My child, who is a pretty terrific kid, has no interest in growing up, getting a job, living on her own, learning to drive, or any of things I associate with maturing and becoming an adult.  She is reluctant to learn how to cook, and when I ask her what she’ll do when she lives on her own, she says she’ll have a really nice roommate who will do all the cooking.

Which has got me to thinking: have my husband and I made adulting look so awful and tedious that she wants nothing of it?

We, like many, have jobs that get pretty serious pretty fast, especially in the Death and Dying Department.  We get the occasional call in middle of the night or too early in the morning.  We talk about memorial services over dinner (until she reminds us of the “no work talk at dinner” rule.)

We pay the bills together so she hears us talking about whether we’re ahead or behind for the month.  She knows how much vacation costs, and hears us admit with some guilt and resignation that maybe we spent a little too much on getting away this year.

When I was a little older than she is now, I could not wait to be on my own, to get my driver’s license, to imagine my first apartment and my own dishes and my very own vacuum cleaner.  My first year after college I shared a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan with two of my college roommates.  We’d put on our suits and tennis shoes in the morning and walk to work, and walk back home, and we’d have pasta carbonara for dinner and watch “Flame Trees of Thika” on PBS.  It was as glorious as I imagined growing up would be.

Since then life has intervened.  There have been lean years, and job disappointments and failures, and debt.  There have been illnesses and deaths that still shake me.  There have been more moves than I would like, and goodbyes to dear friends.  But I still love being an adult, with all the responsibility and burden; with all the freedom and agency, too.

This morning on my short drive to work I heard on NPR the last bit of an interview with Senator Ben Sass of Nebraska, who has written the book “The Vanishing American Adult.”  I can’t comment on its content, but the two minutes of the interview intrigued me.  He spoke about making kids work, making them do hard work that isn’t much fun so they will build up “scar tissue on the soul.”

Adulting is hard.  Moving from adolescence to adulthood can be pretty painful.  It’s not all fun and entertainment; I’ll admit that.  But I wonder, almost every day, as a parent, if I’m doing enough to help my child build some of those muscles, acquire some of that scar tissue on her soul, so that by the time she’s 22 and looking for her first apartment with friends and buying dishes at the resale shop – so that by then, she’ll walk nervously and hopefully into the next part of her life.

We’ll see.


The Time of Innocency

oreoThere’s a line from the old Book of Common Worship  in the liturgy for marriage that goes like this:

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church” etc. etc. etc.

That’s a word we’ve lost – innocency.  Maybe we’ve lost innocency, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, delighting  in my daughter’s growing up by the minute while shielding her from headlines and Facebook posts about rape and violence and inequity.  I struggle with allowing her the innocency, knowing at some point I have to lower the shield, teach her about hard and scary things, watch her lose some of that innocence and gain knowledge, and maybe be disappointed in all of it.

I do love this time of innocence.  I love that for a long time she referred to a part of the female anatomy as a “pagina.”  I love that she confused the words peanuts and penis, and where her mind went as she tried to put together her peanut allergy with the knowledge that only boys have penises.  She knows to avoid peanuts, so I was pretty sure that she would avoid boys and that particular body part for a long time.  I love that she thinks that if you kiss someone, that means you’re going to marry them.

We are just starting to use the correct words for parts of the anatomy – now that she has a better filter between thinking something and saying it, I’m pretty sure she won’t be shouting out “pagina” in the middle of the children’s sermon.  (Not that she would be the first pastor’s kid to do that.)  I am totally okay with her believing me when I told her that when the baby in the mom’s belly is ready to come out, a special door opens in the mom’s body.  Close enough for now.  I’ve told her that babies grow in moms’ bellies when a mom and a dad love each other a lot and decide they want to have a baby.

But my daughter is smart.  We have friends who are single and gay and lesbian parents and she has figured out that the math of my original equation – man + woman + love = baby – doesn’t add up.  So now we talk about the biology part as separate from the love part. Chalk that up to the New Math.

Other conversations await us.  The fact that some babies are conceived in a lab.  The fact that not all babies are conceived in love.  Just this week, in Chicago and Georgia, two babies were shot and killed.  What the hell?  Really, that must be hell, that we live in a culture in which a freaking baby is shot and killed.  For the love of God, how do I have that conversation with my daughter?

