It does not behoove me in any way to admit this publicly, but I have fallen victim to the show ‘Nashville‘ currently streaming on Netflix. It’s been a rough winter for me, what with January’s singleminded fixation on Friday Night Lights. And then came the Mindy Project which was easily justified because the episodes are only about 22 minutes each.
But Nashville? Yes, Connie Britton’s hair could make almost anything watchable, but a soap opera about country music is really pushing it. I could pretend I’m watching it out of nostalgia for those six months the professor and I lived in Music City when we were first married. But other than a vague memory of seeing the ‘Batman’ building and hearing about the Bluebird Cafe, there is nothing familiar about the show.
The professor, bless him, recognizes that my personal shame is sufficient and has only offered the odd raised eyebrow or head shake as criticism, while checking in occasionally to find out if the super-obvious plot is unfolding in the manner a five year old might have guessed.
Yes, yes it is.
And still I watch.
But this is actually not about how I’m wasting my time watching bad television. Connie Britton’s character, Rayna James, made a random comment an episode or three ago about living with a ‘tween, that had me nodding my head in solidarity. It wasn’t anything particularly eloquent, just the sentiment, an acknowledgment of sorts [let me choose my words very carefully] that we are living in tumultuous times.
Every once in a while, usually after I click publish – which happens with greater infrequency these days – I will read a couple of old blog entries; howling and shaking my head at recalling long-forgotten memories of the craziness of those little-kid days. Memories I would surely be without if I hadn’t taken the time to write some of it down. (Because despite the Gort assuring me today that my brain has 2.5 million gigabytes of storage, I fear five years’ sleep deprivation eradicated all but one of those gigabytes.)
So I struggle with wanting a record of this next phase of parenting, yet I don’t feel free to write about most of it.
The early years felt a lot like a babysitting gig gone bad, in which the real parents disappeared to Hawaii and hijinks ensued as the professor and I had to figure out how to make babies stop crying and will our faces not to turn crimson at the various public humiliations. But now, it feels like we got a letter in the mail saying ‘Surprise, as it turns out, you are the parents! And, by the way, those crazy circus clowns who refused to sleep are, hopefully, going to turn into adults. So, don’t screw this up. [Too badly.]’
Suddenly this gig feels real in a way it didn’t before, and every day feels like a juggling act as you try to figure out what’s too much and what’s not enough, hoping the ball that inevitably gets dropped isn’t your child’s heart.
We were talking about the boys the other day, when the conversation landed on young Percy who, at age five and a half, is still on the clown side of the spectrum. ‘Is he your favorite child,’ I teased the professor. ‘No, he’s just my favorite age,’ he sighed. ‘Nine, is pretty good too,’ he added, by way of recollection.
But as for 7, 8, 10 and 11?
That day I agreed to participate in a political party sponsored easter egg hunt in exchange for free zoo admission. I only mention this as explanation for why my boys are sporting combed hair and wearing clean, possibly attractive, clothes.
Someone asked the professor last week about our house technology policy. He explained what the boys were allowed to do and how much. ‘What about revolt?’ the colleague asked, as one well acquainted with the post-device meltdown.
‘It doesn’t bother me to be called the worst dad in the world,’ he shrugged, as one who has been caught in the crossfire of an unhappy tween with a vocabulary on more than one occasion.
Indeed, the only observation I can make of our experience thus far: it’s a rollercoaster, a real ‘Jekyll and Hyde experience’, as the professor put it. One minute you are the worst mom, the worst dad, the worst!
And the next you are sitting across a breakfast table from a boy wearing his dad’s tie because he wanted to dress up for a date with his mom, discussing animals of prey, cooking, camping and making things in grandpa’s workshop. All while your pregnant server, undoubtedly imagining similar breakfast dates in her future, is unable to suppress a smile at the sweetness before her.
Buckle up lady, you’re in for a ride.
*Title inspired by Judy Collins’ song ‘Send in the Clowns.’