Sunday, February 26, 2012


There were Two Little Bears who lived in a Wood,
And one of them was Bad and the other was Good.
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times One -
But Bad Bear left all his buttons undone.
I think I've mentioned once or twice that parenting is one of those things that are not for the fainthearted.

I'm not really thinking of the physical sort of issues that greenlighting the Kid Project will raise, although between back pain, frequent urination, night sweats, and stretch marks the gross physical problems begin early and continue right through into childhood. This adorable baby toes you kissed in his cradle will stank right through the sneakers when he's eight. Just sayin'.

Disgorging dinner at midnight, frantic nosebleeds, random incontinence; puke, blood, and shit - as a parent you are and will be expected to deal with every loathsome aspect of our human frailty and do so with the sort of revoltingly cheerful perkiness that you thought was the province of Cherry Ames, the student nurse in the old hospital stories.
They lived in a Tree when the weather was hot,
And one of them was Good, and the other was Not.
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times Two -
But Bad Bear's thingummies were worn right through.

Then there's the time-management aspect of parenting.

Which is; you won't have any when the little eyes are open, from birth to about age which time you'll spend that time worrying about whether the little eyes are looking into a beer bong, or down the barrel of a gun, or at a naked fourteen-year-old promising to love her forever if she just lets him...

Let's not go there.

You will become a warm-blooded entertainment system and jungle gym. You will read a million stories, tickle a thousand tummies, run a hundred races. You will be soccer team, bridge partner, video-game target.

Plus there's the whole "get through the day" question. Sadly, the genetic programming of hairless monkeys does not include the instincts to tie shoes, comb hair, find classrooms, eat lunch, complete homework, pick up clothing, brush teeth, or invent bedtime stories. So you, the Potentially Responsible Party, need to be on hand to make sure that the progeny do not show up at the classroom door looking like a shoeless inbred from Hootin' Holler trailing a scrap of paper and a broken stick.
They lived in a Cave when the weather was cold,
And they Did, and they Didn't Do, what they were told.
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times Three -
But Bad Bear never had his hand-ker-chee.
And this never stops.

I think I've told you the story about asking my mother when she stopped worrying about me (and I was a difficult and fretful child, I should say; there was never an instance when I had the opportunity to do something that I didn't choose the most fraught, difficult, and fatheaded way to go about it and then insist, when advised that there WAS an easier, simpler, less chancy way to do whatever the thing was jam my fingers in my ears and chant "lalalalalala" as I went on my hardheaded and difficult way) and the look that I got in return which would have curdled fresh milk.

We never stop being parents. When our kids are adults we'll STILL be fretting about their choices, just unable to do more than suggest an alternative.

And what seems like the most unkind and unfair part of the transaction is that we don't get the guarantee of a Happy Ending.

They lived in the Wood with a Kind Old Aunt,
And one said "Yes'm," and the other said "Shan't!"
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times Four -
But Bad Bear's knicketies were terrible tore.
I have a friend; a truly brilliant, put-together woman, funny, inventive, just a great woman. She was cursed with a fairly worthless bag of stupid for a husband but put up with him for twenty years to raise two kids. And one of them, the older girl, is a shifty, treacherous grifter. Charming in her way, much like her father with the ability to deploy a certain amiability as long as it doesn't cost her any effort, but an untrustworthy slacker who lied and cheated her way to getting locked out of her own home.

I have another friend whose son has just stopped giving a shit about his schoolwork. He's a great kid; not dangerous, not angry, or mean, or rebellious, but he just stopped caring about his grades. She has been unable to convince him that in three years he's going to have to earn a living and that without a high school diploma that will be somewhere between difficult and nightmarish.
And then quite suddenly (just like Us)
One got Better and the other got Wuss.
Good Bear muddled his Twice Times Three -
But Bad Bear coughed in his hand-ker-chee!
I could go on and on...the ordinary tales of domestic woe that seem to visit every family in some way or another. When you think about it, it's rather amazing that any kid manages to get into young adulthood sane, unmaimed, and without an arrest record.

