Update: I forgot it was pandering time again. The Bloggies are open for nominations, and Fat Cyclist has some great suggestions for you. One of his suggestions is me, for “Best Writing of a Weblog”! Please click here to get some ideas for nominations, and then go do it. I know it’s a little complicated, but it really does mean a lot to me and also helps keep the sibling rivalry alive. (Although, to be fair, it’s not actually all that competitive when Fatty goes around trying to help me. Sucker.) Nominations close on Tuesday so puh-leeeeeze do it soon.
I was raised in a conservative household, with two devout Mormon parents. It’s not surprising that I considered my upbringing to be strict beyond belief, and cruelly so in my tortured adolescence. I’m aware that in the enlightened state of adulthood, one is expected to look back on their childhood with a new understanding of the motives and techniques of one’s parents but there are still a few things I find wonky.
For instance, there was a spell of time where breakfast was always the same: cracked wheat (milled in our own machine) that was bland as hell and only made it down my hatch because I would get (after begging) a dab of honey. Insult to injury – the side dish was always 1/2 of a grapefruit, sprinkled with a tiny bit of sugar. And the final blow? The milk served to wash it down was not real milk. It was powdered milk, which I don’t even know if it exists still but it probably shouldn’t. Powdered milk aside, this is a breakfast that I’d love to have the time to eat now in the glow of my sophisticated adulthood, but as a kid I really felt that every day started out as a punishment. My poor mother. That’s a lot of work to put into a breakfast for five complaining children who probably didn’t once say, “Thanks for breakfast”.
While we were engaged as a family in the 1-2 TV punch of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island on Saturday nights, we were forbidden to watch Charlie’s Angels and Cheers. We could watch Happy Days, but not Laverne and Shirley (I blame the mysterious, ominous Yiddish chant, “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”) Now, I don’t think Farrah Fawcett’s wiggling would have been any more damaging than the “Coochie Coochie!” of Charo or Doctor Adam Bricker’s womanizing, and the fact that Cheers takes place at a bar probably wouldn’t have turned me into an alcoholic. But the parents had their reasons, and I was assured that I would understand them in the future. I have to admit – I’m still looking forward to that future.
Early curfews, withheld permissions to go to parties, denial of super-tight Jordache jeans, rebuffed requests to shave my legs, to wear make-up, to listen to anything other than Donny and Marie or Barry Manilow. Eventually the parents became absorbed into their own problems and while they weren’t looking I sling-shotted to the other side, with blue hair, a pierced nose, a mouthful of Lucky Charms and a Walkman playing a Black Flag; I finally felt that I had broken free of a tyrannical grip, and made the trite promise that I would not, ever ever no never, be a strict parent.
Yet, here I am. It’s finally occurring to me that there is truly no way to not be strict, if you’re going to be engaged as a parent at all. Roan already feels the difference between when I’m a mom (Fun!) and when I’m a parent (Not so much with the fun!) He gets breakfasts I could only dream of as a kid, but he also is required to eat more greens than I ever was. He watches inappropriate anime more often than I’d like to admit, but he also reads out loud to me every day, sometimes for hours. He is required to complete his homework every day, with me pouring over it with him. He gives me a huffy breath when I enforce my idea of social manners, forcing him to turn the volume down on video games on the subway, as to not drive all the passengers cuckoo with his Alien War, and he gives me the classic eye roll and “whatever” when I deduct minutes off his bedtime for leaving clothes on the floor.
In short, I of course have become my own parents, in my own way. I have ideas and methods, some of which probably are not all that well thought out. A few will probably make it into Roan’s first screenplay about his own tortured youth (fingers crossed that my character is played by Johnny Depp!). But I’m oddly ok with being a strict parent, because my parents were strict – and I couldn’t love them more. Except maybe for the powdered milk thing. I would probably love them a little more had they not forced me to drink that.