Posts tagged ‘parenting’

The Perils of Panopticonalism, and Why I Don’t Have It

11 June, 2016 | | 1 Comment

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!™

 

 

 

 

I’m not out of touch…

19 April, 2014 | | 3 Comments

I’m just 30 years out of sync.

Number One Son has been asking me to walk to the local park with him for a few days, and this morning seemed like a good time.  I brought my coffee, he brought an apple, and we got there in record time.  This works well for a morning activity, since he gets to swing as long and as high as he likes, and I get to sit quietly and watch him and the birds while I have my coffee – it’s almost like having a deck, except 3 blocks away.

Anyway, after building up a good head of steam swinging, he decided he was done with that, and came over to my bench with his phone.  “Here, you have to listen to this.  Do you know Radioactive?”

“Yes,” said I, “I know the song Radioactive.”

“Cool.”  And he played a parody of the song, set in the Portal videogame world, something about being a non-defective turret.  Or being a defective turret.  Or something.  He kept watching my face for a reaction.

“Sound familiar?”

“No.”

“Getting anything?”

“Really, no.  I’m not familiar with this.”

Big sigh.  “Daaaaad, that’s why I *asked* you if you knew the song Radioactive!”

“Son, I do know the song Radioactive.  It’s just a different song.”  Since we’re both walking around with phones, I whipped out mine to play it for him – and realized as soon as I searched for it that he’s thinking about a band called Imagine Dragons, while Dinosaur Dad is stuck in 1985 looking for The Firm.  If you’re a little more recently plugged in than I am, you probably already know it’s not a remake.

I played him mine:  “Got to concentrate / Don’t be distractive / Turn me loose tonight / ‘Cause I’m radioactive.”

He played me his:  “I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones / Enough to make my systems blow / Welcome to the new age, to the new age / Welcome to the new age, to the new age / Whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh, whoa, oh, oh, oh, I’m radioactive, radioactive.”

Welcome to the new age, indeed.  Not my thing, maybe, but not bad.  Number One Son conceded that 1985 might have rocked as well.  We leave the final analysis to you!

The Old…

 

And the New!

Chicago and Back

11 December, 2012 | | 3 Comments
Driving Into Chicago

Driving Into Chicago

Sorry about that, long week.  To resume the narrative:

So there we were in Chicago, once again in the city with the broad shoulders and the many superlative encased meats.  We got there in time for lunch, which was a pilgrimage to Gene and Jude’s Hot Dogs.  Voted “the best Hog Dog in the Nation” in more than one tally, we had to get there.  Luckily, the Very Clever Grandfather knew exactly where it was, since he used to go there when he worked in his father’s machine shop – Georges’ Screw Machines was just down the way.  Like the Dalai Lama, I always want them to make me one with everything, and they did.  Oh, yes they did.

Georges' Screw Machine Products

Georges’ Screw Machine Products

The fries go on your dog, in your bun, all over the place.  The onions, the relish, the peppers – and just a damn good hot dog.  There’s a reason these things beat out – barely – Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs.  Plus the fries were outstanding.  After satisfying our curiosities and our tastebuds, we took a detour on the trip back and drove past the machine shop.  It was sold a number of years ago, but to our surprise and delight the new owners left the old sign out in front.  Pretty cool. 

The following day dawned slowly, with a trip to lunch at the aforementioned Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs.  The line was as brisk as the wind – a little more than a half an hour wait, around the block in the cold.  By the time we made it to the front door, a glance behind us revealed that those just joining the line would wait longer than we had – always a gratifying feeling, no matter how small and shallow a person I try not to be. 

Hot Doug's Hot Dogs

Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs

Couldn’t blame them – Friday and Saturday are Duck Fat Fries day.  Speaking of duck, what did I have?  I had a “hot dog” – except that this hot dog was a duck and cognac sausage topped with foie gras.  I also had a more regular dog, but the things that guy can do with encased meats – I have to wonder if he’s actually stolen the elder wand.  No – with the fries done in duck fat, I’m sure he’s stolen the elder wand, because those are magic.