My littles are, thank Zoroaster, too small yet for me to have those sorts of worries.

And yet, there are always enough troubles in the world to spawn more.

In their cases, I look at them and try to peer down the road towards adolescence to divine who will have an easy puberty, who a hard one? Who will find themselves the narrow road through the mountains of teen age to the broad, sunlit uplands of a happy and prosperous adulthood, who the broad path down to the hell of trouble and pain?

If you'd asked me a year ago I'd have said the Girl was a likely candidate for the former and the Boy the latter.
Good Bear muddled his Twice Times Two -
But Bad Bear's thingummies looked like new.
Good Bear muddled his Twice Times One -
But Bad Bear never left his buttons undone.
Because Missy had the happy, sunny, open, loving sort of personality that lends itself to happiness. People loved her easily, were charmed by her instantly. The black keys of bossiness and touchiness were well hidden as she cheerfully played her preschool arpeggios.

The Boy, at seven, was already showing the kinds of things that made me such a heart-attack for my parents back in the day. Sulky, hard-headed, touchy, easily angered and disappointed, easily frustrated and discouraged. Those two touchstones of school failure; laziness and combativeness.

The negatives tended to outfight the positives for the Peep; his loving, clever, artistic, creative side would just get buried under the weight of the miserable little guy who seemed to lack the facility for happiness.

I dreaded his walking the same road I had, and, yet, seemed unable to do anything about that.But.

(And you knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you?)

Lately the little Bears have been trading places.

Take yesterday.

The Boy and I had a terrific day. We went all around Portland in the truck, spent time together looking through Pokemons and buying a new game at our favorite hobby store, agreed that the line at OMSI was, like, crazy long so went down to the Nickel Arcade and shot the hell out of some Terminators (where the Boy drove home the fact that twenty years of military service doesn't make you a better shot than ten months of playing first-person shooter games) and then stopped off at Burgerville for some fries.

Back home we ran down to his school and had a chilly kickabout under the covered training area where he showed me how to head the ball (grin...) and then out for coffee and cocoa and bowling(!) - the only blip; he didn't do well and was pretty sullen about it.

But then we went home for dinner, a movie, and then a couple of games, which he won with glee and good sportsmanship.

He was a great kid and a good companionWhilst we were about that, The Girl and her mom were having a truly difficult day. They went to our little North Portland consignment craft store, Scrap, where Missy was clingy and sulky, then home, to where she was whiny and cranky. She glumped, fussed, and whined through most of the day, only perking up in the evening to become more like her happy self.

She snarled and complained about being asked to pick up her toys and clothes. She was instantly sullen if she was denied a moment's attention from her mom. She was, more than she had ever been, much as she had been lately, something of a jagged little pill.
There may be a Moral, though some say not;
I think there's a moral, though I don't know what.
But if one gets better, as the other gets wuss,
These Two Little Bears are just like Us.
So I think I've come all this way just to settle upon another Hazard of Parenting they don't tell you about in "What To Expect When You're Expecting"; the uncertainty of it all.

Not only can they not promise you the happy ending, I'm starting to think there's no real way to figure out where the damn thing is, or how to get there, or to feel confident you'll know when you have arrived, or even whether you've already achieved it and are coasting into the winner's circle.

In short, we're back where we started; parenting is a contact sport, and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.
For Christopher remembers up to Twice Times Ten ...
But I keep forgetting where I put my pen.*

*So I have had to write this one in pencil.

~ A.A. Milne
Oh, and the last picture? That's the church where Mojo and I were married ten years ago this October.

Full circle.

Or, let's hope, at least halfway.


basilbeast said...

My M&D raised 7 of us, I'm the eldest. Mrs. bb an me never had any of our own, I don't think we could have done as well.

Mistakes were made, some serious, others not so much. More hugs and shows of affection could have been given, IYWTK.

