[ See the entry dated 20 August for one such example, titled » The Long Way Around. ]
The punchline to another such parenting vignette came this week when the Bug said, "Let's walk home, dad."
It is not easy however, to describe the context in which this quote came. (And this particular quote is all about context.)
One which sent me sailing off to » Cloud #9 .. Parenting Cloud 9 .. that enchanted nirvana upon which I floated for days.
And for which I was totally unprepared. As tho it came out of the blue. From left field.
You see .. before bringing the Bug back to his mom on the final day of his summer vacation .. the last thing we did was to share a taco .. at a local TacoJoint (.. with rice-n-beans, of course) ..
There is something about riding the bus that is difficult-to-describe .. that allows you to focus more directly, more completely on your son .. but I don't want to get into that now .. cuz my Cloud-9 story is so cool.
Anyway, the previous week, as I mentioned, we had taken the bus .. after NOT having taken the bus for nearly a year (.. every day to school, every day home, 3 days/week, for the whole school year).
» Like Old Times (.. with a Second Grader)
The bus was fairly crowded as the day grew dark. I had brought along a copy of A Series of Unfortunate Events [ I try to be ready for anything ] ..
.. after having already listened to a few of the later-numbered audio books .. over the last few months ..
.. and seeing that the library does not have every book of the series on audio.
[ There are 13 books in the series, and each one contains 13 chapters. ]
That was the book I read to him on the bus. It became easier to read/see the letters and words once the lights came on inside.
There were OTHER KIDS in the back of the bus, too, surrounding us .. 4 or 5 of them. Some older, some younger. Some boys, some girls.
So I read loud enough for them to hear. The 'Unfortunate' stories (as they're called) are kinda scary, so the eyes of some of these kids were peeled wide .. as I juiced up the good parts. Heck, I think even the parents were diggin' the story. =)
Notice how prominently the Lemony Snickets web site displays the following warning » DO NOT ENTER - THIS SITE IS VERY UNPLEASANT.
That's how the whole book is. The author continually tries to get you to stop reading .. saying things like » "Most books end happily. This book does not even begin happily.
So I urge you, dear reader, to put this book down, while you still can, and save yourself from much unpleasantness."
Kids seem to love that kind of stuff. "Should I stop?" I ask them. =)
I found it particularly interesting that, in chapter 4, the 3 orphan children prepare Pasta Puttanesca [ for Count Olaf and his mangy theater troupe, some of which you see pictured here ] .. for which I have posted a recipe myself, and which a number of Rad regulars have reportedly fixed for their wives.
One of the most distinctive and enjoyable features of the 'Unfortunate' series .. is its VOCABULARY BUILDING aspect. Kids learn many new words and phrases. Adults, too.
I was able to read 4 or 5 of the short chapters .. before it was time for us to disembark. The other parents thanked me profusely as we prep'ed to exit (tuck-n-roll at twenty). They said some remarkably nice things .. mui flattero.
••• today's entry continues here below •••
As usual we exited from the rear door. The bus driver waited for us to walk up the sidewalk.
» "I used to read to my kids, too"
With the bus's front door open, she called out » "I used to read to my kids, too. When they were small. There's nothing better."
I'm not really sure how she saw me, tho .. cuz we were sitting way in the back .. and the rear-mounted diesel engine is loud back there.
Permit me to interject .. on the subject of READING. HERE is a very interesting title (Proust & the Squid) .. that I would like to discuss sometime in the future.
We are not born, it seems, with the ability to READ, like we are able to see and hear and speak. The ablity to learn to read would not be possible were it not for the brain's ability (via genetic pre-programming) to MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS ..
.. among existing structures .. i.e. neurons (brain cells) and preexisting (genetically defined) neural circuits. They call this ability 'plasticity'.
Reading takes advantage of a more basic brain function that allows for PATTERN RECOGNITION.
And then, as the Bug and I walked the 3 blocks to his mom's house, we had the COOLEST TIME .. just talking .. about everything & nothing. (You know .. like the old days.) Just joking and connecting on the most perfect level.
Then we passed a Baskins Robbins. Of course, we had to stop. (Well into night by now. Still very warm. Balmy.)
» Back to the Future
Anyway, I told you ALL THAT to tell you this [ back to the future ] » as we finished our taco THIS week [ .. when I had a ride lined up with a very kind soul .. so that we needed no bus ] .. the Bug said » "Let's walk home, dad." =)
So matter-of-factly. Between bites.
Actually, it was much too far for us to 'walk' from there .. tho the bus stop sat right around the corner, 2 minutes away, and the time-of-day was similar to the week before.
» Parenting Cloud #9
What he meant to say was <paraphrase> » "Let's take the bus home, dad, and walk those 3 magical blocks to mom's ..
.. like we did last week. And while we're at it, let's stop and get another ice cream." =) </paraphrase>
These are not easy feelings to put into words. Until he uttered those words, I did not know that he enjoyed our "walk home" as much as I did.
I have told him many times, "If it means a lot to YOU, then it means a lot to ME."
It's like I heard the mantra .. which says that the thing kids really WANT/NEED from their parents is » quality time with them. Quality time. I've heard it said many times.
» Priorities, Value$ & Sanctuary #9
Which .. is really a conversation about:
- Value$ - what's really important to us?
- Priorities - how do we arrange the hierarchy of those things we value?
But I am not going there. No, sir. Not right now, anyway.
But while we're here, let me pose the question » What do you value? How is your hierarchy of priorities arranged? How is your stack configured?
Where have you placed "money"? Is it considered the answer to most questions? What's at the very top?
When I return to this topic, those answers will come into play.
This particular Parenting Cloud 9 (unexpected) feels so bitchin' .. like a sanctuary. Always nice while it lasts. =)
Readers might assume I write these parenting entries for them. And certainly I am grateful that they inspire other dads who find themselves in simlarly challenging situations. But I dont know that I'm that altuistic.
And then I dont miss him so badly any more. Cuz I start thinking about the next time we will get to be together .. which is usually not very far off.
In other words .. they help me survive.
So .. that was the context. Not easy to flesh out. Hope it was worth the effort.
And that, perhaps, if I had been able to parent as I originally envisioned, way back when, before all this craziness began .. that I wouldnt have been the same parent.
I feel sad for these unappreciated kids. Breaks my heart when I see or hear of such things. Many times I have needed to bite my tongue. A calloused tongue I have. Very calloused.
In light of the heart-wrenching pain .. I do not think I could have imagined .. that I have learned to become grateful for (focus on) what I *do* have.
It's sort of a back-asswards thing .. that even now is hard to wrap my head around .. that the less you have (of whatever) .. the MORE grateful you are for it.
[ I would have imagined that lack would have produced a sadness (or something similar) commensute with the degree of lack. But that is short-lived, from which the greater appreciation grows.
Try fasting for a few days and see how much better each bite tastes .. how much more you appreciate food.
Somebody smarter than me should write about this topic .. of lack generating appreciation .. so I can link to it. =) ]
Now .. I've been accused of many things over the past 7 years I have been a father .. but no one has ever accused me of being a parent who substitues money/ /gifts / things .. for attention / affection / love. (I never had that luxury.)
I thought it appropriate to write about Parenting Cloud #9 on 9-9 (Sept 9th).
The end. ■
For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » parenting fatherhood visitation son child values priorities