When you dream of having children (if you dream of having children) you usually harbor a best case scenario, a fantasy, an aspiration of a perfect tableau of parenthood. If you are lucky you will experience it 1% of the time.
For some it is playing catch in the backyard, or shooting hoops, or cooking, or going on exploratory nature walks. I’m not sure what my dream of ideal parenthood was in those years before I confronted the reality of having children, but my first husband had a very clear vision; it was watching “creature features” under a pillow fort with his progeny.
I being the practical and contrary type shook my head and muttered under my breath, “Assuming that your kid actually likes scary movies … what if they don’t? What will you do then?” Needless to say we never had to go there.
If there is one thing I know about kids, it’s that they are their own people whether you like it or not. It’s a lesson I felt deep inside me when I was pregnant with Itchy. He would often get the hiccups – as babies, er, fetuses do – in utero and it was an almost out-of-body experience.
Here I was, racked with hiccups that weren’t mine and no amount of drinking water upside down or counting backwards would make go away.
He had the hiccups and I was powerless to do anything about except wait for them to pass, despite the fact that they were affecting me. Welcome to the first lesson in parenthood.
I didn’t have a lot of fantasies, perhaps none, which is why when I find myself engaged with my kids truly enjoying something, it is an unexpected delight.
Last weekend I and the kids went to Copper Mountain with MPT’s husband and kids. I like playing Fake Family.
Loony just got back from a quickie Mexico vacay and was on dog-duty. MPT had a friend’s birthday to go to and doesn’t really love winter sports so Gofer and I shoved The Brady Bunch in his car and took the kids for a snowboarding weekend.
It was wonderful.
Here’s the unfortunate part. Snowboarding with kids is aggravating. Gofer and I joked that even after getting all the gear together, packing the car, wrangling four kids and all their various devices and chargers into a station wagon, stopping at the gas station for breakfast burritos, driving two hours in I-70 traffic, and finding parking in a nearly impossible lot, we were still at best only 60% of our way to actually being on the slopes.
But we did it and we harnessed the power of peer pressure to get the kids to put in a solid day of riding, and it was glorious. There is nothing like seeing my kids and their friends shredding their way down a steep slope on a bluebird day. My heart was full of joy.
Coming off the mountain was like being hit with reality as we had to figure out in what order to retrieve the car from the outdoor lot, remove the cargo box from the roof (the parking garage wouldn’t accommodate it), put it in the car, remove our gear, and check into the hotel.
This might seem simple to you but 1) we had four kids 2) we just enjoyed a couple stiff drinks while the kids snarfed down SIXTY DOLLARS worth of chicken nuggets and fries –- to be clear, it was TWO orders – and 3) we were super high from all the dope snowboarding we had just done and that level of higher function was well beyond our grasp.
So, should we drop off the kids in the room, get the car and unload the rack, bring it to the garage and then put our stuff in it? Wait, maybe we should leave our stuff in the hotel room because we will need it in the morning. But we have stuff in the car to take to the room so we should get the car first and we can all drive over in it. But what about the stuff? We will have to pack it and unpack it and that doesn’t make sense … and so on … forever.
I still can’t tell you how we did it, but there was a point where the kids had to step in and make some executive decisions for us.
Fortunately we were staying at a resort hotel right at the lift and didn’t have to drive anywhere. Also fortunate was that Gofer and I are friends and not married to each other because what was a hilarious experience between us would have undoubtedly led to an argument should either of us been with our significant others.
This is less about our spouses and more about marriage and the expectations we put on each other. I miss the days when Loony and I could laugh at our foibles and failings rather than just be bitter and disappointed in each other. It’s a pitfall of marriage, you come to expect so much from each other … perhaps too much … that you just stop cutting each other some fucking slack.
I’m taking that lesson home.
I never in a million years thought that I would be snowboarding with my kids. My parenting expectations rarely ranged past potty training and a full set of teeth. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Itchy loves movies, and not just action movies aimed at the lowest common denominator.
Way back when I got a degree in film studies and my favorite films were, and still are, ponderous and ambiguous. Think Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.
Or The Russian Ark.
Or anything by Andrei Tarkovsky.
All films that took me on a wild ride that I wouldn’t necessary want to repeat but enjoyed nonetheless because of the state they left me in. Temporarily altered. Forever in my imagination.
I never thought I would enjoy these films with my kids.
