Sunday, July 31, 2011

Upon being 8

So as of a few days ago, my baby is 8 years old. We celebrated by touring a Liberty Ship in the San Francisco Harbor. My Canadian child knows this much about Americans: one salutes the flag.

"Mommy, why is a salute hitting your eyebrow with the side of your hand?"

I explained to him about the whole Roman thing, demonstrating that your right hand is free of weapons, and that it's also a mark of respect. One ought to stand about three feet from the superior being addressed and maintain an upright posture.

So for the next three hours, I am tailed at three feet by a small boy in a white sailor's hat, barking orders to himself, his hand glued to his new sailor's cap,  marching around as though his life depended upon the force with which his sneakers hit the ground.

The volunteers aboard the Jeremiah O'Brien were duly impressed. The man running the gift shop made hima birthday present, as did the sage 91-year-old Anglican vicar who sailed the O'Brien to Normandy and back twice, some 50 years apart.  Kid was told by this wise old man to listen to his mother and not to put anything in his body that he didn't know for sure would make him healthier and stronger. The chocolate chip cookie in his hand hit the dust. The long-held dream of cotton candy did the same.

So now I'm parenting an 8-year-old Canadian health-nut who wants to be an American navy officer when he grows up, and who has already memorized the lines to "Anchors Aweigh." He also criticized my consumption of chips, beer, and guacamole, which is completely irritating.

Next year I'm taking him to a law office so he can check out the Hugo Boss suits and the BlackBerries. It's either Freedome 85 or Nudge Kid into Extremely Lucrative Line of Work. Although it will, I confess, be hard to give up the salute. I quite like the salute.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bye, sweetie

At first, they don't leave your arms. Then they're attached to your leg at the knee. Then they want to hold hands all the time. Then they're just within arm's length. And then they get bikes and learn to swim and you just stand there, watching them get a little farther away with every minute. This was an exciting week for Kid: he finally got the hang of that bike and something in his body/brain happened so that he started to swim. I stood clutching my Kindle poolside, watching his small perfect face framed by the water, as he demonstrated his new ability to float. And then he minnowed his way down to the other end of the pool in a non-too-straight line, taking all of my heart with him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Say Hello, You Refuse to Say Goodbye

It goes like this: two boys have been playing together like short human beings for a number of hours. Sure, there are shrieks, there are arguments, there are--shall we say--differences of opinion settled through the judicious use of fruit peels and saucy verbal jousting. But in general all is civilized. One grows proud.

And then comes the moment when the parents of the other boy arrive. And you know what happens?

Oh, not much. Only complete and utter savagery.

Wedgies are inflicted. There is hair pulling. One small boy topples the other small boy into a curio cabinet. A WEAPON IS PRODUCED even though they both know that we are trying hard around here to maintain the  impression that we are a stable suburban bungalow staffed by responsible, well-educated (if terminally dishevelled), pacifist grown-ups. One of the midgets cries. Someone swears--just yesterday I heard the dread phrase "by cracky." Motherly arms clutch futilely for squirmy bodies, motherly voices squeak ineffectually beneath the mayhem.

And two nice women experience that stomach-churning churning of stomachs that indicates that you've failed publicly, again, at this raising children thing. Yeah, okay, sure--the kids don't have hooks for hands (Jenny's yardstick for successful parenting)--BUT they are not a credit to the family. They're not a credit to the RACE. THE PEOPLE RACE. And then the wheels well and truly come off: you re-re-re-re-re-notice the ancient smashed corpse of the mosquito of 2005 on the wall just above the door. The dog-chewed shoe in the hall that was fashionable in 1999 and which bears the grimy marks of your very own five apparently not-so-clean toes. The one-lightbulb-short hall fixture that even your mother shudders at, it's so hideous. The guacamole on your shirt. You see the thought bubble above the other mom's head: "Oh, SHE'S the mother of that child who wore ONE PAIR OF SOCKS the entire week he was away at camp."

The threshold is supposed to be a magical and hotly contested place of ghosts and angels, vengeful gods of the forest demanding entrance and determined gods of the hearth saying "No way, not on my watch you don't, you filthy beast." Guess what? It's true.