I'm posting this picture as a visual that actually relates to today's entry. It's of me and my sister Marni circa 1975. I'm the baby wearing the pacifier. (And no, it is not secured to my shirt with a safety clip. It's tied around my neck with a ribbon in the good, old-fashioned way.)
One way I try to connect with my kids is by relating stories from my childhood. I imagine parents all over the planet do this — I certainly remember begging my own mom and dad to do so. I've taken the story-telling cue from Brooks who will often engage the boys at mealtime with some exciting adventures from his past. He has prodded me from time to time with leading questions like, "What kinds of food did you like to eat when you were a girl, Mama?" At first I resented this. Mealtime is a chance to give my brain a rest while I digest my food and the events of the day at the same time. After a while, however, I saw how it draws Brahm and Oliver out so I've taken it up. And my new approach to parenting allows me to be more honest about my past deeds than I normally would be. This naturally leads to a more interesting story line. Take the following, for example.
"You know, when I was a girl, I didn't act like a girl." I begin after dinner on Thursday. "I loooved playing in the dirt, climbing trees, starting fights and catching tadpoles."
They look at me strangely but I continue.
"Did you know I was the the tetherball champion of Mission San Jose Elementary School when I was in second grade? Everybody wanted to beat me but no one could unless they cheated. One day I was playing against Jason Rocha who was the number two champ. The game was going on and on forever and the kids in line were getting tired. So the kid who was the referee — his name was John MacIntosh — called that I was holding the ball. Holding the ball is against the rules so this meant I lost the match. I stopped the ball and yelled, 'I did not hold the ball!'
'Oh, yeah?' he sneered.'Well you are now!'
He stepped into the circle and was trying to take the ball away from me but I wasn't about to let that happen so you know what I did? I bit his hand. And I bit it hard."
Oliver's mouth is agape, eyes bulging. Brahm is in my peripheral vision but even still I can see an understanding smile spread across his face. Brooks hastily interrupts with a cautionary word or two just in case the boys think to employ this tactic in resolving their next playground conflict.
"And then you know what happened?" I continue, adding a moral of my own. "I got sent to the principal's office."
But what I don't say is that even now when I think back on what happened that day, I can still feel the teeniest amount of satisfaction. Heh, heh heh... I only have the memory but John has the scar. To divulge this to my kids, of course, would be to cross the line, even in my new way of thinking. I'll leave it to them to ascribe meaning to the events of their own lives. That way they'll have plenty of good material to draw from when telling their own children tales from their past.