Parents who don’t need help…

Standing at the register at Big Five, exchanging a bike pump, a sporty mom with glasses glided up behind a jaunty three-wheeled stroller, saying to her toddler, “The unicorn wants to stay on the shelf,” to which the adorable toddler’s face wrinkled into consternation at her mother’s obtuse understanding of unicorns and she cried out, “The unicorn does not want to stay on the shelf!”

I smiled at the mom and went back to my transaction, half listening as the mom elegantly walked the tightrope of love and limits, really hearing her child’s wants and acknowledging them yet showing no sign of immanent caving in, thus sparing the child the wasted energy of a tantrum.

Outside the window, the farmers’ market was in full swing:  strollers to the left of me, pony-rides to the right… so many parents.  My mind went to two slightly fraying business cards my wallet—little “Privilege of Parenting” cards that I sometimes handed out when I first started blogging—building my “platform” much the way I once made a lamp in seventh-grade woodshop, not because I wanted or needed a lamp, but because the teacher told me to do it.  But over the months my cards had become like French Letters in the wallet of a teen with no prospects, slowly forming a fit with the leather.

I glanced at the bike pump:  a device for inflating things.  I thought about my ego.  I thought about what a good parent the mom beside me was.  I thought about what the message really is when a psychologist suggests to a parent that they write a parenting blog that a given parent might like to check out.  For even if my message is that parents don’t really need parenting experts, and that I somehow mostly hoped that hearing this from a so-called expert (or at least an over-schooled person who’d spent a lot of time being paid to help with such things as parenting) might add to feelings of support and connection so that any given parent might just be encouraged to keep up the great work, how could the message not come out all wrong?

Didn’t my I-thou smile say all that I had meant to say?  Hadn’t I seen the beauty in the soul of this mom and in this child?  Wasn’t I happy and content at that moment?  Was there anything more to be said, done, given or received?  And so I arrived at a moment of successful non-action.

Of course I couldn’t help but come here to my blog and blab all about it, like a school-kid telling about what he saw on the field trip.  How 2010 is that?

I saw Dinner for Schmucks and thought of the Steve Carell character, “he’s supposed to be a complete idiot, and yet the shirt and sports-coat that he wears to the final ‘dinner for schmucks’ was something I would definitely wear, plaid with plaid, a little French,” I thought.  Is that me?  The nice idiot?  And then I thought about how Steve Carell is, in real life, both a nice guy and the cool dad at my kids’ school.  And I thought about how I’m glad he’s so funny and how I don’t want to be in the spotlight, I just want to be true to myself.

Perusing the various roles I can play in my little micro-eco-system of the world my mind drifted, once more, to the Big Lebowski.  Could I abide, but just under the radar?  Is there room for the very small Lebowski?  And does anyone really get what I mean when I say that I want J.D. Salinger’s publicist to be my publicist, even though I love to write?

Someone I know had a recent run-in/brush with greatness with the real-life inspiration for the Big Lebowski, and as the Dude was ramping up toward potentially violent dramatics the person who told me the story asked the Dude to please leave him out of it, to which the Dude looked him in the eye and sternly said, “Oh no, you’re involved—you’re definitely involved.”  Some people say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not.

And what about all this talk about “branding?”  Doesn’t that literally mean chasing down a terrified calf and giving it a third degree burn on its ass?  And isn’t that scar an “I own you” sign so when they finally kill that cow’s ass and cut it into steak some rancher or meat baron or baroness will be sure to get his or her money?  No, I don’t want to do any branding, and I don’t want to be branded.  I’ve done deals like that before at the crossroads, I’ve read Faust—and it doesn’t end well for the doctor.

So, it’s summer in my little Grover’s Corner of the collective wood, and it’s summer in yours as well (except for my cousin in Australia, and for Germaine Clement if he’s back in New Zealand).  I keep thinking of a friend I knew back in film school who used to cut lawns when he was a kid.  There was a stern old woman across the street and she had no money.  He would cut her lawn and afterward, they would sit on her porch and drink lemonade.  When he told me the story I pictured To Kill a Mockingbird and the hot languid porches that line the American psyche.  Some years later, the story unfolded, my friend got word that the woman had died and left him a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.  That money had paid for him to attend NYU, and as he shared the story with me on a warm summer night in nineteen eighties New York, greatness potentially glimmering for us and our peers on the horizon of an unknown future, I could not have envisioned nor understood what I was actually learning in film school.

Everything fades.  All is impermanence.  Isn’t it lovely?

When I became a parent all children became adorable to me.  As I age and relax into the present moment, parents too are becoming adorable in my eye.  Perhaps my true voice is without ambition?  And then again, perhaps I am a Trickster, preferring the smoke to the meat.

I’m closer to Charlotte in spirit these days, having spun my web of a life, but only now realizing just how ordinary it all is, even as, like any web in the morning sun, it is also extraordinary—beautiful, ingenious, perfect and ancient.

I am gazing at red ripe tomatoes from the garden, at eight flowers upright and two bent downward in earth-facing repose and return; a bag of old fashioned (meaning printed) books, and newspapers with that article Andy suggested about self-publishing, and a bowl of peaches and nectarines from Trader Joes; I gaze at plastic silverware nice enough to have been washed off and awaiting another garden gathering of friends; calendars and school rosters, a nearly empty mug of dandelion tea and the ticking kitchen clock’s ever marching reminder: work, love, play, take, Nate, to, “work,” love, play, yoga, tick, tick, tick.

A plane passes far over-head, casting a fleeting shadow across the bright kitchen morning, time to go…

I have no advice, at least not today.  Instead I have good wishes.  If you burn with ambition, I wish your star to burn bright.  If you wish for peace I wish it for you.

Sitting on an imagined porch of an endless summer with you, as August heats up I hoist a lemonade and whether I’ll be leaving you good fortune or the other way around, I dedicate the good fortune, albeit mingled with sorrow and melancholy, that we surely share between us, to all our collective children.

Namaste, Bruce

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7 Responses to “Parents who don’t need help…”

  1. Beth B Says:

    Bruce,

    I missed getting your blog e-mails and I’m glad you’re back. This is a lovely, lovely post. Thank you. A great way to start my day.

    My best (to you, Andy and the boys),
    Beth

  2. Randy Says:

    Thank you. I feel very peaceful and connected at this moment.

    Randy

  3. Aleta Says:

    Just to let you know I received this; the first since going weekly.
    Thanks,
    Aleta

  4. Jenn Says:

    This post is lovely–from the heart. I say ‘go for it’ and publish!

  5. privilegeofparenting Says:

    Thanks to all you guys for kind words and encouragement. Here’s to an August being present to August.

  6. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    How awesome is this post? Weaving Salinger, the Dude, Charlotte and Mockingbird all together in a lyrical way? I’ll join you on that porch for lemonade any time.

  7. Sarah Says:

    I am sitting at my desk. The air has finally cooled and there is a breeze tonight. I cannot tell you how extraordinary this is–you’d have to feel it for yourself. It’s been 95 and humid for days. Extraordinary, yes. But I, too, am Charlotte now. Have been for a while. Never thought I would be. But… “realizing just how ordinary it all is” has brought me solace, actually.

    You are in a place in this post where there is so much more to be said but you cannot say it. At least that’s how I feel and so that is what I identify with. Melancholy, yes.

    And? Wishing peace for others? You know not how genuine your words are and that is what matters most with a wish like that.

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