Posts Tagged ‘daughter’

At Four You’re Right

6 December 2011

Dear J-

There are some days you just don’t want to listen to your parents and you’re pretty well convinced that you know everything there is. For me, documenting what happened twenty years ago has been humbling: I see the nascent beginnings of who I am today wrapped up in pride and uncertainty in what I’ve done and accomplished, and what I have projected before me. Were you to tell me then that I’d be making those thoughts freely available without a book deal or even some hint of fame I’d have laughed and told you that future-me wasn’t ambitious enough: fame was fate for being that guy — to crack the riddle of fusion, the professor that everyone liked.

At the time I still had my parents driving me on to be the very best I could be, or at least getting the most out of the opportunities that came my way. And I hated it. So much control they had over everything: where to go, what to do, reminders and discipline. When I’m on my own, I vowed twenty years ago, when I’m on my own I’ll make sure things are different. Indeed. Doritos for dinner? Why not? The only thing keeping me sane some of those late school nights after high school was pride: class standings and reputation: still more external measures of how I’m doing (are you proud enough now huh?).

I’m amused (bemused) when I look at figgy and think about what she has to look forward to and how much she’s dealing with now; she is possibly the bossiest creature I’ve ever met and convinced, stubbornly, that she’s right as rain, directing us in complex play schemes barely limited by imagination and imitation (“OK now you be Santa and put presents in the stockings. PUT THEM IN.”) These are things you lear on your own: crushing your dreams into something small to put in your pocket for later, swallowing ambition for stability, admitting you’re wrong once in a while. If life is a movie filmed inside our eyes (at twenty-four frames per second, in vivid surround sound) then we cast ourselves as star: it’s up to us to remember the plot right, or at least ad-lib our way through the intro. She’s doing fine and we laugh a lot which at four I think is completely right.

Mike

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Review Session

9 July 2011

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Dear J-

The trip and contact with other kids makes me think that figgy is an unusual one. Her cousin asked at one point if she was always this loud. And later, if she was always this angry. There is some truth to those observations. I thought that she would grow out of it but as she grows I fear that these ways are becoming more engrained instead: the shouting, the commands, the imperious unflinching nature. These things that are admirable in leaders and statesmen are tough to deal with in a four-year-old body. I look back on the two days in Disney and found that we consulted the figgy oracle to the point of making deals and cajoling her through lines — the whole agenda was set on her stomach and desires.

You may perhaps rightly deride us as overly malleable parents who give in at the first sign of trouble seeking harmony above discipline. And maybe we have been at first but we keep hammering and believe it or not the unyielding stone keeps breaking tools: time-outs, rewards, taking toys away, everything short of corporal punishment. Is this really all we can do? I think the most important tools in the arsenal are patience and a short memory: be willing to keep applying and forget that you’ve done this before because if you stop to concentrate on it and believe it’s part of a recurring trend you’ll never bother to stop escalating.

At four she has a world that’s not yet fully formed. Yet reasons and consequences are starting to make easy appearances too: it gets easier. I would not trade this kid for the world, still. The changes she’s brought to our lives has been uniformly positive and amazing. We are all still learning, but at least we’re all learning together.

Mike

Always So Magic

6 December 2006

Dear J-,

There’s a line from The Wedding Singer that sounded great — Robbie, Adam Sandler’s character, says he wants to be a songwriter, one who’s going to write a song that makes people think “Man, I get what he was thinking when he wrote that.” Isn’t that the whole purpose of writing anything?

I’m back on the East Coast again again for the first time in what, eight years? At least since I was in school, and I can only think of everything that’s changed since then. Was it always so lonely, this being apart, a whole continent in between?

(I don’t wanna be lonely, baby, please help me)
I wanna love you all over

— Huey Lews and the News, Do You Believe in Love

I know that it’s got to be some kind of minor hell, or more precisely, some kind of karma for never appreciating all the thousands of kindnesses theVet does for me every day. Man that sounds horrible, like I just miss having a servant. Let them eat cake, that kind of stuff. Lonely’s more than that. Days like these, nights like these, I feel lonely in my own skin. I just don’t know what to do by myself any more. No, lonely’s gotta be somewhere between the last seat on the bus and watching the lights flicker and glow out at closing time. It’s empty chairs and desperate calls to 411, trying to remember, trying to reconnect. Lonely’s knowing just how many vacant minutes fill each dark night. It’s 18 000 days — 540 000 hours of knowing exactly what you need and learning how badly you picked that bet. All this time I thought the future was just more of the same, and I dreaded it a thousand times more than the million slow deaths of humiliation I’d already had in my life — the petrification of actually having to stand up and speak in front of everyone, everyone’s eyes, everyone’s expectations weighing a thousand tons of stares.

Dream a dream of the future with me — grey at the houses of worship, lines changed to canyons (you know I’m now almost halfway to where grampa was the first time we met?) — but that’s only the part I can’t control. I’ve said it before: now I can’t wait. Each day is a day closer, and thus another chance to discover. Yeah, I know it sounds completely Polyanna, sunshine lollipops and rainbows and yet I still can’t help but feel a little giddy about it all. Maybe it’s just who I am, but I’m still learning, learning that love is in the details. Figure it this way: 80 years, 365 days, 2 times the sky catches fire at dusk and dawn. 56 000 opportunities to share your life and amazing times while the world reminds you it’s all still magic, it’s all so magic.

Mike