French fries provided me with an important parenting lesson this week. We made some curly fries Thursday night (with the new oven’s air fryer setting, of course). When I took the pan out, Ally looked and pointed out that a few had arranged themselves into the approximation of a smile. Later, Ce came down and pointed to the same group and said it looked like a frowning face.
French fries as personality test. And a reminder.
Parents can’t draw a picture. Not in ink. You can’t even really have a firm plan. Not of parenting. Not of your family. Not of each of your kids. You don’t know how it’s going to go. You don’t even have a say in a lot of it. You need to loosely hold the wheel and be willing to adjust. To be flexible.
To always be ready to learn and to change and to approach each kid on their own terms.
I ran a race last weekend. I came in 38th. The girls weren’t overly impressed. But I was. I knew I could not have run any better or any faster.
For the most part, my kids did not inherit my competitive genes. This might largely be for the best. Just ask Michelle about a very infamous darts game from 2002. My desire to win got more than a little out of hand. It took a long time for me to learn to deal with those emotions in a better way.
Maybe the girls can beat me to that epiphany. Maybe they already have.
If you’re going to compete with anyone, compete with yourself, to be the best version of yourself. Compete over things you actually control. Focus on the stuff that’s up to you. Forget the rest.
As a writer, I’ve tried to keep a diary many times. It felt like a professional obligation. I tried to write down the Important Things that happened every day. It never stuck. All the attempts failed.
Except this one. These Saturday entries full of glitter, Dad jokes, and transfer station minutiae are my time machine. These tiny, mostly insignificant details, with bad photos bring me back to where we all were.
I’ve learned it’s not the Big Important Rituals that might matter most to a family, it’s the really small, silly ones you’ll probably remember. Why not have a record of some of those moments?
This sounds like an almost unsolvable riddle. How do you get a kid to understand that the more effort they put in, the more chances there are for something remarkable to happen?
It doesn’t have to be sweat and blood. Ally often sits at the piano and just noodles along playing chords and singing (mostly) nonsense. I go out of my way to praise that sort of lazy type of effort.
Lazy, is probably the wrong word, maybe meandering or exploratory, as this is the type of effort that I find better than setting a timer and stopping mid-song when the chime goes off.
Some days I feel like I’m parenting a phalanx of budding lawyers where they do everything to the letter and no more. To just satisfy the ask with the least amount of work is rarely a road worth taking.
For me, paying attention to details and taking the long way instead of seeking a shortcut is the best chance to do something that creates a little big of magic in the world. Now, how do I explain that to a middle-schooler and avoid an eye roll?
There was a moment driving down after Christmas, somewhere around exit 9 on the turnpike, when we were snarled in another traffic jam, that I felt the frustration of being stuck almost boil over. I just wanted to get out of the car and get there as fast as possible. Then I stopped. Maybe it was the time of year. Maybe it was the stream of seemingly endless bad news even during Christmas. Maybe it was just the north Jersey fumes.
But I wondered why? What am I rushing to? What am I rushing from? Chances are it’s not as good as right now. At best, it’s uncertain. We are almost through the Santa magic years. Heck, we only have less than ten summers now where we are guaranteed to be together. What’s the rush?
So that has become my goal this week in the hinterlands between Christmas and New Years. Just slow down. Don’t rush through everything. Savor it. Whether it’s a traffic jam, a cookie, family drama, or the crankiness of kids staying up too late. Some day, someday soon probably, I’ll want it all back.
Only one more year until middle school. I might be okay with rushing through that.
We spent the last 10 days bouncing between and exploring New York, Chicago and Boston and our biggest takeaway was a new respect and obsession with Detroit. Detroit pizza. We tried to go into Chicago with an open mind, but none of us were big fans of the deep dish. The Detroit slices we found at a food hall, those crispy, cheesy, close cousins to our beloved Sicilian? Those were amazing.
As a pizza nerd, I was in heaven. As an Amazon prime customer, I had a pan waiting when we returned from the airport. And Saturday night I had people over to test the new recipe.