They all start like simple, innocent days, uncomplicated, routine. And then BAM – your 13-yr-old is discussing her sexuality in the kitchen while you’re cooking, and you have to use your brain. Parenting: The most interesting roller coaster you’ll never get off of. It’s not just the unexpected plunges, drops, and loops that really get you, either – it’s the sarcasm.
As evidence of this point, I present a conversation that took place the other day among The Reigning Queen of Pink, Number One Son, and myself. It should be noted that at 13 years old, the RQOP does not so much question her sexuality as interrogate it. I wouldn’t put her past waterboarding. (It should also be noted that the below is transcribed with her express permission.)
RQOP: “In gym today I was talking to my friend E_, who really goes by L_ but I already know someone called L_ so I call her E_, and we were all talking about our sexuality and I mentioned that I was probably bisexual but hadn’t really decided yet and E_ is bisexual and she told me that she wished that someone had told her this when she was thinking about her own sexuality and so she would tell me that if I ever wanted someone to talk to about it, I could talk to her, and I thought that was very nice of her so I gave her a hug.”
(Note: E_ is *also* 13 years old.)
BUMD: “That’s very nice of her, and it’s great that you can talk about these things with your friends. While I think you know that you can also always talk about anything like that to me and Mom….”
RQOP, interrupting: “Oh yes of course, that’s the best thing about you guys is that you don’t care about anything!”
(Note: It’s possible that this side effect of our admittedly liberal and somewhat laissez faire parenting style was not exactly the impression we were aiming for.)
BUMD: “Well, it’s not so much that we don’t care, as that however you grow up won’t affect how we love you or treat you or anything like that.”
RQOP: “Yes, I know that’s what I meant – you don’t care about THAT.”
BUMD: “Right. OK, but what I wanted to say is that it while you can always talk to me about that kind of thing, it’s possible that I might lack the some of the perspective your friend might have. I know it’s hard to believe, but I actually haven’t ever been a Bisexual Teen-aged Woman. So it’s nice that you might have someone like E_ with whom you can talk things out, or … ”
RQOP, to Number One Son who was standing near: “HOLY SHIT! Did you hear that? Dad just admitted he’s not omniscient!”
NOS: “Holy shit. Need to write this down.”
Now as every parent knows, The Assumption of Parental Omniscience (TAPO)™ is as important to successfully parenting kids over the course of 20 or 30 or 80 years as The Assumption of Papal Infallibility is to successfully managing a church for 2000ish years. I certainly wasn’t going to let go of my TAPO™ without a fight. The church didn’t forgive Galileo Galilei for thinking outside the box for close to 400 years; I figured there was historical precedent. Besides, it’s an election year.
BUMD, in my best Richard Nixon voice: “I said no such thing, I made no such admission! My omniscience is not to be questioned. What I lack is a certain perspective. Being omniscient, I know everything, but I may not always perceive every point of view. I lack onmi-perspective-ed-ness-ish. I lack omniperispactity. I lack… I lack a word for what I’m saying. What the hell word means that?”
NOS: “Omniperspectieieieie…. Yeah.”
RQOP: “Omperspec… Yeah.”
We eventually settled on Panopticonalism, which is certainly close enough even if it doesn’t have that omniwonderful prefix that 266 popes and I have found so useful. Having distracted the children down my lexicographical rabbit hole, I was able to exit the conversation with my TAPO™ intact. Dinner was served, and my roller coaster flattened back out onto one of the smoother sides of the track for a while.
Perspective, perschmective. At least I still have my TAPO!™