I want my daughters to be good people.
I want them to be smart, successful, pretty, funny, and all of that, but I hope I will also help to make them good.
Tonight, Odie and I had dinner and margaritas to celebrate ten years together. Our anniversary coincides with the autumn equinox. The weather today was so delightfully cool, but I know my So Cal weather too well to believe that we’re done with heat waves this year.
Over tequila and chips, we talked about our girls. It’s so important to get a babysitter and have some time alone together as a couple. We don’t do it enough. Ironically, we end up talking about our children, sometimes even looking at videos and pictures of them on our phones.
I had a brochure from a place called “The Little Gym.” We attended a birthday party at one last week, so I picked up some literature. It was a good thing I had a cocktail to numb the pain of realizing what it would cost to send my daughter there for lessons. Boy, howdy! With our limited resources, we have to make careful choices about what extracurricular activities our girls will participate in. How will these activities suit their personal strengths, help buttress their weaknesses, and develop their character?
Pringles, two, is a people person. She says “Hi” to everyone she sees. She starts the day by jumping on my head and shouting “Hellooooo, Mommy! Get up, Mommyyyyyyy!” It may sound annoying, but I can’t help but smile. She’s such a charmer. How will that natural tendency for joy and human connection best be served? Theater? Dance? Odie and I believe that the girls should each participate in two types of lessons: one physical and the other creative. I find myself secretly hoping that neither one wants to pursue musical theater or softball. I am going to have to sit through all of the practices, performances, and games. Guitar and volleyball are also glorious pursuits.
Viva is effusive, serious, and bossy. Maybe I should say “she has leadership qualities” but she herself will tell you “I don’t want to play the way you want to play, I want to play the way I want to play,” and “You’re not the boss of me.” She takes everything her little sister says to her very hard. “Mommy, Pringles said that I have to go to bed. But I don’t WANT to go to bed! I HATE to go to bed!” We have to keep reminding her that Pringles loves to get a rise out of her, and not to take the ramblings of a two year-old to heart. But, she does anyway. Whatever lessons we enroll her in, I’d like to see her learn to work as a team member. To cooperate with other children and have a coach or teacher who knows how to give her corrective feedback without breaking her sensitive spirit. If we’re not careful, Viva will happily learn how to play chess and write poetry, thus permanently locking herself into a personality that is adversarial and isolating.
It’s a balance, I think, between encouraging what comes to them naturally and challenging them to stretch themselves outside of those comfort zones.
As a high school teacher, I meet a lot of kids. Some of them are amazing kids with qualities I’d love to see in my own children. Many of them are shy or quiet and I finish the school year feeling like I never really knew them. A small minority remind me that parenting is an essential job and a hard job. You can’t give up, not even when the finish line is in sight.
And honestly, is the finish line ever in sight? As Jason Robards’ character tells Steve Martin’s in the 1989 film Parenthood, “It never ends. You never spike the ball and do your touchdown dance.”
I love being with my husband and my children. I look forward to seeing them after work every day. They’re hilarious, kind, and fun to be with. I hope they never turn into the kind of girls or women who would delight in the pain or failure of others. Who will forget their privilege and neglect to empathize with others. Who are so self-involved, damaged, or narcissistic they think their worth is a jeans size or the number of likes on an Instagram photo. If they see their classmates bullying a teacher or another student, I’d want them to stand up for the victim, or at the very least refuse to participate. And I want them to enjoy hanging out with Mom and Dad, even if it is just brunch on Sunday or a movie now and then.
I’m off to bed now. I still have about seven months of sleep deprivation stored up, and I’m chipping away at it little by little. The workload that I’ve taken on going from an 80% to a 100% assignment has stunned me, especially since I have five composition classes this year. Last year, I had four grammar classes. The amount of grading I have to do takes my breath away, and I’m terribly behind. I feel guilty taking the time to do my own writing, but it’s essential to me.
Goodnight and good luck.