Remembering how to fly

We discovered this weekend that Dan and Miss L had never seen the movie "Hook." This was a situation that had to be rectified immediately.

If you don't know the movie, the plot is that Peter Pan has left Never Land and grown up. Cap'n Hook has kidnapped Peter's kids and brought them back to Never Land to force Peter into a duel. Only, Peter doesn't remember that he's Peter Pan. He thinks he's Peter Panning, attorney at law. It's up to Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys to remind Peter who he really is, so he can rescue his kids from Hook.

It's one of my faves. Robin Williams as Peter, Dusin Hoffman as Hook, what's not to like? Miss G and I have watched it about a million times. But last night, it hit me particularly hard, because I've been feeling way too grown-up lately.

My favorite line in the movie is delivered by Phil Collins, in a brilliant little cameo. He plays the inspector who comes to the house when it's discovered that the children are missing. As he's talking to Peter and his wife, they are interrupted by Toodles, one of the original Lost Boys (now an old man who has lost his marbles). While the inspector has been talking, Toodles has been staring at him suspiciously, then bursts out, "You've forgotten how to fly!"

Phil Collins answers gravely: "Yes, well. One does."

We all forget to fly. We forget to not push our kids aside to answer the phone. We forget what it feels like to be the pushed-aside kid. We forget to play Monopoly more and nag less. We make sure kids stay up late to finish homework, but not to read bedtime stories. In between the teeth being brushed and bike helmets being worn and school lunches being packed, there are not enough forts being built, fashion shows put on, or cookies being made together.

This week's homework: find happy thoughts.


How to Train Your Parents

It's important to begin retraining your parents in their public behavior toward you when you're 11. I'll give a rundown on the effective techniques Miss G displayed at her open house last week. Hopefully this will help other kids properly manage their own parents.

So, imagine you're arriving at some kind of public function. During the walk from the car, be sure you stay at least 5 feet in front of them. Pretend not to know who the two adults behind you are, particularly if you pass any friends. Under no circumstances should you introduce them to anyone. Also, do not acknowledge the parents of your friends (most likely the two adults walking 5 feet behind them). This will just embarrass everyone involved.

Even though you begged your parents to come to the open house, be sure you rush them through meeting your teachers as quickly as possible. This will give them less chance to embarrass you. Remember, even the most harmless remarks such as "Oh, Miss G is a great kid" from your teachers can humiliate you beyond redemption.

Do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances allow your parents to touch you in any way while you are in public. Long ago (perhaps even at the school meet-n-greet a mere 6 weeks ago), you may have held hands with your mother or allowed her to ruffle your hair, but this ends now. Be very clear on this, and don't relax your guard for an instant; it's dangerous to set a precedent. Your actions now set the stage for the more publicly critical teenage years. The only acceptable physical contact would be a light shoulder pat, and then only on the return trip to the car. It should be fully dark by then, so no one will accidentally see your lapse back to childhood. Immediately jerk away from all other physical contact. They'll get the hint.

Now. Because it's the most embarrassing that could possibly happen, you're bound to run into the boy you like at the open house. The previous rules still apply. Do not introduce him to your parents, or vice versa. Instead, greet the young man in question with barest civility. Try not to smile. Definitely don't distinguish him from your other classmates in any way. On the way back to the car, casually mention that "the tall kid in front of us in line talking to Ms Lawson" is the boy who's going to the Halloween Dance with you. By the time you tell them, any chance of them having an actual conversation with him will be safely past. Good work!

Keep the whole evening to 20 minutes or less. If you've met all the guidelines above, congratulations! You are well on your way to successfully trained parents.


We love Dan

Our bathtub has getting more and more clogged. We've tried every unclogging device and chemical known to man, and still no luck. We started using the kids' shower, only to discover theirs was clogged too; god knows how long it's been like that. Why on earth would they bother telling their parents about such a thing?

Dan had to go under the house to fix the drains, they're too far gone. So, yesterday and today we've been toilet-less; they've been removed and are sitting out in the yard. Luckily, we live only a few houses down from my in-laws, and they've kindly offered to let us use their facilities. They too are familiar with Dan's extended home repair projects.

Whenever Dan has a project, I like to triple his budget estimate and quadruple his time estimate to get a more accurate idea of what we're getting into. The estimate tripling is directly connected to Dan deciding to also do triple the amount of work he initially talks about. He does this every time. The rest of the problem is that we live in an old house, and repairing anything is risky; repairs can compound in seconds, like pulling a thread on a sweater. We start out wanting to bump a wall out 3 feet, no biggie, right? Except then it turns out that behind the drywall all the 2x4's are leaning crookedly and covered in cockroach poo, and the wiring is shot, and the ceiling above the wall isn't real ceiling but instead is just weird pressboard stuff that has old water damage and needs to be entirely replaced at some point so why not do it now instead of ripping the room apart again down the road?

Poor Miss G was out of her room for a month till it was all done. But damn, it's a well-built room now.

