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while anthony and i were walking to school a man in a well-kept bmw stopped to bid us good day. we returned the sentiment. in parting, he told anthony to work hard in school and drove off. as anthony and i watched the car pull away anthony said ...

that man must not have any kids.

why do you say that?

because he has such a nice car.

i had fully expected anthony's comment to reference how cheerful and talkative the man was, thinking that beleagured parents didn't have that sort of early-morning pep. but anthony instead connected his having nice things with him not having kids. this is a for-sure by-product of how marty and i have approached parenting.

marty recently wondered aloud if and how we were messing our kids up with some of our notions. at that moment she was talking about our dinner table conversations, which now that our kids are older and more attuned to the real world, have been at times quite irreverent and even bawdy. this is certainly something that would have never gone down at our own dinner tables growing up. for us, it has happened rather organically and almost always feels quite healthy and natural. admittedly, every now and again something will get thrown out there that makes us wonder though.

i'm sure it's been previously addressed but before i had kids i was rather particular and protective about my things. this troyscript about me not lending my books probably describes where i was as good as any words i could craft now. once my kids were mobile though i could see my irrational love of things was going to be tested in every way imaginable, and some ways you'd never conjure in a dozen years. in a moment of reflection, lucidity or both i came upon a mantra that saved me—you can love your things or you can love your children but you cannot love both.

if you're wondering how committed i have become to my things or children philosophy here's an illustration. shortly after moving into my first apartment i bought my first-ever furniture. i got two futons and a coffee table, all matching, all beautiful. the wood held a deep burgandy stain and the pieces were very smart looking in my spartan apartment. they warmed me. and i treated them like children, always using coasters, dusting them regularly and only dropping the heavy heels of my wingtips on the tabletop if there was a magazine or newspaper underneath to protect the glossy surface.

a few weeks after these acquisitions, my college pal bookpimp made the cross country trek to visit. he knocked on the back screen door. we hugged in the doorjam and i proudly ushered him into my spacious apartment. he took the brief tour looking about impressed. we moved to the living room to settle in and catch up. he pulled his wallet out of his pocket before sitting down. when he did his large tangle of keys also came out of his pocket and fell heavily onto the pristine top of my new table. i was ill. i could spot, and routinely did so, the mar from twenty feet away.

a seasoned forensicist would have no prayer of finding the long-ago blemish given all of the new wounds that table, which still sits in my home, has on it.

coloring books with an indelible permanent marker on your coffee table.

you can love your kids or you can love your things.

breaking acorns on it with a ball peen hammer.

you can love your kids or you can love your things.

taking apart electronics where the screw driver keeps slipping off the tiny screws and driving into the table top.

you can love your kids or you can love your things.

it being the perfect perch for the neighborhood dance party.

you can love your kids or you can love your things.

about a year back i came up from the basement with my workbag in hand. i flipped my table over and installed a series of L-brackets onto its underside so it could better hold the weight of people sitting, dancing, and jumping from its top. there was no artistry to my work. just cheap brackets, some one-inch deck screws and a power drill. the job took less than ten minutes. i remember smiling at the memory of those slow-motion keys falling onto the then-perfect top of this decades old relic.

my mantra has served me well. it has left me sane, un-wrecked, and most importantly still loving my children. hopefully the same can be said of them. but, and this is one of those life-important buts, it is not to say that i have completely given up on my respect, adoration and love of things. it is still there. lurking. waiting for the all-clear that it is safe to come out again. and it is almost safe to come out again.

many families upgrade their homes when they get kids and then downsize when the kids leave. marty and i are doing the exact opposite. we are intentionally staying put in our home which fits our family like a sun-baked work glove. then, when they leave, we are up-sizing and up-grading and up-scaling. you should see the plans. hear the visions. i assure you they are both grand are magnificent. you will want to visit. i promise. everyone will want to visit. including our children. that is the end hope at least.

while our house is great for us who don't mind sharing a single bathroom with four other people, and at times sharing it at the same moment, while one of them is pooping and while the pooping-person's leg is resting against the radiator because the bathroom is so small there is not room for you, four others, a toilet and a radiator, especially when one of those people is on the toilet, we are reasonably confident the humans our children partner with may not be this sporting. so there will be rooms to relax in. bathrooms to escape to, privately. guest suites with full down pillows to retire to when your day is done. there will be screened in porches and deep reading chairs and bright kitchens counters and hammocks to nap in. it is where people will want to spend their days.

but, i wonder ... does my "you can love your kids or you can love your things" rule apply to grand-children?




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