This week in Parenthesis, we wander down memory lane with Ellen Seidman, celebrate a 3-year-old’s birthday with Heather Armstrong, observe as Mike Spohr slowly turns into his parents, and bask in summer’s carefree glow with Sweet Juniper’s James Griffioen.
When it comes to blogging about birthdays, Heather Armstrong is the gold standard; her signature mix of gentle teasing and genuine affection feels fresh with every note she wrotes. This time, her missal to 3-year-old Marlo considers the differences between the birthday girl and her older sister Leta (“[Leta] wants her toys in their bag tucked into the corner of the closet. You want them dunked in your bowl of chili, thrown into the air and then set on fire with a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter that you stole from 7-11”) -- and the differences between Marlo and Heather herself, too (“You take my toys out of my closet and set them on fire, and suddenly I realize I kind of like them that way. And I never would have known that without you.”) It’s a touching tribute to a girl with an “eternally playful” soul.
History repeats itself
What’s the surest sign you’re turning into your parents? For Mike Spohr, it all comes down to patterns of speech. Specifically, phrases like “Careful or your face will freeze that way!”, “I’m canceling Christmas!”, and “Because I said so” (“perhaps the most annoying parent-ism of them all”).
“When I was younger I swore that I would never repeat [these] to my kids,” Spohr writes, “but now that I’m a Dad my resolve is nowhere near as strong.” Indeed, he’s already succumbed to the physics of fate enough to splutter “Bye! I’m leaving you here!” at his young daughter. And while some of the phrases he singles out are “just evil,” others, he says, are no less than a “rite of passage.” Which is why Mike’s daughter Annie, and her children and grandchildren, will likely wind up saying them, too.
Down memory lane
Ellen Seidman of Love That Max recently took a ramble through her pre-kids stomping grounds of Hoboken, New Jersey -- where she revisited old haunts, ran into former friends and reminisced about the years before she was a mom. The result is a lovely blog post full of musings on past, present, and the potency of place (interrupted only once by a phone call from the babysitter):
I thought back my twenties, when so much was unknown. What would happen with my career? Who would I marry? Where would we live? What would our kids be like? We moved out of Hoboken when I was three months pregnant with Max, and I felt a pang of regret for that me who had no idea what lay ahead. I could never have imagined my baby would have a stroke. Who'd imagine that?
James Griffioen of Sweet Juniper has fond memories of his own childhood’s lazy summer days. But however enchanting it is to experience summer vacation as a kid, he writes, “it is a marvel to see it” from a parent’s perspective. Which is exactly what he gets to do, since he's spending his summer at home with the kids.
During the school year, Griffioen actually has trouble making most of the time he has to himself; “I have simply forgotten how to function without the cacophony,” he writes. And the cacophony doesn’t just help him function -- it lets him thrive: “I love being with them. This is my purpose. This is where I belong.”
Although we're “not conditioned to be content” and enjoy life’s successes without constantly peering ahead, Griffioen says he has few regrets about the path he’s currently on: “Dropping out of the grind to spend my days with [my children] has been the luckiest and best thing that's ever happened to me.”