Tuesday, October 09, 2007


A few hours ago I was typing what I thought was a witty and tempered response to what I considered to be a thoughtless comment/critique made in response to yesterday's blog. I don't always respond well to criticism. Usually I become angry. The more justified I suspect the criticism to be, the angrier I am. I wasn't too angry this morning. I was actually excited to respond. I had the perfect answer, and it was rolling through my fingers and onto the screen like magic. I was almost done, and I'd managed to fit it in before I had to feed Seren. I was a super efficient, super cool, super dad. And I was showing great maturity in keeping to the moral high ground, and offering up a good natured clarification of my intent. Just as I was looking over the response quickly to make sure it made sense and had some sort of flow, and congratulating myself, the post disappeared. The website disappeared. Everything disappeared. The computer was turning itself off. I couldn't understand why the computer would be turning itself off, and then I remembered that I wasn't alone. Sure enough, staring up at me from directly in front of the computer (which is on the floor under my desk) was my support staff of one. Seren actually smiled and pointed to the on/off button.

My first reaction was to worry about the long term implications of this act. Seren and I spend a few minutes in the office on most days as daddy deals with whatever can't wait until nap. I count on being able to sit her on the floor with a few toys for five minutes or so. Next, I mourned the loss of my witty response. Then I told the poor girl "no," like she had any idea that she'd done anything wrong. So my next move was to hug her, and feed her ... kind of. I prepared the food, put her in her high chair, put some food on her tray, and ran into the office to type. I figured I could put a few pieces of food on her tray, run in and type, sprint back and replace the eaten food, sprint back and type ... and that kind of worked. I sprinted in and out like a life sized Muppet, which Seren thought was funny. Seren also thought it was funny to pour milk all over her tray. So, I waited until lunch was over to finish the response. An hour later I found myself responding to the response to my response. And then, upon reading a nasty little response to the original version of this story, it finally occurred to me that Seren might actually have been trying to do me a favor when she turned off that computer.

I like to think that as the parent I have some control. I like to joke that I have no control. The truth (stop me if you've heard this before) is probably somewhere in between. It is easy and funny to say you have no control. I can certainly provide many examples. I can't stop Seren from taking books off of the shelf, throwing her food, or screaming. She does, however, wave her hand to signal that food is too hot. It turns out I do the same thing. Seren does sit ups. Her mom does sit ups every night. Whatever the balance of control and influence, my wife an I have a responsibility. Everything we do might impact who our daughter becomes and what she does with her life. If you believe some of the parenting books, not cutting the umbilical cord in the right way can lead to drug use and abusive behavior towards animals. I think that that is exaggerated, but not so much that it doesn't scare me. My wife and I don't have control over Seren in the strict sense of the word. We do have tremendous influence. That influence, however, can seem terribly indirect and requires a great deal of patience and foresight to wield. It is also a family endeavor. Even now, Seren collaborates in our parenting. She turns off the computer. She mimics the sound of the donkey after hearing it only twice. She stands in the middle of her room and signs "more," when she and I have finished cleaning up her room. She rushes across the room to us and showers us with hugs and kisses.

Seren has never failed to let me cut ahead of her in line at Lowes, and she has never made nasty little comments on my blog. But the people who have are just as much my partners, albeit in a more diffuse collaborative effort. I have even less control over them, regardless of how eloquent or righteous I think myself. This doesn't mean that I don't try to change their minds on particular issues, or challenge them when I think their out of line. It does mean, that I need to learn to recognize when I'm effectively scolding a 17 month old for turning off a computer. It also means that I have to be open to be contradicted, proven wrong, told to %$#@ off, have food thrown at me, and have my belly jumped on after dinner.

1 comment:

Leena said...
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