I miss writing here. Perhaps you’ve noticed I haven’t been around much lately. Instead of writing on my blog I have been concentrating on a different project that I’m excited to share with you. But not quite yet…
In the meantime, here’s a draft that I wrote a long time ago and never published. I re-read it this morning and it made me smile, so I thought it might be worth posting. This piece was initially rejected by my senior editors (aka my children) but it’s been long enough since I wrote it that I think they’d be okay with it now. In a effort to absolve myself further, I’ll also add that it’s a snapshot of one evening in our home and not necessarily indicative of where we are today. 🙂
Your absentee blogger,
Some people are rule followers, some are not. Although I might appear to be a rule follower I’ve always had a distaste for them. Now that I think about it, I may have inherited this from my parents who never instated any kind of formal house rules when we were growing up. There was a code of conduct, including things like never put a hairbrush on the table, but bigger issues like curfews and dating were dealt with by an over-arching expectation that we would make reasonable decisions. For example, I had no curfew but I knew if I wanted to stay out until 3 am I had better find a phone to let them know where was.
You can imagine, then, how I surprise myself when I announce a new rule for my own household.
“I don’t want you girls to drink alcohol unless we’re around,” I say, wringing out my dish cloth and flinging it into the sink. I turn around to repeat it to my daughters who have just come home from school. We are in the middle of a conversation about the upcoming weekend and suddenly, without warning, without thinking about it for more than two minutes, I had made up a rule. I had grabbed impulsively for the nearest stick and drawn a line in the sand.
I say the rule a few more times, just to roll the words around in my mouth and test them out. No one drinks unless mom and dad are at the party.
When Stan comes home we sit around cabbage borscht and baguettes and I update him on my declaration. Then we remember the friend (male) who had been robbed after unknowingly consuming drugs with his drink, and another friend (female) who had been brutally violated at a house party for the same reason.
“Ugh, don’t tell me that story again,” Belén said wincing and covering up her eyes. “It was horrible enough the first time.”
I had wondered, when I first told them what had happened to the girl, if I had shared too much. I decide again, in this moment, that education is better than naiveté. Then I circle back to the rule itself. “You got it, right? No drinking unless mom and dad are around.” Who knows when it will change (consistency is not my strength; flexibility is) but for today, this is the rule.
I look around the table and finally register that Vivian is with us. Of course I knew she was here but had all but forgotten about her. I hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t eating her soup. That she was ripping her baguette into a thousand pieces, crumbs dropping all over the floor.
“You can’t eat any more bread unless you try your soup, Vivi,” I tell her.
She looks at me for a while and I assume she is going to complain that she doesn’t like the cabbage or potatoes or carrots or anything else in her bowl. Then she looks over at her dad. And her sisters who are finally paying her attention. “But I drink,” she confesses. “When I’m thirsty at Twila’s house she gives me water.”
We all stare back at her.
She continues, “I drink… without Mom and Dad,” looking at each of us for our reaction.
I’m tilting my bowl to get the last of the broth out, but I stop scraping at the sides with my spoon to process her confession.
Then we burst out laughing. Vivi repeats what she just said, that she drinks without her parents, pleased that she is the centre of attention and has lightened the mood, even though she doesn’t know what is so funny.
I make a mental note to tell my friends who look after Vivian to please encourage her to drink. Especially if she looks dehydrated when I’m not around.
The point of this piece isn’t to convince you of the validity of rules, or when your children should or shouldn’t drink alcohol. It is simply to record that we are all always grappling and learning how to live and be. May we all have enough wisdom, wit and love in our households to continue.