1. REVEALING SUPERPOWERS. One evening over dinner, my daughters and I discussed what superpower we each would want if we were only allowed one. My youngest wanted the power of telekinesis, as she explained because, “That way, I wouldn’t have to get out at bed at night to turn off the light or brush my teeth, I could just command the light-switch to flip to off or the toothbrush to come into my room and brush my teeth without me even having to get up.” That decision made me wonder if her current schedule of school, piano and trumpet lessons, and debate team might be taxing her a little too much. I said I’d like the power to teletransport the way the characters in Star Trek did, a desire that surprised no one given how much I complain about how expensive airline tickets are. My oldest said she would like the powers of the Persuader, so she could talk people into doing whatever she wanted them to. That seemed like a wasted wish because it would be entirely superfluous. With her father at least, she seems to be in full possession of that skill already.
2. EMOJI UNAWARE. My daughters take such great joy in attaching emojis to the text messages they send me that I haven’t had the heart to tell them that, because the icons are so small and my eyesight even with glasses is so poor, I can’t see whether the little face they’ve attached is smiling, crying, shouting or sneezing. But my deficiencies In this matter don’t seem to be a hindrance to our text communications. So apparently – and fortunately for me – the current emotional state of that tiny yellow man doesn’t require that I respond in kind.
3. GRASS NOT GREENER. Neither my wife nor daughters have much interest in professional sports, with the one exception that my youngest follows the New England Revolution pro soccer team. That leaves me to watch most games alone, and when my wife sees how upset I get when anything bad happens to a Boston sports team, she wonders why anyone would engage in something that causes so much agitation. Admittedly, I do occasionally feel envious of my male friends whose wives and daughters are as hardcore fans as they are. At a Super Bowl party last weekend, I happened to sit next to one of those women, the wife of a friend of a friend who was decked out in a Patriots cap and official Tom Brady jersey. Her football knowledge so far exceeded mine that she corrected me every time I screamed at the TV to call out a foul, letting me know, “That was a false start, not defensive holding” and “It’s not pass interference if the cornerback turns toward the ball and makes his own play for it.” When I overheard my wife and daughters in the kitchen, chatting with the women and a few men who had no interest in the game about their favorite restaurants, I realized I might not have it so bad after all.
4. DÉJÀ VU WITH A TWIST. Like many parents, I have lots of déjà vu moments, when I find myself having the same conversations with my kids that I had, as a kid, with my parents. But of course, times have changed enough to put a different tenor on these adult/child exchanges. Recently, my fifteen-year-old told me she wishes she was grown-up already so she could drive herself anywhere she wanted without having to ask for a ride and could get into any movie without having to worry about a legal-age limit. Of course, that made me flashback to when I told my mother, “I can’t wait until I’m an adult.” Whenever I said such things, my mother would tell me, “Don’t wish the years by. They rush by fast enough.” Of course I didn’t come back with any retort (we didn’t do that to our parents in those days!) and just felt chagrined that I wasn’t capable of living in the moment. So when my daughter expressed the same thought I had, I tried to give her a little more explanation about why she shouldn’t long for what she didn’t have. “It’s true, adults can do some things you can’t, but you also have freedoms no adult does. This summer, you’ll have nine weeks to do whatever you want all day long. When you’re an adult with a job and family, you’ll never have that much freedom.” So did she take a moment to consider what I said or nod in acceptance of a point well made? No, course, not. She just guffawed and told me, “C’mon, Dad, do you really think I don’t enjoy being a kid? Of course, I do. There’s just some things about being an adult I’m looking forward to.” So did I smile and take pride that my daughter had the mental sophistication to balance two conflicting thoughts in her head and the chutzpah to stand up to her dad’s implication that she wasn’t enjoying life? Of course not, I just felt a longing for the 60s and 70s when kids kept quiet when their parents gave them advice!
5. TONGUE HELD. Conservation-minded science teachers must have struck again. Both of my daughters came home this week, fervent with new Save the Earth religion. They each had fire in their eyes as they urged me to make an immediate run to the hardware store and buy enough tungsten bulbs to replace the few remaining incandescent bulbs in our house. I didn’t want to dampen their enthusiasm, but it did take some effort to refrain from asking if they’d forgotten how often I beg them to turn off lights and take shorter showers. I’m way past they point of minding that they’ll follow the advice of teachers after years of ignoring the same instruction from me. So instead, I assured them I’d make a Home Depot run for energy-saving lights if they’d start doing their share too. That set them off. They rushed about the house turning off unnecessary lights and sat down to list all the things they could do to help save the planet. So thanks to science teachers everywhere for putting the fire in our kids’ bellies when we couldn’t. I don’t know if we’ll succeed in enabling the earth to survive even one day longer, but I can assure you that you may have prolonged the lives of a mother and father of two teenaged daughters, who’ll no longer be at risk of heart attacks on the days the electric, water and oil bills arrive.