Both because we used to host huge all inclusive events at the old house, and because theoretically he wants everyone to come over until they actually arrive and he has to share his stuff he seems surprised that Zoe isn’t coming. He asks three times. Is Zoe coming? Not this time. Why not? Um…she wasn’t invited. Why not? This is a party of friends we met through Dada’s work…and a few neighborhood families. I am listing Steve’s work friends, folks we used to see frequently that due to the transition from 20s to 30s all moved further from town and started having babies and met other grown ups to hang out with, that we only see twice a year now. The natural evolution of friendships.
As I list them I start with adults and move onto their kids and am impressed by Leo’s recall. When I name the oldest child in a family he goes on to list the sibling(s) and add some sort of detail. After a few families he is stumped by a childless couple.
“I can’t remember their kids?” He asks as a question.
“They don’t have kids.” I answer.
“Are they sad?”
“I really don’t think so.” I tell him.
“Do they not like kids?”
“They certainly seem to like kids.”
“Were they just too overwhelmed with other things to have kids?”
“Not that I know of, I think this is a choice many people make, but you don’t know them because most of our friends are from your school, which by definition means they have kids.”
We both pause. Then I offer this.
“You could ask them what factors went into their decision if you like.”
“I really don’t think that is appropriate for me to ask them.” The seven year old tells me.
“You are probably right. And certainly not at a party.”
There it is. Until he reminds me I DON’T think about the inappropriateness of that question. For me, almost everything is an open book. Depression, religion, politics, money. I appreciate wide open doors and to opportunity to think through things by talking about them.
At an age where many people are teaching their children to call grown ups by their last names I am encouraging my first grader to publicly question major life choices.
Removed a minute from our conversation I recognize the error in my judgement.
Luckily I have Steve, and evidently the kids, who somehow have learned a bit more about their place in the world than I have. It didn’t take Leo a minute to know that my suggestion was not alright.
I am telling this story to help myself learn from it. I get to choose what I share, and if I want to tell all I can and face the consequences. But raising my kids to think that every topic is on the table is not doing anyone a service, least of all them.
My style is barely filtered, and it has alienated me from many people and certainly cost me some opportunities. It has also created closer connections and sometimes opened a window for other people to talk about things too long shut away. This is my choice.
I very quickly stopped seeing my children as extensions of me in terms of their positive or negative sports performances, their interest in rule following, their choice of after school activity, their taste buds. My ego, I felt sure, is not in either their similarity to me, nor is it in some sort of general public perception of how a child should be.
That clarity of separateness does not seem to have extended to my impressions of how they will want to relate to other people in their worlds. The “kids say the darndest things” era is ending. I, for better and worse, have felt that everything was open to questioning and everyone was ready to be questioned. I also imagined that most people would appreciate this once they knew what was good for them. This concept of discretion seemed so old fashioned and unhelpful. Particularly in the arrogance(r) of my youth and young adulthood.
I’m not even sure I agree with myself anymore. That is a question for another time. What is clear to me today is that my kids should not be trained into blunt force honesty. They might choose it themselves from somewhere along the spectrum of discretion, or not.
In any case tomorrow’s party talk is better left in the area of minecraft and football, as Leo seems to know already.