Wonderland."


"Historical fiction. I haven't read many books like it, but it's good." I rinsed out the washcloth and hung it back up in its spot. "Don't keep the fridge open too long, okay?"

"So what's the book about?" He grabbed a yogurt and shut the refrigerator door. He peered at the lid to check the date.

"I told you. It's about the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland. It's about her life, her relationship or rather her friendship with Lewis Carroll, the author, and about her life when she gets older."

"Oh. Did we ever read Alice in Wonderland? I don't think so."

"You know, I don't think we did. I don't remember reading it all the way through. It's one of the books you just know the whole story, more or less, but I don't think I ever really read it." I shrugged. It was true. I recognized the characters, had seen the Disneyfied version at some point, understood the cultural references, but I'd never actually read the book.

"So there really was an Alice?" I was surprised that he was taking an interest. The older he got, the more I worried that we'd have fewer of these conversations. My worrying was for naught. We were both talkers. Hopefully, we'd never stop having conversations - no matter how shallow or deep they might be.

I watched as he stirred the yogurt with a spoon. "There was. She was one of the daughters of the Dean of Oxford. Her name was Alice Liddell. And Lewis Carroll, the guy who wrote the story, was actually a professor named Mr. Dodgson."

He spooned some yogurt into his mouth and thought for a second. "So Alice wasn't his daughter, but he was friends with her? How old was she? How old was he?"

"Yeah, it was a little strange. Turns out, Lewis Carroll was a bit of a pedophile. A lovable pedophile, but a pedophile nonetheless. He liked to take pictures of little girls."

His eyebrows shot up onto his forehead. "That's just gross." He pointed his spoon at me.

"I know. Parts of the book are a bit creepy to read."

"Yeah, you wanna know what's creepy? Hearing your mom say lovable pedophile. That's creepy."

"Point taken. Want to talk about something else?"

"Nah," he dropped the empty yogurt container into the recycling and tossed the spoon into the sink. "Let's watch South Park."


  1. Yay, a post! And a good one (duh) to boot!

  2. There is not a translation from your childhood or mine to our children's. Good for them, I think.

  3. Hey, at least South Park doesn't use that hideous slang term for 'vagina' that I refuse to use.

    They sound like they're turning out well. Good for you!

  4. I have to stifle my mouth at times when I talk to my kids. They are all adults, so no need for me to keep "teaching" them, right? Well, easier said than done.

    The fact that your kids are comfortable talking to you speaks volumes about your parenting style (especially in contrast to your own parents), and I personally think you should be very proud of yourself. No need for them to feel they can't talk to you about touchy subjects. I loved reading the exchanges between you. Good job, mama.

  5. As I suspected, you're back sooner rather than later. Good to see you in fine form.

    I cannot imagine having either of those conversations with my mother. But I think your relationship with your kids is healthier than ours was with our parents.

  6. I remember sitting at the dinner table one night trying to be subtle about telling my mother how one of the girls in my class started her period during a long bus trip that day. She said, 'It's alright to talk about it clearly. Your father knows all about those things'. Sloowly I turned to look at my dad who was making a valiant but failed effort not to grin as he sliced his roast beef.

    Your stories are as cool as ever and you guys do parenting well.

  7. I am afraid of those years to come (in a way).

    Just this weekend, I got a glimpse of this in my 5 year old... we finally got Rockband (thank you very much for the advice) and she loves to sing "We Got The Beat" and some other girl band songs.

    But, after I downloaded "The Joker" and me mastering the drum portion by practicing it three or four times, Naomi wanted to sing it.

    Let me tell you, to hear my 5 year old sing, "I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker" really shows me that I am setting her up for potentially hard times.

    Like father, like daughter.

  8. Great post, and love the insight into your relationships with your kids.

    My parents were like yours about these personal matters. Apparently my mom never even told my father I got my period because when I was about 17 he told me not to take the vitamins with iron because, "uh, girls don't need that much iron unless, they've, uh, become a woman." I looked at him in disbelief and said, "Dad, I 'became a woman' about 3 years ago!" and my father was mad at my mother for not telling him!

  9. Wow. That could have been a conversation with my older son. Substitute a bagel for the p&b sandwich and it's him.

    South Park, Family Guy and a host of irreverent websites.

    And the not nagging about the 15 glsses and plates left where they lay. How do I not nag?


    Every now and then we have one of those vignettes

  10. Reading? Great! SouthPark? Funny! I was a girl version of one of the South Park kids: foul mouthed and selling the facts of life for a nickel. So I completely love South Park. And how did you modify the noun pedophile? I think your son has a point. I'd have raised my eyebrow at you too, and might have pursed my lips and bugged my eyes.

    So how's the writing going?

  11. With us, there was a turning point (as usual) with a musical. We got the Broadway soundtrack to Rent for daughter sometime in her early teen years. She really enjoyed it, but was cautious about listening to it around us. The first time I heard "La Vie Boheme," I just smiled at her and said, "Do you think that any of that is news to me?!"

    Our relatively open conversation (compared to the conversations I had with my mother) got far more open after that.

  12. I think I turned fifty shades of red one time when my boyfriend was visiting and we were all watching television in the living room when a Tampax commercial came on. I wanted to sink into the floor right then and there.

  13. hi lisa, it's good to hear from you again;)

    things have changed drastically and for the better from my pov, at least when it comes to honesty and openness...

    this was a sweet post and i am glad you and your son have such a good relationship, even tho he is at that horrible age..... one day, he will turn out to be wonderful and you will be thrilled you've got him and in the meantime, well... i have no choice words, so sorry, my dear....

    hoping you are enjoying life♥

  14. Number one proves why one should never hang out with their children. Duh.

    Number two means I'm glad I always pretend Alice is some hot twenty-something into Tchaikovsky so the phrase 'lovable pedophile' won't be resonating the next time I read that book. Whew.

  15. Alice and South Park. That's not a juxtaposition I'd have come up with, even by accident. But isn't it odd how apt it is in some ways...

    The openness is a major mark of your success, I think. With or without any nagging... Someday they turn a corner and the nagging is no longer necessary (if it ever really was). In the meantime, the nagging is probably something you need - to blow off steam so the relationships can stay open. It's a sound you have to make.


And then you say....

(Comments submitted four or more days after a post is published won't appear immediately. They go into comment moderation to cut down on spam.)