Family

The lies we tell, part 2


A better title for this post might actually be, “The lies we don’t tell.” Not long ago I wrote a bit about how I’m going to handle my bright, lovely, and inquisitive daughters and the questions they’re almost certainly going to ask one day about difficult topics. The original post is here, if you’d like to check it out.

The gent that commented, bless him, said basically this: be honest; appropriate to the point of their maturity and emotional ability. Good advice, right? It was this kind of thinking, coupled with the Graham essay I quoted in the post, that caused me to blink, shake my head a bit, then re-read a post titled, “Talking to children about evil.”

It’s by a wonderful and witty writer named Delia Lloyd; a journalist who currently lives in London and writes about adulthood, politics, family, and a host of other topics definitely worth reading. Check her out.

You can find the post I’m talking about here, but the first paragraph reads thus:

My daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that her best friend had a “hate list.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a list of all the people in the world that she hates.”
“Don’t make one yourself,” I said quickly. “That’s not nice.”
“Yeah, but I only have one person on it,” she responded.
“I don’t care. You’ll hurt someone’s feelings.”
She looked up at me, wide-eyed. “But it’s Hitler.”

“But it’s Hitler.” What the hell do you say to that?

I won’t spoil her post, but I’m left with another point of view that’s both valid and worth consideration. It doesn’t conflict with Tim’s comment, necessarily, but it might provide a different definition of what’s “appropriate.”

What do you think? 

Image by John-Morgan

The lies we tell

Rummaging around my bookmarks not long ago I found a little treat I’d set aside to read. It’s the homepage of a writer named Paul Graham and you could do worse than spend a bit of time reading his essays. One in particular, titled “Lies we tell kids,” dovetails nicely with the thinking I’ve done about the challenging, inevitable conversations I’ll be having with my daughters in the years to come. You know what I mean – the conversations where they’ll ask if I’ve ever smoked, experimented in other, let’s say less legal pastimes, and how I’m going to handle those questions.

I’ve pulled out one of the paragraphs from Mr. Graham’s essay below but you can find the entire piece here. Definitely worth your time. If you’re interested, I originally stumbled on his work from a list Inc. Magazine put together – 19 blogs you should bookmark right now – and you can find that here

For you parents who have already crossed that bridge, how did you handle it? Or, for those of you like me who are still on the front end, how do you think you will?

“Innocence is also open-mindedness. We want kids to be innocent so they can continue to learn. Paradoxical as it sounds, there are some kinds of knowledge that get in the way of other kinds of knowledge. If you’re going to learn that the world is a brutal place full of people trying to take advantage of one another, you’re better off learning it last. Otherwise you won’t bother learning much more.”

Without words

This post has been deleted.

My apologies if this causes any confusion, but I promise you’re really not missing much. The short version is I’ve been having difficulty producing posts for this blog and I’m working on it. The meandering, hazy writing that was originally here was unable to convey that fairly simple thought.

So it goes.

I’m working on getting back into the swing of things, so until then I ask for your patience and to look for new posts in the very near future. As always, thank you kindly for coming by…

Kenna, month one

In just a few days Kenna will be one month old and, not surprisingly, the last four weeks have absolutely flown by. During that time there’s been a lot of playing, a lot of snuggling, and a lot of thinking about both of my lovely daughters and what’s to come. And thinking, too, about the past.

Things are different now – think Iraq or Afghanistan – but when I first joined the Marine Corps (many moons ago) there was really only one thing on my mind: What would Boot Camp be like?  

It was always there; huge, slightly out of focus, and in many ways something I had difficulty even defining what answers I was looking for, let alone the actual questions. But it was also something I’d chew on at some point, every day, for more than a year and a half.  

Like most guys who planned to join the Corps directly after HS graduation, I actually got the paperwork rolling my junior year. A combination of the recruiting office working like hell to hit their numbers and an angst-ridden teen looking for any clear path into a new reality; signing up early was a win-win for both. The down-side was it gave me plenty, and I mean p-lenty, of time to think about what was going to happen just days after I threw my cap into the air.

