First Post - "What's chicken made of?"
For quite a while now, I've been thinking of starting a blog. Nothing elaborate, just a place to come and knock out a few thoughts without any real expectation of anything in return. Wasn't quite sure what I'd say, or how much time I'd really be able to devote to it, or even how much I'd want to put out there in the public domain - ["I've decided to quit my job, if anyone from work is reading this please don't say anything... We had Ken and Susan over for a glass of wine last night, Gwen and I have decided that we hate them... what a relief, the doctor FINALLY diagnosed the fungus!] But as a frustrated writer the notion kept coming back around, so there seemed to be something to it.
About a week ago I realized how to frame this thing in a way that made sense to me for a variety of reasons. I was lying down on the floor of our home office and my five-year-old daughter Madison was sitting at the computer, asking me for the letters to spell the words she wanted to write on her "clear page," which is what she calls a blank Word document. No prompting, no direction, just serving as a kind of audio dictionary so she would know which letters to find and tap to give life to the things she wanted to say. The first sentence she threw out was, "I think this world is perfect," so this blog, this effort, is named for her. We recently moved into a new house, so the rest of her entry was devoted to toys in boxes, our search for a new swingset and, finally, a closing acknowledgment that "the people who live in this house are named Gwen, Madison, Jim and Ava." Ava is our three-year-old. Gwen is my wife and the person who spends most of her waking moments with Madison and Ava, which - as is always the case for those lucky and cursed enough to find themselves in that situation - brings with it plenty of ups and downs. More ups than downs, to be sure, but absolutely a fair share of those "I can't believe I'm playing play-dough for the 10th time today I used to have an office I used to have a life I used to have adults to talk to people listened to me where am I and how did I get here" moments.
Those are our girls up above.
So the thought that occurred to me on the blog front was to basically track the progress of the girls and relate special or meaningful moments through a sort of parenting journal that I could keep in this form. This idea was appealing to me because things happen every day that I want to document so I don't forget, and with this forum at my disposal I am able to sign on at a moment's notice and get something down. I guess I could fill up my Gmail account with messages to myself as well, but let's try this for a while and see how it goes.
This is the kind of thing I'm talking about: a few weeks ago we were sitting around the dinner table eating chicken, and at the end of the meal Madison gets this kind of thoughtful look on her face and says, "Daddy, what's chicken made of?" And I sit back and my mind races through a dozen possible responses, literally going down each road and finding a reason each time to turn back and ultimately I say, "well, it's made of chicken." And she's satisfied with that for the moment and we move on and I breathe a sigh of relief. Did I fail her, did I miss an opportunity to tell her about the reality of the slaughtered animal we just consumed? I don't think so, but you never really know. My "made of chicken" answer seemed to work in the moment and that was it.
Another time, a few weeks ago, we were in the car and happened to drive by an enormous cemetery... the kind of expansive burial site that you just can't miss. And I have my rear-view mirror flipped down so I can see Madison in the back and she's staring out the window at all of these headstones, and I can SEE her mind working and eventually she says, "Daddy, what are all these blocks in the grass?"
I know exactly what she's talking about but I pretend I don't and ask what she means. "Out there, on the grass, what are all these gray blocks?" Once again, so many roads, so many reasons to avoid them. Is this the moment, at the ripe old age of five, where she learns that people die, and when they die and "go up with God" - a concept we've already reactively introduced - their bodies are left on Earth and something has to happen to them so they get buried in the ground in these special places, called cemeteries, and they put a stone on top of them so their family members and friends can find where they are when they want to visit? The possible nightmares associated with that simple description multiply like pop-up windows on a visit to CNN.com... Maybe that would have been the appropriate thing to do... but it didn't feel right, didn't feel entirely necessary, so on this morning my preferred response was, "hmm, I don't really know," at which point we were well clear of the cemetery and the subject dropped.
This is the place for moments like that, and although some people reading this may already have me 0-2 in the parenting department I have to say that Gwen and I really do try to be thoughtful, careful and very attentive parents. We think the results have been good so far and I look forward to returning to this space and documenting moments like this as time marches on. And it does march... Madison will be in kindergarten next year and it feels like yesterday that we brought this little bundle home from the hospital with no idea at all what to do with her or how much she would change our lives. Ava came about two years later on a January day when we had workers in our backyard trying to pound through frozen dirt to replace our faulty and 50-year-old cesspool... we said goodbye to the crew on the way to the hospital and by the time we brought the girls back two days later we had a brand new septic system all ready to go for the additional laundry, bottle washing and unspecified waste water requirements of our fourth resident.
It's late and that's all for now. I'm glad to have started this and we'll see where it goes...