Wednesday, September 11, 2013

family resemblance

And just like that, summer's done. After last year's insane activity (3 family plane trips and 2-3 campouts) we kept it more or less low-key this year. I had a brief overnight to Boston for a job interview, and then we went to visit my family on Cape Cod. At that point I'd been at my new job for about a week, and it turns out it's really easy to detach and not work when you don't actually know how to accomplish anything.

J loves the Cape, and my parents, and my nieces. He loves the water: last year we had to stop him walking out over his head, because he couldn't swim, even though he thought he could. He just kept walking, breathing be damned. But this year he can actually swim, and quite well, so he had a ball and we just checked on him now and again to make sure he wasn't headed for Maine.

I love my two older nieces, and they've given me a few good parenting moments over the years (especially the younger one). They have grown up to be truly marvelous young proto-women. They whine a lot, but their hearts aren't really in it--they lack a deep commitment to whining. They do it out of habit, because at their house, that's how they get what they want. When they come up against me, I set more rigid limits, and they tend to adapt quickly in really heartening ways.

One time, when the younger one was maybe 7 or so, she was trying to get all doe-eyed and manipulative on me. I looked at her.
"You seem to think I've never met a little girl before. You are wrong."
She giggled and meandered off.

This time, they were substantially older, and the whining was most often under control, except for one evening when it went on and on and I was done. I looked at the younger one and smiled.
"Okay, that's enough whining. Shut your cakehole."
(I should say that I had never said that to anyone except as a joke. Because who says that? Except as a joke.)

The whining continued. I have another, carefully developed way of speaking, where my face is smiling, but my voice really, really isn't.
"I said that's enough. You. Cakehole. Shut."
The whining stopped.

I can't help but remember an episode from my own childhood, when we visited my father's brother in western New York State. My little brother and I were fighting, as usual, and finally he was done putting up with it, and he sat each of us down at each end of a very long couch.
"Stay there, and keep quiet."
"How long do we have to sit here?!"
"Until donkeys fly."
The injustice!

No comments:

Post a Comment