Following our excursion of gustatory delights, we wended and wobbled our way to our friends’ Myke and Marcy’s house, where we were met with warmth, joy, love, and also tequila.  The Human Tape Recorder is close with their older daughter, while the Reigning Queen of Pink is close with their younger.  Number One Son decided to remain close to his iPad on the couch – until he came up to find me and Myke, and discovered that my friend has a keyboard and monitor setup that most hard-core geeks only dream of.  The four monitors in a square on a pole impressed him – that he could mouse through them all at once impressed him.  That one of them was an Apple and the others were WIntel impressed me – I’m still not sure how he managed that bit of magic.  Then he showed Number One Son his printer, and printed him a small replica of a Dalek from Dr. Who.

On the 3-D printer.

It took about 25 minutes, sure, but for Number One Son, they were life-changing minutes.  Myke pulled the Dalek from the printer when it was finished, snapped off the base, and handed it him.  “That’s it.  You are officially the coolest person I have ever met.”   I didn’t tell him, but I’ve felt the same way about Myke for a long time.  Number One Son has now decided that he has to learn Java and programming, as soon as he can.

Surprise Santa

Surprise Santa

Saturday dawned, wonderfully and well, and we prepared for the party with more hot dogs.  I’m kidding – wait, I’m not.  Lunch at another restaurant, but it was a chain, and the dogs were so-so at best.  Not going back.  Dinner, now, dinner was great – the entire and extended family was in wonderful attendance.  The Very Clever Grandfather put together a presentation of the first 95 years of the Queen Mother of Pink’s life in photos and presented it with military precision, interweaving music, humor, narrative, and hundreds of pictures to get the QMoP (and the rest of us) laughing her 95-yr-old butt off. You may have already drawn some conclusions about my family, but I’ll add to the mystique by telling you this:  the words “banana butt” were included in the narration.  With the noted military precision, the presentation concluded just as the food was brought out.  The festivities even included a surprise visit from Santa!  It was a surprise to all of us, since he had been in the restaurant for another gig and happened to wander in.  Welcome to parties with my family.

The Queens Of Pink

The Queens Of Pink

The list of the QMoP’s great-grandchildren has grown as well; my three lunatic children have been joined by the 1-yr-old Klayton and the newly-minted Stella by starlight, and we were excited to find that there’s a player to be named later due in June. It was also fantastic to see my cousins Dan and Amy and their families – Charlie, Owen, and Cameron.

We could have danced all night, but events conspired to have us up and on the road early the next morning, and so off we went, saying our sad goodbyes to beloved kith and kinfolk close and distant, near and far, and planning already for the centennial party 5 years hence.  The next morning came too early, as they always do, and we were off.

Driving to Chicago is great.  Drive 6 or 7 hours, find a hotel with a pool and a bar, lather, rinse, relax, repeat.  Driving home in a day, for 12 hours?  Not as much fun.  Why, then, would we do this?  I had jury duty the next day, of course. 

The Human Tape Recorder, being more dedicated than any other 14-yr-old I know, set up her command center in the back of the car, fired up my laptop with its cellular Internet connection, and worked on her homework for most of the ride.  The younger two alternated between Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies, which kept them quiet and occupied for a good while.  SOBUMD and I took turns driving and staring out the window at the mist.

There’s a Football Hall of Fame, somewhere, which makes sense to me, since I know there’s a Baseball Hall of Fame.  Having now been to a genuine certified Hall of Fame, albeit for Rock and Roll, I find myself more attuned to signs pointing out this or that Hall of Fame.  So it was no surprise that I saw the sign, outside Notre Dame – there’s a (or probably more correctly, THE) College Football Hall of Fame there.  This makes, I suppose, some sense.  The Fighting Irish I’ve heard of, even if I can’t personally see a need for a hall of fame for college football. If you have to have one, though, right next to Knute Rockne’s last long pass sounds about right.  (“Let’s sell some Hall of Fame tickets for the Gipper!”)

