Being a parent, as most anybody who is one will tell you, is tough. Sometimes it seems as if it’s a balancing act with fire on one side and shark infested waters on the other. As you walk that thin wire and try to navigate and negotiate the crevasse and steel yourself against the winds that blow back and forth trying to knock you off, the distance that divides the start and the end doesn’t seem to become any shorter. I’d liken it to trying to reach out for that prized golden ring but for whatever reason, be it that your arms are too short or the game is rigged and the ring disappears just as you you’re ready to snatch it, really doesn’t matter. It’s just being in the game in the first place that does and for what it’s worth, all it takes is a captured moment to provide you with either a bit of inspiration or sense of hope that is so, so important.
While the details might be a little fuzzy and the facts a little questionable, I got some of that this weekend…
It was late, even for an old fart like myself who doesn’t see the hour of midnight and one day turn into another on a frequent basis. For the wee one, it was even later. She had been making overtures about going home for quite some time and I kept putting her off, stalling and trying to buy some more time with the gathered masses. Anybody who’s been there knows what I’m talking about. It was the old “Let me finish this (insert beer or cigarette or drink here) and we’ll go” or “Do you want another (insert food, drink, games here) before we go? But then again, who could blame her? Age aside, hours in the sun running around takes a toll on even the most rambunctious of us all and before just plain tiredness turned into outright crankiness it was decided that the time had come for us to make our way home.
We made our way to the car and piled in. I was expecting her to fall asleep but instead we got to talking. I really forget what the specific topic was about and maybe another noder can fill in some details but I think the gist of it was that we we’re going on about where we came from and how some people got to be how they are. After all, this was a weekend spent with people who ran the gamut and covered a pretty wide spectrum. Diversity, whether it was physical in nature or it was related to political, ideological, social, artistic, cultural, sexual, or you name it (are there any black noders on E2?) seemed to have been covered from head to toe. The discussion was going pretty good and I think there was a lull in the conversation when a little voice piped up from the back seat.
“Normal is just a setting on a washing machine.”
After scraping my jaw off the steering wheel and getting my focus back on the road where it should have been, I had one of those self revelations come to me. It was one in which I thought of how all of my effort in trying to walk the wire I described earlier, the one fraught with danger on both sides had somehow miraculously paid off. That my little girl had received just enough protection and just enough exposure for her to make up her own mind. That she had seen through the façade of stereotypes and labels and pre-judgment and had decided to see things through her own eyes about people on an individual basis rather than brand them based on some isolated experience or some tale told by a friend or an acquaintance.
I was feeling pretty darn good about myself about the whole thing…
A few days later, when the noise died down and we had some quiet father/daughter time together I asked her how she came up with that. She said she saw it on a poster or a t-shirt in some store and just somehow “remembered it”. While that took a little shine off the feeling and diminished, in my eyes, some of the credit I was taking, it doesn’t change the most important thing. I thought that maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t have “remembered it” if we weren’t trying to live it in the first place.
As I re-read this before I post it, I see where I’ve put this little lesson in parental terms. Maybe that’s too exclusive and general a statement but all I can do is write it from my perspective and tell the tale from the events that transpired as I saw them, through the eyes and the words of my kid. I’m hoping that it applies to all people, whether they are parents or not.
In our case though, I think we’ve narrowed some of the distance that separates the beginning from the end in our journey across the wire.
(Please also note that there are many things that are not “normal” such as murder, rape, child abuse and a host of other things that are mostly physical in nature. We’re not trying to give the human race carte blanche do to what they want to do to each other, just to be what they want to be if it doesn’t hurt anybody else.)