Friday, May 29, 2015
"But I don't need sunscreen, I have a hat." He makes a show of flinging his cap to the ground and glaring at me. I am used to this. His older sister has hardened me to these stare downs. I am a rock, I don't blink. Do your best, kid.
"That's fine. You don't have to wear sunscreen. You have choices."
"I do?" He is smart. He knows me. He knows this is a semantic trap, but he walks in anyway. Why the hell not, what's he got to lose?
"Sure. You can skip the sunscreen and go to school and stay in the office all day while the other kids do field day...or you can shut your mouth, put the sunscreen on, and have a great day outside with your friends."
Just then, his sister smugly interrupts. "They will probably have an essay assignment for the kids who don't go to field day."
He begins to slather himself with SPF 50. I give her a dirty look.
"I can't wait to be an adult," he says, angrily smearing the white liquid chalk across his face. "Then I can do whatever the hell I want."
"You know, honey is actually a form of sugar," I say, making a cutting motion with my finger across my throat. "It will rot your teeth. As for being an adult. It's awesome. It's awesome 'til it's not."
"So what is being an adult all about?"
"I think it's about doing the right thing...every day. And figuring out how to enjoy life in a simple way."
"Was there anything surprising about being an adult?" This conversation was getting pretty deep. I wasn't even into my first sip of coffee.
"I think the biggest surprise is that other people who you think are adults, are actually not making adult decisions. It's...pretty tough when that's what you're up against."
My daughter nods her head slightly. "Yeah, the grow-ups are the ones doing the really stupid shit lately. Guess we're going to have to follow our own lead."
It's a wonder I don't put whiskey in my coffee. But then, that would be a pretty bad decision right before I drive them to school. I'm sure people do it. I know people do it. It's un-adult. They're in denial.
Of course, who hasn't wanted to check out sometimes? Especially the adult population that is responsible for smaller beings. We all know, but some may not admit, that this parenting thing is just...it's sucking the life force right out of me. These little monsters are expensive. And they're not even little anymore. I was talking with a 747 pilot the other day about the 26,000 gallons of fuel that that giant beast eats up on long distance flights.
"Try feeding teenagers," was my response. He laughed.
In addition to the food consumption, which, if you are raising two VERY active human beings, is abysmal on the wallet, there is the occasional attitude injection at the most timely moments. Like, right before we get in the car, or, just as I am waking up or trying to head to bed...always some little snotty comment drenched with entitlement and arrogant (faux) wisdom. The boy just asks so many questions I finally end up whipping around, coffee in hand, my face twisted in horrible wrath.
"Judas Fucking Priest, that's your last question for the day. That's it, you've met your quota. And how am I supposed to know how many fire ants it would take to eat a man whole? Who asks these things? How do you even think this shit?"
It's a delicate balance and I am watching adults tip the scales in the wrong direction. They are giving in to the self-destruction that ruins whole families generation after generation. I can't tell you if this is a phenomenon that is happening only in this generation, or if it just that we see it more in the news or on social media or in a louder consciousness. But it's there. Very loud, and very clear. We are letting 'the others' make the decisions for us, trusting that, well, they must know best.
They don't know best. Adults make mistakes all the time. But are we learning from the mistakes? It's too easy to blame something else. The addiction, the depression, the desperation, the crappy job, the bad husband, the bad wife, the catastrophically stupid teenager, the coaches, the government...
So, who's gonna make the right decision then? A cruel grandmother marches her 9-year-old granddaughter around the neighborhood until the kid finally dies of exhaustion...no one notices? No one speaks up until it's too late? Where are the adults?
A teenage boy prays on the innocence of his younger sisters...and instead of in jail, he ends up on a major television network...expecting his fourth child with his wife. Why didn't anyone step in? What about the girls? They are marked for life. It is a life sentence enacted on them by their older brother. And he's no longer a predator? Bullshit. Where were the adults?
It's 8:30 at night, you've just walked in the door after a full day of work, watching your kid's baseball game, piggybacked with your other kid's tennis match, and you know you have to sign two permission slips, make some kind of a nutritious meal because they're starving, make sure they check themselves for ticks...Do you hit a 30-pack and let them lick the wounds of the day? You could. But you're an adult. I'm an adult. Being an adult means you don't give in to the destructive whim. Of course you want to, we all want to. We all have tendencies.
There's a monster child lurking in every single one of us. Do we let it win? People are waiting for us to do our job. Small people. People who will do whatever we say. If that's not the most frightening thing in the world, I don't know what is.
We've had a few 'situations' here, that kind of shit happens as your kids get older by the way. They come home with problems like "my friend isn't eating," or "so and so says he wants to hurt himself..."
These are burdens too big for a child's shoulders. Then they say, "but don't tell anybody, OK?"
Not OK. I want to pretend I didn't hear that an 8th grader might be contemplating suicide. But I don't. 'Cause I'm a fucking grown up and shit is real now.
I just tell my daughter, "You're a good friend, but this is too much for you. You're not responsible for fixing this. It's on me now. Let the adults handle it."
I pick up the phone. She sighs, relieved.