Or the conversation about what it means to be female these days?  That there are still too many archaic thinkers out there who believe that a woman’s only place is ten steps behind a man, or barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, or at a secretary’s desk but never in the corner office.  That if she chooses to dress in a certain way, she is inviting trouble and if she gets trouble, she deserves it.  That her own kind will criticize her if she doesn’t have children, or if she stays home to raise those children, or if she works while raising children.

There will be unpleasant consequences to some of her choices; there already are, but they are not of the magnitude of an unwanted pregnancy or getting fired from a job.  I know that at some point I will lower the shield and start equipping her to deal with disappointment and failure and rejection.  But I’m not ready yet.  This time of innocency is fleeting and dear.

As I wrote this, she was eating an oreo and I taught her the old jingle, “Oh, the kid’ll eat the middle of an oreo first, and save the chocolate cookies outside for last.”  She’s thinks Perry the Platypus is cool, and she will have nothing to do with princesses.  This morning she spent a goodly amount of time constructing a stable out of DVD cases for her My Little Ponies.

But as she grows up, so do I.  It’s the end of innocence, all over again.  Sigh.

pony stable 2


I don’t remember much about being seven, but here’s what I do remember:

That my teacher, Miss Manley, got married in the middle of the year and then we needed to call her Mrs. Dwyer.  She invited us all to her wedding, and I wore my sister’s hand-me-down blue dress with the pretty ribbon on the front.  My best friend Jeanne asked me to wear that dress for her birthday, but I forgot.

Me at 7

Me at 7

I remember playing Lost in Space with Carolyn and Cindy, the two girls who lived across the street who were both a year older than I was; I always had to play Penny because I was the youngest, but I really wanted to play Judy.  I also remember the smell of the Avon girl’s “lipstick” – sort of chocolate-y and cake batter-ish.

I remember my little brother was born when I was seven.  I don’t remember the exact day he came home, but I do remember being annoyed when he would cry in the middle of the night and wake me up.  (Our relationship has improved since then.)

That’s really about all I remember.  We moved from New Jersey to Texas when I was eight, so it’s easy for me to differentiate years.  But I don’t remember much, which bothers me ever so slightly because my daughter just turned seven, and is navigating new landscapes every day, landscapes that bear no resemblance to anything I remember from that time in my life.

She loves screens – computer screens, tv screens, Iphone screens, and we limit her.  When I was seven we had one black and white tv with an antenna; watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom followed by the Wonderful World of Disney on a Sunday night was a big deal.  Now, we DVR things when we can’t watch them live, or she watches things again and again, while we try mightily to limit all the screen time to under two hours, just like the Wise People say we should.

Life is VERY dramatic for her.  She weeps – weeps- when she forgets to bring back her library books, weeps when she has to brush her teeth in the morning.  She is highly put out when the teacher rearranges the seating and she has to sit by Guy, who is annoying, and Ivan, who is distracting.  She is smart-mouthed and sassy, and when we enact the natural consequences of her bad choices, she sobs again.  We don’t spank her, mostly because I don’t think we could.  I remember only getting one spanking when I was little, for something we did when we went to Baskin Robbins.  To this day I have no idea what I did wrong; there was no connection between bad behavior and the spanking consequence, so that may have factored into our choice not to spank.

She dances.  She has moves that come out of some innate musical creature in here that just naturally gets the inference and mood of a song.  She invents steps.  She shakes her bum in a way that could bring Child Welfare out, so we only let her dance at home.

At seven, she has already figured out the Mommy Guilt card.  I don’t think she is actually trying to make me feel guilty, but she is quite articulate and expressive about her displeasure that I am always at work or at a meeting or something.  My mom stayed at home with us four kids, which is a different kind of a struggle, but I don’t remember even wishing she was around more.  (Nor do I remember wishing she was around less.)

She’s seven, and the world isn’t scary yet.  Strangers are still just potential friends and not threats.  She still believes in Santa Claus, though she’s a little more suspicious about the Tooth Fairy.  She still gets lost in her imagination, playing for hours at a time with her Polly Pockets or stuffed animals or those Little People she just won’t give away yet.  To her, the words “fart”, “poop”, and “chicken” are the most hilarious words in the English language.

She tells me I’m the best mom in the world, and that she loves me more than  a chicken nugget, and that she will go to the local community college so that she can live with us forever.  That will change.  But for now, while she’s seven, I’m glad she loves us so much and so freely.  Everyone should have a seven-year-old in their life, if only to remind them how fun and complex the world is.