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KIDS (permalink) 12.14.2007
it's the name-calling, biter you gotta watch out for
when my sister-in-law was exiting a store with her three year old, he spied a nearby baby, pointed at it and started loudly screaming, "stupid baby! stupid baby! stupid baby!" some hours later she called marty to commiserate about the incident. of course none of our children ever hurled insults at hapless passerbys from the red cage of a target cart. our children much preferred biting them. i mean, i've seen insulted kids not cry. the same cannot be said about freshly bitten ones.

the stupid-baby tale supports a theory i have about parenting: it is not the parent's job to mold the human, it is the parent's job to keep the human alive until adulthood. we come much more wired than i think many seem to acknowledge. for instance, we didn't teach bella to bite kids who touched her crayons. she just did it the first time it happened. as parents it's our job to teach her not to bite crayon-curious playmates because one day she may bite the wrong one and they, in turn, will eat her. we will have then failed her as parents.

another thing not often acknowledged is the full psychological rigors that come from life with children. sure, people say it's hard and it's this and it's that, but not many people talk about their honest emotions when coping with the frustrations of children. what previous experience prepares you to look at a stranger and say 'yeah, sorry my kid called your baby stupid. i'm sure he's not that stupid, you know, being a baby and all' or to make the phone call saying you're glad that the bite didn't break the skin. parenthood will for sure test the most patient and capable out there.

when marty is at her breaking-point she goes into this deep-breathing trance. she told me that during it she thinks about the child (in question) when they were still in infancy and still cuddly and toothless and wordless. a few moments of this helps her re-enter the heat of the fracas less likely to take someone (in question) out.

thinking about the past doesn't work for me, i have to think about the future. when i start unraveling, i say the three letters F and S and U, repeatedly. what FSU represents for me is the day in my future when i deliver my child to a university to begin their college education. i pick FSU, or florida state university, because it is far away and because it strikes me as a party school (two characteristics that twist the knife a little extra). so i imagine driving my child halfway across the country, unpacking their bags and boxes and then briefly inspecting their room. i imagine myself sitting on the couch of their room during the awkward last few moments. i imagine marty standing by the door gesturing for me to get up. i imagine my child not nearly as aware of the import of the moment as myself. i imagine that tighter than usual hug and a longer the usual kiss on the cheek. i imagine the hollow chasm in my chest when the dorm room door closes and i imagine the deathly silent walk to the car.

so when i walked into the living room six days ago and found the christmas tree toppled on its side ... FSU. and when i walked into the living room three days ago and found the christmas tree again toppled over on its side ... FSU. and when i walked in the door from work tonight and found our christmas tree fallen yet again ... FSU. and when i asked alex what happened and he said "anthony just looked at it and it fell down" ... FSU.

and now just even typing out how many times the christmas tree has fallen over the in the last week ... FSU.

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