advanced topics in parenting

Last Tuesday Chris stayed home from school sick with the flu. He and I spent the day on the couch under a mountain of blankets eating leftover Easter candy and watching cartoons. Shortly after eleven I switched over the station from Nickelodeon to ABC because Hillary Clinton was scheduled to be a guest on The View.

Chris had recently began expressing an interest in the upcoming presidential election and I thought this would be a good opportunity for him to hear a candidate speak…and also because I want him to grow up to be a socially liberal Democrat and if other parents have no problem bringing their ten year old to a Trump rally than I see nothing wrong with me allowing my ten year old to watch Hillary Clinton, who is, after all, fabulous and not a dangerous lunatic.

La Clinton was flawless. And I’m not just talking about her tailored pants suit. She nailed every question, charming even that bastion of religious conservatism Candace Cameron-Bure. God, I love that woman – HRC, not CCB.

So what if I’m as biased as a Bernie Bro? I mean does it really matter if I spent a majority of the interview explaining to Chris how perfectly on-point the former First Lady’s hair was and why that detail alone was reason enough to vote for her? No, because the point is we were bonding and my son was learning an important civics lesson.

It was magical…until someone on the panel asked a question about abortion.

“What’s abortion?” Chris asked.

Look, I don’t care if you’re pro-life or pro-choice or pro-sports explaining abortion to a child is difficult. I did my best to answer the question in as unbiased, direct and medical a way as possible, but still it was uncomfortable.

Of course so much of being a parent is about dealing with things which are uncomfortable.

This morning over breakfast I had to explain the finer points of Stranger Danger which led to a lengthy discussion on the difference between a good touch and a bad touch and this coming on the heels of yesterday’s car ride home where I had to explain to Chris the reasons why siblings couldn’t marry each other, but in as non-graphic a way as possible because simply saying “Because they can’t!” proved to be an unacceptable answer.

Perhaps I’m too honest with the kids. Maybe “Because they can’t!” should be the last word. I don’t know. I do know the world is difficult and sometimes it can be unpleasant and we do our children no favors if we try and shield them from those realities.

Still, when Elijah asks me where babies come from I’m going to learn from my mistakes and rather than try and explain the birthing process I’ll simply direct him to watch an especially graphic episode of Call the Midwife and rest comfortable in the knowledge that my work is done here.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here.

 

 

 

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the last days of the first months

Each day for the past four months my morning routine has been the same: drop off my oldest son at his bus stop, drop off my husband at his office, and then before going into work take my youngest son to the coffee shop around the corner and pass the time until his pre-school opened its doors. Going to the coffee shop, it was our ritual from almost the first day he had been placed with us. Having come from a very small town in rural West Virginia, going to a coffee shop seemed a great adventure to our newest addition and he loved it. Every morning he would stroll about the coffeehouse as if he owned it, putting on a show for the regulars who only encouraged him with their laughs and smiles. The barista was a big fan too, overlooking the contraband snacks we had brought from home to eat with our coffee and water.

After choosing a seat (always by the window!) we would settle in with our drinks and snacks, pausing from our respective distractions to make small talk and share smiles. I worked my way through the pages of the Call the Midwife trilogy while he polished off two seasons of SpongeBob on my phone.  The minutes ticked by slowly during those first few weeks as we both struggled to settle into this new normal, but in those final days it seemed as if no sooner had we sat down then it was time to part ways.

Today was our last morning at the coffeehouse. Summer vacation starts on Monday. As we walked from the car we played our last game of Booby-Trap Sidewalk. Inside he performed his last show for the coffeehouse patrons. We enjoyed our snacks and drinks as if it were any other morning. I read my book and he watched his show, both of us acting as if Monday would be no different. He looked at me and smiled. I froze the moment.

I’m not nostalgic, except now I am.

My son is just five years old and already he is growing up.

I try to freeze every moment before the present fades into the past.

I think back to those early days with my oldest son and I struggle to remember that first summer with him. Fresh off the plane from Oregon and we were strangers. We spent every moment of those three months together — we had our own routines, our own rituals — every day was a great adventure. We made small talk and shared smiles. I froze moments, but two years later, it seems not enough.

When you adopt they make you read books and take classes on being a parent, but for all their information what the books and classes fail to tell you is that children grow up and moments slip away. One day the seven year old turns nine and the next day the five year old is graduating high school. Life goes on.