Sunday, January 24, 2016


Here’s a question my Ben asks with somewhat alarming regularity: Is that a rule or a law?

As in, If I ignore this edict, will I go to actual jail, or will I just get in trouble?

As in, Lady, I give zero fucks about the way people tell me things are supposed to be, but before I totally ignore this convention, I must weigh the consequences against the benefits of disregarding the tedious restrictions you people insist on reciting at me ad nauseam.

The real problem with this behavior is that I find it charming. It makes me swoon a little bit. And Ben can read me with terrifying accuracy. So I solemnly swear to you good people that I am dutifully reciting tedious restrictions and making serious mom faces at him. I really, really am.

For example: Do not use that bad word, I say to him. That is not a word kids are allowed to say.

But my brain is thinking, Yeah, that is a pretty dumb rule, and if you want to say the eff word now and then, it really isn’t that big a deal, man. It’s just a word. Words only have as much power as we assign them, you know? So don’t use it to hurt people. Don’t call them fuckheads or anything. But if you want to use it to express an idea more forcefully, or to register your disdain, or even your amusement, I happen to know it is quite effective. Also, you very quickly discover who in the room would be a fun friend based on their reaction to it.

So you guys, I am really saying the mom things and making the mom face, but Ben is looking straight into me with his blue, blue eyes and reading my mind and taking the lesson he wants from this encounter. That lesson being: Fuck it. This is a rule and NOT a law and I won’t go to jail for this bullshit.

If you read this blog, you probably know me, and this is the part where you say, Yeah, that kid is just like you. And to you I say, I know! Isn’t it great? (Also, please send help. Also, wine. Thanks.)

I tend to attribute this rule/law-challenging temperament to a high degree of rationality, which seems better than attributing it just being kind of an asshole. But it has always seemed to me highly rational to question things, and to refuse to blindly accept the widely assumed answer.

If you lift the hood on most generally accepted conventions and muck around in the guts of things, you tend to find fear in one form or another. Fear is the absolute worst. It’s a paralyzing agent, and the enemy of rationality. So let’s unplug some shit and rewire some shit and see if it still runs. (It mostly does. Don’t worry.)

That’s a nice story, right? The one about a high level of rationality being the reason Ben and I cannot seem to stop hot-wiring conventions and taking them drag racing? It’s a story I like to tell, but it’s some delusional bullshit.

As a kid, I fairly crackled with resentment at my powerlessness. All I wanted was to steer my own ship, and people kept telling me what to eat and when to sleep and making me sit all day in desks where I had to do math. I was so pissed, you guys. I was not rational.

And Ben is pissed. The other morning, I was hustling everyone into the car so we could leave by 7:30, which is when the goddamn train departs, and he just lost it. WHY DO WE HAVE TO LEAVE AT 7:30 WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT 7:30 WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE 7:30?


So he got in the car (he was SO PISSED), but man, that kid just wants to steer his own ship and I totally, totally get it.

Growing up is the hardest work we ever do. My deepest reservation about having children was knowing I’d be inflicting the process of growing up on an innocent person who asked for none of this. But since I went ahead and had kids anyway, I try to be reasonable and empathetic about the messiness and inherent frustrations involved in escaping the heavy atmosphere of childhood. (Unless I’m trying to get their asses into the car by 7:30. Then I take no shit.)

It often kind of sucks being a kid, you guys. At least, that’s how I remember it. But at least it doesn’t last very long.

Proof that it doesn’t last very long: Ben just turned 11(!), and I’m about to turn 44(!!). I have decided (in totally irrational fashion) that this has special significance.

This is our first mutual repeating-digit age year. Ben and I will get one of these every 11 years and, yes, I know anyone who has a baby during a repeating-digit age year gets a mutual repeating-digit age year every 11 years. I suck at math, but I’m at least that alert.

But since this is our first one, and since Ben faces a lifetime of carrying around the curse that is my temperament, I feel like I should mark this year somehow. If I was a certain kind of person, I would dress us up in coordinating outfits and make him stand in a sunlit field and subject him to professional photography.

But I am not that kind of person, you guys, not even a little fucking bit.

I’m thinking more like we should get into some trouble together, and maybe co-author a story about it. He likes to read, and he likes to write (my boy mineminemine) and he likes to get into some trouble. The real question is, what kind of trouble should I pick for us?

Digression: Now I’m thinking about Ben’s most recent parent/teacher conference, a special called session of multiple teachers to discuss… well, Ben. It emerges that Ben starts work, but does not finish it, and is not impressed when the teachers tell him he HAS to finish it before he can start something else. He just… doesn’t. He just stops the work and gets up and goes to do something else and does not listen to them at all.

So they are telling me this, and I am nodding solemnly and expressing dismay and pledging my sincere devotion to working with the teachers to make sure this shit stops. And I’m totally going to do that. But I’m thinking, Goddamn it, I start and then wander away from work all day every day of my life and I still get my job done. I just don’t do my job in a linear way.

But my poor Ben has got to learn to do things the way the world wants him to right up until he doesn’t have to anymore, which is where childhood ends and adulthood begins.

You guys, being a kid SUCKS .

Anyway, Ben is 11, I am 44, this year feels important and I’m shopping for some trouble for Ben and me to write about together. I welcome any and all ideas, though I’d prefer to focus on trouble where we break rules and not laws.

Or hey, let’s at least make sure we’re staying in the range of misdemeanors.

We could probably tunnel out of jail, anyway.