Driving through Elkhart, though, I really had to wonder, when we passed the RV/MH Hall of Fame.  WTF, over? I guess I need to get out more.  I can’t imagine why, what, or how a Recreational Vehicle / Motorhome Hall of Fame could be necessary. “Look, babe, this is the actual motorhome couch where Ron Jeremy first came on the scene with his acting career!”  I wonder if they charge for admission.

I also noticed that Ohio was really trying to fix the color problem I mentioned in my first post.  They’re naming the rivers after colors now – I don’t remember this from the trip out.  We crossed both the Vermilion River and the Black River on the way out of Ohio.  I’m sure there’s an Ecru Creek and a Fuchsia Run around there somewhere.

Driving Out of Town was the Last Time We Saw The Sun

Driving Out of Town was the Last Time We Saw The Sun

If there is any greater joy in life than driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it has to be driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the dark, in the rain.  No, wait.  Let’s try it in the dark, but in that not-quite-rain that pisses down in an irritating mist, waiting not so much to land on your windshield as to land on the ground, in between the construction signs, and wait for the passing trucks and other motorists to spray it up onto your windshield as they go by.  This would cause you to turn on your wipers.  That’s assuming your wipers weren’t making that godawful SHRONK-HONK, SHRONK-HONK noise every goddamn time you flick them on, for 3 hours.  You can’t leave them on, because you’ll lose whatever remaining shred of sanity you have left, and you can’t leave them off, because you can’t see the damn road. 

What you can do, though, is stop at the Summit Diner.  We pulled off the Turnpike at something that approached dinner time and ate at a place so old, they had a menu item that we had to explain to the kids.  “Creamed chipped beef on toast?  Why is that called S.O.S.?”  Haven’t seen that on a menu in a while!  Neat place, good food.  If you’re ever near Somerset, PA, it’s worth the stop. 

If you’re us, of course, the Walmart down the street was worth the stop as well, carrying as they do windshield wipers.  Now, I’m as happy to boycott Wally-world as the next guy, but at 7 pm in kinda the middle of nowhere, in the rain, with the SHRONK-HONK of my wipers getting on my one remaining nerve, I was prepared to put my conscience in the glove box and set expediency on the dashboard, right next to my plastic Jesus and my shotgun.  SOBUMD ran in and came out a few minutes later with new wipers, plus a butt-cushion for my aging rear, which was an added bonus and tremendously appreciated in all quarters, particularly those of my hind.  I pulled under a handy, and closed, teller window drive-through with an awning at the nearest bank, and SOBUMD worked her windshield wiper magic, removing the old ones and installing the new, despite the cold, and the rain, and the dark.

In short minutes we were back on the Turnpike, the new wipers going full speed!  They sounded like this:  ___.  Right.  Isn’t that nice?  Yes.  The only issue now that they were silent was that they needed to be on full speed all the time, since they weren’t at all good at actually wiping the water from the windshield.  They were more like windshield damp sponges than windshield wipers.  There was some discussion of brand, and installation instructions, but neither the brand nor the instructions indicated that anything should be amiss. 

In about 5 minutes of hellish, wet, low-visibility Pennsylvania Turnpike driving, we hit a tunnel.  “Ah,” thought I, “a brief reprieve.”  I left the damn wipers on for a bit, for good measure.  It was dry, somewhat, in the tunnel.  It ended quickly, as tunnels will at those speeds, and as we hurtled out into the wet night, the formerly soundless new wipers ceased their silence and said, “THUMP-WHACK.  THUMP-WHACK.  THUMP-WHAA.  THUMP.  THUMP.” 

I’m regrettably familiar with what a wiper blade means when it says something like that – you could call me a wiper whisperer – and so I pulled over at the nearest “don’t pull over here unless you’re going to die” spot on the side of the Turnpike.  SOBUMD and I both got out and looked, and I pulled the remaining cover/guard off the left-side wiper and handed it to her.  The right-side cover/guard had worked itself off just past the tunnel.  The instructions didn’t mention them – they figured you could see the damn things.