2 items on church-going, since you have included 2 pix of one. I don't want to sound like I'm intruding in your personal life, but I absolutely believe some sort of religious education is necessary for kids. If nothing else, they need to know what they'll be dealing with in modern American culture; and one hopes they'll also be gaining a foundation for a moral basis for life and the knowledge where that morality comes from. Note I'm not mentioning anything about the afterlife.

Just my opinion, take it or leave it.

The second is a link to the letter written about Ecclesia Americana to our local rag.

I believe it's the absolute truth, absent some theology I'd disagree with.


FDChief said...

Basil: Interestingly, the kiddos have adopted their own approach to theology pretty much absent any sort of official instruction from the adults.

The Boy has dipped a toe in Christianity and found it...ridiculous. It's worth the price of admission to hear him explain his take on the doctrine of homoousios, or the story of Easter. He's familiar with the idea of Gods and faith, he just considers them fairly pointless.

The Girl doesn't really understand.

We talk about religion and faith; I try and educate them on the basic tenets of the major religions, point up that there are good people of all different opinions about them, and that I don't really know who's right but that I try and live by the Golden Rule whether or not there's a God to enforce it at the end. My wife is less circumspect, more dismissive, but still answers questions and gives information as neutrally as she can.

In all honesty if my kids find themselves some sort of faith they like I'm fine with it. But they'll have to find it themselves; the furthest I'm willing to go is information; inculcation is beyond me and, frankly, not appropriate for kids, IMO. Religion, like sex, needs consent of both parties.

Just one man's opinion...

Red Sand said...

Ah. It's all so much fun, isn't it?

Pluto said...

GREAT POST, Chief. Lots of truths.

Based on hard learned lessons, I wouldn't worry about the future yet (although the temptation to borrow tomorrow's problems can be overwhelming), things will all change at least a million times before you get there.

Offering a couple of comments from further down the road, you just THINK you've got problems now! But the odds are that you'll do fine and everything will turn out reasonably well. You just don't know how yet.

Good luck!! You're going to need it! But don't forget to enjoy the many good moments along the way or you'll go crazy.

Lisa said...


Not to dismiss the goodness some people of faith demonstrate as a result of their beliefs, but just as many vile people count themselves Christian (or members of any other faith system). Per your, "I absolutely believe some sort of religious education is necessary", I would say some sort of humanistic training is necessary.

I was introduced to the faiths of both of my parents, and think the most important thing they imparted was kindness and tolerance for differences. That said, they were both pretty quirky and probably not the most meet candidates for parenthood.

As a counselor-friend has said to me, "By all rights you should be pretty effed up, but you're not." So I think key is instilling the above-mentioned traits, along with a curiosity and a desire to understand one's world. That will carry one through the most egregious failures, IMHO.

Lisa said...


That's a very lovely church. It is wonderful to contemplate the impulse to build such magnificent structures as the various sanctuaries and chapels worldwide all to honor one's god. It is good that man can feel so ennobled.

What is an unfortunately corollary of organized religion is the necessary, concomitant degradation of man-as-base (animal, fallen, etc.) without, of course, the lead of the prelate-king powerhouse.

FDChief said...

Lisa: I want to recommend to you this gentleman;

Fred Clarke is an evangelist Christian - which should make his ideas and ideals an anathema to me - yet he has some of the most humane things to say about people, religion, and life I've ever read. He had a post just the other day about the very subject you're talking about. He concluded his post with this:

"This is what happens when religion is established and made official. This is what always happens when religion is established and made official. The privileges that arise from being the official, established sect become the entire substance of that sect. The defense of that privilege replaces every other purpose, meaning or reason for existence until it is all that is left."

Couldn't have said it better myself...

And I have to say that I am thankful for whatever it was that you had or did that got you through your trials. Whatever it is, it worked; you are, indeed, "not effed up" if the term can be stretched to mean "astoundingly humane, vital, and brilliantly tender".

Just sayin'...

Lisa said...

You are so very kind, m'dear. Your beautiful words equally, if not moreso, describe you. (Time, solitude, observation ... all of it, quite healing :))

Thank you for recommending Mr. Clarke; I shall visit his writing.