Friday, January 22, 2010

An Other Kind of Day

This post has been flopping around in my head for a while now, like a caught fish. Or clown shoes. I finally have a few minutes to try to release it onto the page but now that I actually try to write, I'm having a hard time formulating the words for what I want to say. So this may read like a poor (and woefully less talented) womans' Virginia Wolf-ian stream of consciousness...But here' goes...

Lately, I find that one consistent thought keeps returning to the forefront of my exhausted brain:

I hope that I can parent my child to be smart. Smarter than me.

And I'm not really talking about book smart. I am book smart. I loved school, succeeded at it...graduated college with honors and all that. So yeah, of course I want my son to be book smart but I'm not really worried about that, per say. Whether he succeeds in school or learns some other way, I know he's a smart kid.

I'm worried about the other kind of smart, what some might call street smart. Or maybe common sense. Its just that I did so many very, very stupid things when I was younger. Dangerously stupid things. And just thinking about them now has this non-believer crossing herself and looking heavenward.

An example:

When I was 15, I had this great friend named Cori. She was everything I wasn't - extroverted, sassy, confident, knew all kinds of fun make-up tricks and had "lots" of experience with boys. Me, I'd had a couple boyfriends but never made it past heavy petting, and was pretty self-conscious about my body and appearance in general.

She lived in a huge, mostly empty refurbished funeral home on main street with her uncle who had bought the place 'for a great price' and decided to live in it. We spent hours in her room (formerly the viewing room for the funeral home) putting on blue mascara, listening to Lenny Kravitz and talking about who was boning who in high school.

One night, all dolled up, we were walking on main street and a guy we'd never met, in some kind of 80's-tastic douchebag car (a Camaro maybe?) pulled up and asked us if we wanted to go to a party.

We went with him. We literally let him pick us up like a couple of teenage hookers.


It turned out to be nothing really. He drove us out to a trailer park where some people were drinking Sex on the Beach's (first time I'd ever heard of that) and listening to metal. Cori flirted and swayed her hips and blinked a million times a minute. I sat on a couch and swirled the ice around in my drink and tried not to stare at the couples in matching pocket-less wranglers making out. We stayed for a while, then once our 11:00pm curfew approached, politely asked for a ride back in to town, which some girl there was glad to do as she was leaving as well.

So it all turned out fine. But what if it hadn't? I mean, how fucking stupid is it to get into a strange dude's car like that? I know now that that same, bad decision could have lead to sexual assault or any number of other things. And for many young people, it has and does.

I did all sorts of other stupid shit as an adolescent and young adult and I am frankly amazed now that I came through it with so little scarring. Maybe I watch too many movies or read too much Newsweek, but I can't help but imagine all the horrible stuff that could have happened. Of course my parents had done all the requisite 'stranger danger' training but apparently I just didn't give a shit? I honestly don't know what I was thinking.

And, as a parent now, this (I think common) teenager-y of inability to access any sort of common sense scares the holy living shit out of me.

How do I do it? How to I grow an independent, intelligent boy with common sense? I know that he has to grow up and make his own mistakes and that I can't shelter him (and I don't want to). But at the same time, I want him to know that one bad decision can change everything.

There are reasons I've been thinking about this lately, reasons that I don't feel totally comfortable writing about here. And maybe it seems silly to be thinking about this stuff when my kid is only 2 years old. But I know that what I do NOW as a parent, will have an impact on who he becomes THEN. And while some days I feel like I'm rocking the mom gig pretty hard, on others, I'm terrified I'm going to screw it up. Today's an 'other day.'

1 comment:

VoofaVoofa said...

But. Aren't you presently supposed to be worried about how to get him to let you put on his coat in the morning, when all he really wants to do is chase the dog?

This is some seriously far-off shit. But you're absolutely right - they learn that common sense now, don't they? Thanks so much for loading me full of new worries.

But really, though. I just listened to a woman give a talk about - hell, I don't actually know what it was about. But she did a lot of talking about centering yourself and your kids, grounding them, etc. She used the word "energy" a lot. But so much of what she said was just like a light bulb turning on. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?"

She talked a bit about intuition, and how none of us would argue that our children are born with it - but many of them seem to lose it. She suggested we talk about our feelings. When we see/meet someone, say things such as, "I just didn't get a really good feeling about that guy." or "She seemed like such a good person - I really got a good feeling from her." And encourage them to follow their instincts. If you force him to go give a kiss to creepy uncle George, whom he has never met before, what is this teaching him? "If you teach them to ignore their gut feelings, are they going to get onto the elevator with that creepy-looking guy when they're 9?"

That's all I got.