Don’t install windshield wipers in the dark. 

Once free of the damn plastic covers, the windshield wipers worked great.  Visibility went up and noise went down until I was able to turn them off, crossing into Maryland.  (It only rains on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.)   From there on we made good time, pulling into our house a scant 12 hours after we’d left Chicago.   The road is long, the food is good, and the Queen Mother of Pink is 95 years old. 

Much love to all the wonderful family and friends who made the trip possible, and worthwhile – we’re looking forward to the next one.  Hey, we’ve even got new windshield wipers!

 

 

Pleasant Surprise

18 November, 2012 | | 2 Comments

I know, it’s been too long.  Life got ahead of me for a while, but I think I’m getting caught up, or at least maintaining my personal delusion that I’m getting caught up, which amounts to the same thing.

One of the great advantages of not paying enough attention to the rest of my life (which is a nice way of saying that I clearly have early onset memory issues) is the constant wonder and surprise I get when I wind up doing something I’d forgotten about.  Friday night I was reminded that I was taking the Human Tape Recorder to a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at the local High School – she, of course, had not forgotten, since she is a human tape recorder.  Some of the actors are in high school, but most of those kids look like old pros on that stage – a very impressive performance from a crowd of 18 and under. 

Saturday morning also turned into “oh yeah!” when I was reminded that SOBUMD and I were taking the Reigning Queen of Pink to see a “Stringapalooza” with the President’s Own US Marine Corps Band, in this case with their string quartet.  Since she’s learning the viola, the RQoP was thrilled to see the violist was also a woman.  They were great, showing all the kids how the instruments work (two violins, a cello, and a viola) and playing everything from Mozart to Gershwin to, of course, Sousa – and then for an encore they did “America” from West Side Story, which she loves.  The final bit was “see if you can guess what this music is” and of course my kid comes unfreakinglued as they start the first three notes of Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter.  It was totally cute.

From there, since we were downtown already, we hit the Eastern Market for ingredients for the cassoulet I’m making (it has another half hour as I write this, then I need to cook some more things and toss them in the pot), plus an awesome small used bookstore (Capitol Hill Books) that SOBUMD let me rattle around in for more than half an hour – luxury beyond price.   More shopping, still more shopping, then home  – in time to get dinner ready for the kids before we went to, “oh yeah that’s tonight,” the neighbor’s wine tasting party for the Beaujolais Nouveau release.   For an even more pleasant surprise, one of the other neighbors attending remembered me from this same party last year and brought me two sci-fi books that her late husband had written – one of them a Hugo nominee in the late 1980s.  I can’t wait to read them – Edward A Byers’ “The Babylon Gate” and “The Long Forgetting.”  
 
This morning I did about the only thing that I’d actually planned for my weekend, which is my 10K hike – wonderfully restorative for those who might have had an extra Beaujolais the previous evening.   Now, I have the beginnings of a cassoulet bubbling in the pot, the beginnings of an idea for a new book, and the beginnings of maintaining my personal delusion that I’m getting caught up. 

Last year I did a Thinksgiving countdown of things for which I’m thankful.  I was going to do the same this year, but between trying to get and stay caught up with life and my obvious early onset memory issues, well – I forgot.  This year, allow me to say simply that I am thankful for you, Gentle Reader – for your reading, for your comments, and for your patience. 

 

And a Happy Birthday To The HTR!

31 October, 2012 | | No Comment

Fourteen years ago, SOBUMD and I were surprised to find that I was right – a baby conceved in January has a pretty decent shot at getting herself born on Halloween.  I think she was more surprised than I was – the Human Tape Recorder held out for nearly 21 hours to make sure she hit the mark. 

As a Sweet Fourteenth birthday present, she got her braces off this morning – and came home to a Tootsie Roll the length of her arm.  Can’t beat that! 

Happy Birthday!