We learned two things for certain this week. First, despite a lot of trash talking, I can type faster than my wife. Second, Mavis Beacon lives! Sort of.
At this point, even I, as the mildly malevolent task master, am starting to have some sympathy for Cecilia’s daily to-do list. It’s not short, and in the last few weeks we’ve added typing practice. This new addition was actually at her teacher’s request, not mine. See? Mildly malevolent, not madly malevolent.
Like any good modern parent, the first thing I did was do some googling and was I delighted to see that Mavis Beacon was still teaching typing. Or was she? I spent many, many hours looking at her kindly face on the software box as I pounded my way through the home keys. I clicked the link. Who was this? This wasn’t Mavis. Her face and tan power suit are seared into my brain. I know Mavis. Either she had a lot of work done or they swapped in a new Mavis like the Dread Pirate Roberts (RIP, William Goldman). It shook me up for days.
We are only a few weeks into this new life skill practice, but so far there haven’t actually been too many complaints from Ce. Perhaps she recognizes the utility of this skill unlike perhaps the long term usefulness of the Good King Wenceslas.
When the girls get sick, I get stressed. I will lie in bed and hear one of the girls coughing down the hall and I wonder why we can’t just have a simple, quiet night. Why do I always have to end the day worrying about fevers, coughs, math facts, reading comprehension, screen time, or how to navigate some new, twisted social scenario I never pondered as a kid.
The fact is that we have a lot of quiet nights. They just pile up and slip by unnoticed while Dash warms my feet and I fall asleep reading a book. This past week was a whole string of perfectly banal and quiet days. Math facts were tossed off. Vocab tests were aced. The brassy sound of Hot Cross Buns filled the air. The worst thing that happened was Ally being convinced, despite ample contrary evidence, that the number three really should be written backwards.
Too often I can get lost in the darker corners of the parenting maze. This week I’m celebrating mediocrity. Without the quiet, ordinary weeks, you can’t have the extraordinary ones.
Each year Chelle buys a big five-pound bag of candy. Each year we get between 2 and 4 trick-or-treaters. Each year I complain. Each year she says, “Just in case.” Luckily, this is also how she approaches buying wine so I have plenty of opportunities to pair the remaining 4.8 pounds of candy with the perfect red.
Both girls wore off-the-rack costumes heavy on the glitter. Feels like we passed into a new phase this year. They both embraced the vampires and skeletons motif over princesses or ruffles. There were still sparkles but also fake blood. Sort of had me missing Minnie Mouse.
They did their own makeup, too. I’m pretty sure this was the part of Halloween they enjoyed most even though it appeared as if they both took heavy hits of lithium before applying, but the end result certainly fit their ghoulish look and we avoided tears. Wins all around.
When the kids are babies you play the game with their features: Whose nose is that? That is definitely your elbow.
When they get a little older, you start to do it more with personality. Her piano tantrums must come from your side of the gene pool! Her dance moves definitely favor the Donohues.
One trait we have little doubt over is Cecilia’s ability to be alone. That definitely comes from me and is something that often confounds my more socially-adept wife. She sometimes worries about it. I just remember many happy hours playing computer games or reading alone in the basement.
I don’t think Cecilia’s lonely. Being alone and lonely are not the same. She is quite happy to play with other kids. She has friends. She just doesn’t mind being alone. I can relate. Society can often make the act of being alone feel like a stigma or a negative. As if it’s imposed rather than a choice.
So much of parenting today revolves around being involved all the time that kids are rarely left without an organized activity, never mind actually being left by themselves. I think learning to be alone was a critical skill for me to acquire as a kid. It allowed me to listen to and trust my own instincts without outside influence.
She may still be working on her math facts and trombone scales, but I think Cecilia is well on her way to confidently knowing herself.
Can I share the happiest fifteen minutes of my week? Believe it or not, it involves the trombone. Like many new kids starting out on an instrument and dreaming of being Katy Perry or T. Swift, the reality of learning an instrument quickly sets in. Practice, say for the piano or trombone, for instance, can quickly become a grind, for parent and child alike.
To her credit, Ce’s enthusiasm for the trombone remains high after almost a month and this week I feel like we might have crossed some magical rubicon. Typically, Ce will practice by racing through each song, good or bad, three times and calling it a day. It drives me crazy. I’ve been preaching for the last year about deliberate practice. Don’t just play the song, work on the song. Go over a sticky measure a few times. Or practice her scales. You can imagine how that went over. About as well as suggesting doing flash cards for “fun.” Fun!
However, this week, out of the blue, she used the piano to help find some notes for the trombone. And then she went over that string of notes over and over. Deliberately. It felt like the heavens had cracked open. I’m honestly not sure if she knew how to practice before. It was like a veil was lifted from her eyes. She was excited. I was excited. At least until she went back to Hot Cross Buns…
This spring we won a raffle for a round of golf and a hotel stay on the Cape. Ironically, it’s about a mile from Grammie and Poppy’s place in Brewster. It also couldn’t be used during the summer or during holidays….so, welcome to the Cape in the offseason!
The great thing about visiting the Cape in the off-season is there are no waits, no crowds, and very little traffic. Dash is allowed on the beach. Lobster rolls are $2. The sharks have moved on. The bike path becomes a moving escalator. I’m kidding about the lobster rolls.
On the other hand, visiting the Cape in that vacation wasteland between Labor Day and Memorial Day means a whole lot of things are closed. If you’re not into visiting organic cranberry bogs, you might have a hard time finding something to do. Luckily for the girls, the hotel gave us access to an indoor pool or they might have been new temporary Ocean Spray employees for the weekend
One of the things I remember most about our trip to Sicily is the pace of life. Things are open. Things are closed. Schedules seem to have little importance. Maybe it’s the history leeching into their blood, or maybe it’s just the all the red wine, but life feels slower, almost contemplative over there.
A little bit of that Sicilian lifestyle survives today in Boston’s North End. It’s being chipped away by time and real estate prices (there’s currently a big fight about a Starbucks moving in), but it still exists in pockets. We went into the city on Saturday and tried to time a lot of our activities around lunch and getting pizza and arancinis from Galleria Umberto. Easier said than done.
Our favorite, unassuming pizza, James Beard award-winning hole in the wall is open around 10:45 – 2:30 (Tues – Sat and they take July off). And that closing time is only a suggestion given that they sell out of most items usually well before that time.
Not a bad way to make a living.