Some people hate house projects, but I really love all this. And I love having a house with Dan. I love that the dog keeps going under the house to check on him (and possibly help). I love that Miss G volunteered to bail all the standing water out of the bathtubs. I love that two of Dan's buddies showed up to bring tools over and holler under the house about how he should be doing things instead. I love that he graciously accepted the tools while good-naturedly ignoring their advice, and kept right on plogging away in his coveralls, all cheerful and covered in muck. And I love most of all that about an hour into shoveling dirt and removing pipes, he came back out, took off his coveralls, and went to his folks' house to shower so he could drive his car to his daughter's carwash fundraiser a half-hour away. Then he drove all the way back, got back in the coveralls, and went back under the house.

Dan's ridiculously likable: goofy, furry, optimistic, and the gentlest person I've ever met. He tells terrible jokes, and never raises his voice. He's incapable of being on time to anything, and has a sweet tooth that'd put me into an insulin coma. He gives the girls piggyback rides to bed every single night, and has more patience than any 3 normal people put together. Dan's single crowning trait-- which is subtle, and not appreciated by the world at large, I think-- is simply this: Dan is a good man. There are not many genuinely good people in the world (certainly not here in stupid Las Vegas), but he is one. Dan does not lie, he believes the best in everyone and is embarrassed to find that anyone would think he is a higher-caliber human than most. But he is.

I figured I was biased, so I was relieved to find everyone else in my family is just as nuts about this guy as I am. My cousin has a friend at a silkscreen place and got a bunch of "We love Dan" t-shirts made as a surprise over the summer. She sent me about a dozen; they were all handed out within minutes to many squeals of delight from friends and family. I wear mine all the time. I'm wearing it today, to support his gross under-the-house efforts to make us a good home. I'm wearing it again on Wednesday, when I'll be sitting in the courthouse parking lot waiting to hear the outcome of his custody hearing.

We love Dan.


The Divine Miss G

No one tells you that for parenting to work, you have to keep falling in love with your kids over and over and over again. I have had a serious crush on my daughter this week, and a renewed appreciation for her bright spirit and cheerful attitude.

She really is the most amazing person. Not just kid, but person. Everyone who knows her will tell you. She is so good-hearted, but ferocious at the same time. She doesn't always reveal what's going on in her head, but when she does, she sums up with a cutting combination of incredible insight and minimal words. She's hardcore and bossy, but at the same time is always cheerful and optimistic.

She is nothing like me, which makes her all the more intriguing. She is like her dad in a few traits, but her overall personality is nothing like his either. She is her own thing.

I had Miss G when I was 22 and unmarried. Her dad moved out before she was 2. The two of us have had incredibly difficult times and outrageous fun in the nine years since then. I got married this past spring to Dan, who came in a package deal with a new stepdaughter, Miss L. Miss G and Miss L are pretty tight, but Miss G still wants a "real" little sister.

I say "Listen, kid. Why should I even bother having another baby, when I just nailed it perfect the first time? There is no way I could have another baby that would come even close to being as cool as you."
"Mama, listen. Here's what you do. All you have to do is move around a lot, and then put her in a crappy daycare that she hates, live in an apartment instead of a house with no yard to play in so she can't have a dog, and watch movies with her, and sing a lot in the car. And then you'll do everything with her that you and me do, and then she'll be like me."
Her delivery is very matter-of-fact, simply listing the elements as she sees them that have combined to create her persona.
"Honey, I am so sorry you went through that stuff. And so sorry it took me so long to get you a house with a yard."
"Mama. Don't cry. It's okay. That's what I'm saying, is all that stuff was good because it made me how I am and you like how I am and I like how I am. You're a good mom."
"Thanks, kiddo."
"Anyways Mama. Even if we did all that stuff for my little sister, she still wouldn't be like me, cause she'd have Dan as a dad instead of my dad, and he's a really good dad."

This does not make me feel any better.

When she was first born, everyone told me how fast it would go. And it has, as predicted, gone way too fast. She's wearing eyeshadow to school, and in my mind she's still only around 4. But I'm loving this, love watching her evolve into a self-assured and self-aware... well, I can't say "woman" yet, but maybe I could use the hated phrase "young lady." She handles herself with such grace and confidence.

More than loving my kid, I just really like her. I like that she calls me Mama still at age 11, even though she's acted like she's 32 since birth. I like the puckish glint in her eyes, that she's spirited enough to be her own person but reasonably obedient. I like that I can't tell her no about anything without a full explanation. It's exasperating sometimes, but at least I know she'll never meekly back down without a fight.

And I can't take credit, I really can't. She's been like this since birth, I swear. I had to install a lock on the outside of her bedroom door when she was 2. People look at me like I'm a monster when I say that, but it was for her own safety. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and heard something downstairs. I went down, and there's my toddler sitting and watching TV at 3 am. She's eating a bag of chips, which she opened using a butcher knife that is sitting next to her on the couch. She hadn't wanted to wake me, see, so she just took care of everything herself.
That's Miss G. Independent, but considerate. The lock got installed the next day, and the knife drawer was relocated up into the cabinets. She is so headstrong that the best I can do is give her medium-level guidance and give her advice on a regular basis. Sometimes she listens, sometimes not. I'm surprised and thankful she's as well-behaved as she is, given how strong her personality is.

I've been watching Miss G from a distance this weekend, and her beauty captures me. Every word out of her mouth amazes me, these glimpses of the woman she'll grow into are hiding behind her and I am so excited by what I see. It's like a trailer for the best movie in the world, but the movie never ends and the plot keeps getting better.