Were the Drill Instructors as vile as they seemed? Would I even make it through? Could my body handle the punishment that would come? Keep in mind, in those years a solid breakfast consisted of a package of Twinkis, a can of Jolt Cola, and Marlboro. Would I make it to the top of the legendary Mount Mother-Fucker? Finally, would I, could I, become a Marine?

I’d lie awake at night, taking bits and pieces of information from things I’d been told or read in the literature, random images from brochures, posters, or propaganda recruiting videos I’d seen, and weave them together in my mind in an attempt to understand what the experience would offer.

The reality of Boot Camp is something I’m happy to write about at a later date if anyone is interested (let me know in the comments), but the important thing is this: it just didn’t matter.

You see, I was focused on the wrong thing entirely. What I (and most other new recruits) couldn’t wrap my mind around was that Boot Camp was only three months long. Just three short months out of a four year commitment, and after those brief moments I’d have miles to go in a land just as unfamiliar and challenging as Boot Camp, with no roadmap or guideposts to help me along.

All that to say, it wasn’t entirely dissimilar from having children.

When Ellie was born Sarah and I (like most expectant parents, I imagine) had a thousand questions about the birth process. We had every kind of book imaginable. We toured the hospital. We had endless Q&As with our OBGYN. Sarah had list after list of things to do and even had all of our bags packed months before Ellie’s due date.

And then, a few days after her birth, we found ourselves at home with a new baby, looking like deer in headlights. Us, not the baby. I can’t speak for Sarah, but I can say with absolute certainty I didn’t give that little aspect of pregnancy due consideration.

Me: Um, babe?
Sarah: (sleepily) Yes?
Me: Is your mom taking her when she leaves?
Sarah: …
Me: Babe?
Sarah: shakes a finger at me and mouths, “go away…”

Like Boot Camp, birth and the hospital are only the beginning. And with this situation it’s quite a bit more than four years – it’s the rest of our lives. Clearly, there’s less freaking out wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do when the baby does this or that. But those situations are far less important than the many quiet moments I look into Kenna’s face as she sleeps in my arms and wonder what she’ll be like in 3 months, or three years, or even 30.  

More important still is that both Sarah and I are looking ahead to those moments, smiling, and I can not only see those questions, I’m ready to ask them.

Christmas, innocense, and scary bad guys

I’ve mentioned my nephew before; he’s a great kid who I adore. Like most boys, he’s a pretty big fan of Spiderman and has spent more than a little time running around the back yard pretending to fling web from his wrists. Add to that leaping, tumbling, and hurtling over various objects and my old knees ache just looking at him.

With Christmas fast approaching I thought a stack of Spidey comics might be just the thing for him. As I spent quite a few hours lost in the artwork and storyboards of comics when I was a kid I thought they might be something he’d enjoy, too. I remember one particular cross-over issue with Spiderman and Wolverine that was absolutely phenomenal. 

There’s a comic book shop not too far from my office, so yesterday I spent my lunch hour (plus some) walking through the aisles. It was a trip. The same smell, the same lighting. The same odd guy behind the counter. One difference – back when I was a regular most shops had a life-size, Carbonite-entombed Han Solo somewhere. This one had a huge – I mean massive – replica of the Hulk. Easily ten feet tall, grimacing and green, standing in the middle of the shop. Very cool.  

venom1At any rate, after quite a bit of time sifting through issues I came to an unsettling conclusion: either I’m old, comics have changed significantly, or I don’t remember just how cazy-ass violent some of these things are. Holy cow.

I spent well over an hour going through comics and I couldn’t find one that didn’t have a really good chance of giving my nephew the kind of nightmares that would leave him scarred well into his twenties. Add to that a dash of budding sexual confusion from big-busted, doe-eyed females with quivering lips and longing gazes and I may as well start a savings account for his therapy.

If the idea was to mess with my brother and sister in law I just might have gone that way.

As it was, the odd-guy clerk managed to point me to some kid-friendly, old-school comics that should work a bit better as a Christmas gift. Ethan will no doubt discover the more intense stuff as he moves along, but hopefully that’ll wait until he’s in a place where he can handle it.

For now, I hope he has a good time when the bad guy gets punched, the artwork reads, “PoW!!” and everyone his home in time for dinner with the family.