The Mandarin Counting Song or How to Be a Better Parent

2014-04-06 10.02.42Write it down

“You can go out with a guy without having to break into a zoo,” Loquatia tells Capricia at dinner the other night.

Was Capricia proposing some kind of monkey or large cat abduction to secure the heart of a classmate? Family mealtimes are full of these kinds of pronouncements, which at the time make perfect sense only you are laughing so hard you forget what they said, or you write it down and forget what they meant. Luckily Loquatia thought to scribble this one down the other night:

Me: “You can’t wear a turban to dinner.”
C: “But it’s to amp up my style for the Crusades.”

Don’t define them.

Capricia is being told off for something and her retort is “You never should have brought us here!”

“Where?” We are in the small family town that drew us to Alabama in the first place. We are lying on the lawn, still prickly and beige in early spring. We have arrived in the late afternoon to weather that is one planting zone warmer than home, the air almost tropical. We have laid ourselves out on the dead grass to enjoy the only sun we are likely to have over the entire weekend.

“America!” she responds, “Why did we come here?”

“You’re American,” my husband replies.

In a rare moment of simultaneity the girls both exclaim, “I’m not!”

“London is too expensive,” my husband counters.

“Well,” she says, “What about Glasgow?”

“Why,” we ask cautiously, “Glasgow?”

Be a good listener

“They have a good tube system.” And when she says stuff like this, unlike when she defines something as “a chimpanzee from outer space that you see only in your dreams,” she has credibility. If Capricia tells you that she has seen all of the videos of the London Underground, then you can bet she started a search for UK trains and found Glasgow and she knows about their transport.

After going over reasons why we won’t be moving anytime soon and reminding her of all the lovely people she has met and experiences she has had in America, it is Loquatia’s turn to talk.

She started writing down her grievances as letters to President Obama in the third grade, after writing once as part of a class project. He became a sympathetic listener when she did not like to go to Kumon math, and then when we made her move, and then, there were other things, but she can’t remember/won’t say/never mailed them.

Share an interest

Loquatia asks if I would like to write a post together on her style and beauty blog, but she rescinds the offer when she finds me outside photographing the magic soil mix I have bought. “It’s about beauty,” she says in italics.

“But you said it was about getting ready for spring.”

So I am on my own with my top soil and my blood meal. I scatter the ashes into the soil and feed our scraggly azaleas. What else is part of spring ? Gathering tax documents. Doing online medical forms for camp.

So I ask her to finish this post for me with what advice she would give to parents of teenagers to help us amp up our parenting style.

Be involved, but not too involved, at our athletic events.

Don’t be the mom with the whistle at the swim meet. Don’t smother us with offers of cover-ups and snacks, but also don’t be the parent who never comes to anything.

Don’t tell us what to wear.

Let us make bad choices in fashion so in a few years we can look back at photographs and see our mistakes for ourselves. Just don’t let us wear a full-length black velvet dress with brown stripes.

Don’t be afraid of us.

If we’re acting obnoxious, don’t let us get away with it because then we will act that way with our friends and none of us want to do your dirty work.

Don’t give us too much independence.

It’s nice being young and not having to worry about anything. We like to sit up front in the car and we look forward to getting our permits, but we miss the backseat and holding our parents’ hands when walking and not having to think.

Let us rant.

Sometimes we need to complain about our friends because if we say these things to our friends we will sound judgmental and mean. Sometimes we want advice, but sometimes we just need to sound off.

Be funny.

You’re funny. But don’t try to be funny around our friends unless they have similar parents because then it’s just sad.


2 Replies to “The Mandarin Counting Song or How to Be a Better Parent”

  1. That is just hysterical… also, i love the names: Loquatia and Capricia (who is who??!!). And who says you can’t wear a turban to dinner. i mean, why not? (just be sure to photograph it so that Capricia can see her fashion mistakes later!)


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