At long last my mom finally made it out to sunny Seattle, after being too sick to travel over the Christmas holiday. It was this fantastic piece of news that inspired such classics as Bah Humbug! More Like Blah Whatever and How the Grinch SAVED Christmas. But we’re past all that and she gets to come out and everyone in my house sets their phasers to stun: we’re all too nervous to function normally.
For me, it’s the first time my mother has seen me as a parent. I told you before we’re a pre-packaged family and, though it’s been an 8-year endeavor, not everyone moves as fast or is as accepting as we are. I get that part. But every child still has to pass muster on those things that matter. I’m no different.
My wife becomes a Tasmanian Devil, spinning through the house cleaning and cooking—with the same warm temperament. Her nerves are, justifiably, high and me and the kids become Tito, Marlon and Jermaine to her Michael Jackson: standing in the way while she’s running around the house like this is a Pepsi commercial and her hair is on fire.
Oh but the kids are the best! Let me tell you about these individuals (you know it can’t be good: I’ve called them individuals). These clowns decide the best way to deal with their nerves is to show their entire asses. Not one booty cheek. Not the top of the crack. Whole ass. The entire time my mom is in town, DMFRHs decide a test is the best time to hold a conversation and then lie about it, convince their teachers I really want a call home, and The Boy, who earned the first DMFRH award, gets in trouble for the EXACT SAME SHIT!
That’s not the bad part. The bad part is they forced my hand.
Think about it: my mom is here looking at me as a parent and the kids offer a real test. I gotta be firm, right? I gotta be the heavy-handed disciplinarian and, whether my mom is present or not, I have to address the behavior, right? And it comes at a time when I’m staring down the mouth of a Disneyworld trip and the Day Job Dragon has been gracious enough to bequeath lil ol me a bonus.
You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
They forced my hand. I have to respond.
I raise the stakes. Try to turn the tables and force them to crumble. I make a list of all the things I’d rather do other than Disneyworld and ask them to convince me not to change my mind. Sell me on it. They don’t. These MFs call my bluff and respond poorly. POOR-LY. My wife is becoming increasingly upset because she’s watching her vacation flitter away on the ignorance of children. We look ridiculous to my mom because we can’t control our kids. And she, in her own way, is pressing for the tougher response.
While my mother was here, we went to the Pacific Science Center—Seattle’s science museum. There is an exhibit called Body Works. It has stuff about anatomy and reaction times and how the human body is built. It’s pretty cool. One of the stations in the exhibit is about how human beings (and most other living things) are built bilaterally—if you sliced us in half from head to toe, we’d look pretty much the same on both sides, right? Pretty much but not exactly. There are these little differences that you never see, subtle imperfections in the symmetry. This station had you line up your face and showed you some pictures: the way others see you, the way you see yourself, and the way you’d look if both of your halves were exactly the same. The way you think you look and the way others see you—and the difference between those images—was striking.
The question here rattling in my head, and where I’m trying to go with this, is who are you going to be? Who am I going to be? The man I see in the mirror or the one I think I’m supposed to be in that situation? For that audience? My mother never pushed me to do or be anything other than who I was. Those expectations, and the stress that comes along with them, are mine. They are the figments of my imagination combined with what I’ve gleaned from my experience. But I made them.
The goal has to be to make those images the same. The person we see in the mirror should be the same one others see when they look at us. They should be the same. I see myself as a man trying to make life better for a group of people who’d been dealt a pretty shitty hand. I see me as a man who believes anything is possible, who believes the journey is more important than the destination, who believes that we should fight to make our dreams come true.
So that is the man I decided to be.
Disney is still on, mainly because I think my wife will kill us in our sleep if we don’t go. I haven’t figured out what to do about the rest but I think me and the kids are gonna figure it out together. I think we have to.