1. THE FULL SPECTRUM. My children have been exposed to a full range of culinary experiences. They’ve dined in gourmet restaurants and adventurously tried foods I wanted no part of, like octopus. Thanks to their mother’s influence, they know how to use all of the many utensils at their settings and can pronounce any dish with a foreign language twist, like duck a l’orange, with the proper accent. Thanks to their dad, they’ve also visited dining venues at the opposite end of the spectrum. They’ve stood in long lines to order clamcakes and clear-broth, Rhode-Island-style chowder from windows of seaside take-out restaurants, and they’ve marveled at the skills of short-order cooks who can line buns up the full length of their usually tattooed arms to put together our order of hot wieners in assembly-line fashion. To their credit, our kids are entirely comfortable in both types of establishments. To me, that’s clear evidence we’ve raised them right!
2. MENTAL AGE INAPPROPRIATE. I remember my mother once telling me, when she was in her 70s, that in her mind, she was still in her 20s. I’m not sure what age I think of myself as. All I know is that it’s a helluva lot younger than the age of that saggy-jawlined guy who stares back at me from the black screen while I’m waiting for my laptop to boot up!
3. FOILED AGAIN. I recently decided to try being more careful with money, and when I took a look at my checking account statements it was obvious I spend a lot on books every year. Taking advantage of our town library offered an easy way to curb those expenses. So I paid the library a visit and was happy to discover the two new books I wanted were on the shelves. I hadn’t used the library in a while, and forgotten (no surprise!) that I’d removed my card from my wallet in an attempt to thin it down from its usual George Costanza wallet-like proportions. Fortunately, my daughter had tagged along for the trip, so I used hers. But when the librarian scanned the card, she gave me a commiserating frown and let me know there was $25 in late fees on the card. My daughter looked sheepish as I handed over the cash — which was $5 more than it would have cost me to get digital versions of the two books I wanted. I shook my head, realizing I should have known better. The word “free” might be in the name of our town library, but for parents, nothing is ever free.
4. DIFFERENT MODELS. After much pleading from me, our kids have agreed to not lock themselves up in their rooms and instead hang out in the living room with us in the evening when they’re doing homework. When I’m reading, though, my daughters seem to assume I am capable of carrying on a conversation with them. Unlike them, I cannot simultaneously scan words on a page and form different words for my mouth to speak. To handle these multiple tasks, I have to look up from the book, ask them to repeat what they said, respond, then go back to the page, and look around for more than a few moments to find that sentence I left off on. Of course, if they’re in a chatty mood, I can’t take in more than a paragraph. They apparently are not bound by the same limitations. In fact, sometimes after a 20-minute conversation, they will snap their textbooks shut and tell me that while we were talking they managed to get through all the reading their teachers had assigned them for the evening. If they’re not lying – and their good grades make me suspect they are not – they clearly are not operating with brains poured from the same mold as mine. In fact, they seem to have the Brain 2.0 model, while mine isn’t even the 1.0 version, but rather the barely functioning prototype the entrepreneurs must have thrown together before they had any funding.
5. SYNTHESIS OR BOREDOM, IT’S HARD TO TELL. When I was a sophomore in college, I had a professor who taught a class on Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. He was a friendly, gregarious teacher – and rather obsessed with that epic poem. Whenever our class discussion verged into issues of students’ contemporary lives, the professor always provided an observation that began with, “It’s kind of like that scene in the Faerie Queene, when …” While it might seem impossible that the adventures of the Redcrosse Knight could offer any insights to college students in 1979, this popular professor always managed to find connections that we English majors ate up. Now, 35 years later, I am surrounded by two equal talents, my two daughters, who manage to make unexpected connections between my life and the “cultural works” they’re obsessed with – which usually is a TV show they’re currently binge watching. Lately it’s been It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. So when our family is out to dinner and I start talking about the usual corporate dramas of negotiating the varying agendas of different departments, my daughters chime in with, “It’s kind of like that episode of Sunny when they all do their Olympic-style competitions and Dennis and Dee always win and Charlie and Mac always lose.” I wouldn’t suspect that my standard life in Corporate America has any connection to a crew of deliberately goofy guys who run a bar, but my daughters seem convinced it does. I don’t know if these observations prove my girls have inherited their mother’s amazing ability to find synthesis between unlike items or if my daughters just don’t find the details of their father’s day very interesting and would rather relive funny scenes from one of their favorite shows. I suspect it might be a little bit of both.