My title is deceiving. It implies I am in the market for a new daughter. This is not the case…I assure you. And though this post has nothing to do with shopping for a child, it does involve the parent-child dynamic. Are you surprised? Have I not overused this topic already? I will answer for you, “no to both questions.” Of course none of us can be surprised; after all, the subject of inter-human relations is inexhaustible. This subject has come up for me this week via two completely unrelated circumstances. The first is through my daughter. The second is through the relationship of a friend and her son…and me. First I will tell you the story of my daughter.
As I have previously written, Esther is in college. Her math professor happens to have also been my math professor. He and I got to know each other on a personal level because I required much assistance to gain the “A” grade for all three of the math classes I took while under his tutelage. In addition to him being an astute professor of mathematics, he is a kind man and our personal lives crossed at a couple of proverbial intersections (stated only to avert the perversion of thought that might try to infiltrate the connection). At any rate, the point of the aforementioned rhetoric is to simply overstate that he and I gained a knowledge of each other and of our families. In fact, he has known Esther since she was twelve…almost five years now. So the other day, when upon my advice she met him at his office for his amazing tutorial guidance, it was no surprise that he suggested to her to ask me for assistance on any and all of the subject matter in which she struggled. His statement, as retold to me by her, went like this: “Why don’t you ask your mom for help. She is a really good teacher and was an excellent student in Algebra.” And to this piece of advice, or suggestion rather, she said (again as retold to me by her): “NO WAY!! My mom and I don’t mix well together in math…no how, no way!” And you know what? She is telling the truth! We most certainly do NOT mix well when it comes to mathematics. We do, however, get along fine while shopping. Shopping for clothes, shopping for shoes, shopping for accessories–just plain old shopping.
Now onto the second scenario…
I have a good friend, a few hundred miles away, who has an elementary aged son who struggles with literacy. Well on Sunday he called me and asked if we could have a Skype session (internet video phone call, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Skype) for no other reason than it is something fun to do. So while we were chatting away about nothing important, and mostly because I was trying to keep the interest flowing, I asked if he would like me to read a book to him. With immediate reluctance he questioned, “What book?” I suggested Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (because it was within a reasonable reach). It just so happened to be a favorite of his, therefore he answered, “yes.” I read the book to him and after I finished he tucked himself into bed and we signed off with a “goodnight”. Monday night I had another Skype call from my young friend. Only this time HE had something to read to me. He read me two short stories and allowed me to read another from my shelf. Our next “telephone” date is set for tomorrow night. And it honestly cannot come too soon.
My girl friend and I spoke the next day and she said her son has, since our first reading, Skyped with an older cousin and read to her as well. My friend tells me this interest in reading is something of a phenomenon for her son. She even accused me of having used magic on him because she says he normally does not like to read out loud, nor does he like to be read to. And now he is excited about both…via Skype. And all of this praise comes simultaneous to my daughter balking at the suggestion of utilizing me as a mathematical resource. Funny. Ironic and funny.
Yet isn’t that just the way of life under “normal” familial conditions (I use quotes on normal as I’m not quite sure what normal truly means. Normal in my life seems to equate with chaos. Controlled chaos, but chaos just the same.)? I mean here I am able to help my daughter with her difficulties in math, yet she is adamantly opposed to working with me. And my girlfriend, more educated than I, is definitely capable of reading and being read to, though her young son is reluctant to utilize her literary skills.
Children, and the business of raising them, is funny stuff! And I am thankful that we help each other along the way. To invest, to the degree that is required, can be quite the daunting task when going at it alone. Which is why we need to ‘pitch-hit’ for one another during the times our ‘ever so wise’ children foolishly reject our skill sets. I actually think the Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, says it best in her poem titled, “Su nombre es hoy” (“His Name is Today”). Written in Spanish, the writing implores its readers to comprehend that the child who is at the crux of growth and development is not to be neglected. He or she is to be invested in. She states that to abandon the child is akin to keeping from them the fountain of life. She encourages us to know that the many material “needs” we have can wait, but the child cannot. And she finishes the piece by rhetorically asking, “how can we tell him tomorrow, when his name is Today.”
I am thankful for my young Skyping friend. He has helped me remember that though my daughter rejects my tutorial assistance, there is another whose investment in her life is of great value and importance within that realm. Which is how I hope my friend feels about me and her son’s new passion to read.
Su nombre es hoy
Nosotros somos culpables
de muchos errores y muchas faltas,
pero nuestro peor crimen
es el abandono de los niños
negándoles la fuente de la vida.
Muchas de las cosas
que nosotros necesitamos
pueden esperar, los niños no pueden,
ahora es el momento,
sus huesos están en formación,
su sangre también lo está
y sus sentidos
se están desarrollando,
a él nosotros no podemos contestarle
su nombre es hoy.