First came Interstellar, a film by Chris Nolan which although mainstream, is a kooky space opera that often flew off the rails. Itchy loved it.
Then came Lucy, what was billed to be The Matrix with Scarlett Johannson but ended up being more about knowledge, connection, human potential and saving the environment. He loved that, too.
The Arrival was next, a film that left me floored with emotion and it spoke to him.
Scratchy didn’t really like any of these films. He’s younger, his attention is drawn more to the surface of films. This isn’t a criticism, nor is it a proclamation of what his tastes will be forever, it’s just an observation of what he likes now.
It’s a grown-up film. Also this …
In general I wait to see movies on DVD but there is something be said for seeing films in the theater when you want to send a message to the powers that be in Hollywood about the commercial viability of films starring, written by, directed by, or about strong women.
The practically all female cast spurred me to vote with my dollars and see Annihilation in the theater.
The kids saw the trailer and have been clamoring to see it. I read some reviews and those plus the R-rating solidified my decision. Itchy was likely to not be disturbed by the scary stuff and might actually dig the existential themes, Scratchy would be traumatized.
I know my kids, just telling Scratchy the plot of Babadook (at his insistance) was enough to keep him up at night.
So last night I went to Annihilation with Itchy and Ben, our new housemate. Loony stayed home to supervise a sleepover with Scratchy.
Holy shit, what a great film. I was right on all counts, BTW. That movie was super creepy in parts and I suspect Scratchy would have bailed at the deeply disturbing scene where a group of soldiers vivisect one of their comrades, with consent, and with the care of midwives attending to a laboring mother.
Ben almost passed out and I sat with my knees hugged to my chest and breath held. After the scene ended Itchy asked, “Are you okay mom?”
Yeah, it was super weird, and beautiful, and ponderous, and inscrutable, and avant-garde, and terrifying, and gross, and jaw dropping.
During the third act there was a scene that evoked a feeling in me that I’m pretty sure was felt by audiences at original screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey during the stargate sequence.
Itchy and I sat side by side, our minds being blown.
And the wacky contact improv at the end? What the hell was that? Amazing.
The film ended and we just looked at each other and said, “Whoa.” Then the three of us talked about the film to the car, on the way home, and in the kitchen at length as we tried to make sense of it. Itchy added his insights that showed how much he saw, how much I missed, and how deeply he engaged in the film. It was like talking to a fellow film enthusiast, but it was my kid. Talk about mind blowing.
Yet I will not encourage him to get a degree in film.
It was so much fun and I got to experience it with my child. Whereas Scratchy loves to snowboard and Itchy tolerates it, Itchy loves films. I love doing both and I am beyond grateful that I get to share it with my kids.
In other news, Chief got neutered on Wednesday and yes, he got his Neuticles. And for as weirdly into it as I was, the staff at my vet was just as stoked about it. So stoked that THEY GAVE ME CHIEF’S BALLS!
You heard me. They gave me his balls in a jar of formaldehyde.
What am I going to do with them? Well, the eunuchs that served in China’s Forbidden City saved their testicles in a clay jar so that upon their death they could be buried intact. I see a pottery project in the making.
Chief did really well during the surgery and after. The only bummer being the Cone of Shame.
I’m supposed to keep him from using stairs, jumping on the bed, running, playing, etc for TWO WEEKS! The first couple nights I slept on the floor downstairs. Given that Chief likes to sleep curled around my head with his head on my chest, it’s kinda like I’m wearing the cone.
I decided to solve the problem with sewing. Regard, the post-surgical dog garment. They sell them on-line but 1) I didn’t want to spend $40 on it and 2) I couldn’t wait the two days to get it.
Totally solved the problem.
While Chief was out of it, Scheissehund and Minx took to playing together.
Sam Star (a pole person) popped into Boulder to visit.
People stay with me for a lot of reasons, one being that they like me but there are often related work reasons that bring them to town. Sam came to Boulder just to hang out with me because she said that she wants her life to be more about spending time with interesting people. That made me feel so good. And honored.
Performers have such interesting lives and I’m always eager to get a glimpse into what traveling for a living, putting yourself out there, teaching, creating, constantly growing as an artist, and moving a world of itinerant gypsies is like.
The weather was brutally cold so we spent our time inside, snuggling animals and talking. It was a wonderful few days.
It’s been an 11/10 week.