Um, yes, I can. It seems like I, once again, made an executive parenting decision that was unpopular to the crowd. Too bad.
I started to think. I just turned 42. There is a whole host of things I can do now. In fact, I can do anything I want.
I can eat all the candy I want. Every day. I remember the first time I discovered this. I bought a pound of M&Ms with my babysitting money–back when a pound was 16 ounces, a boatload of chocolate–and kept it in my room. I ate the whole thing I didn’t want candy after that. I tell that to Declan I can eat all the candy I want but he has to eat vegetables. It’s fun parenting. I rarely eat junk. But I can.
I can use the thermostat. Heck, I pay bills, so I refuse to “put on another sweater.” There’d be days growing up when I looked like the Fat Albert I had so many sweaters, and Dad would tell me to get one more. Lesson one: you can never have enough sweaters. Lesson two: don’t go with electric heat during the Carter administration.
Even today, I argue with my husband–he feels strongly heat should be kept at one steady temperature. Something about the molecules of the furniture reabsorbing heat and costing more. Maybe there’s a science person out there who can weigh in on this. We’ve argued–I’m sure he’s correct. That’s not the point. I want to be warm. With great pride I touch the thermostat, even though I get flashbacks of having my life threatened and being given more layers.
I can take long showers. I don’t, though. I don’t want the world to have less water on my account. I love the environment.
I can stay up as late as I want. I can party all night. But that never quite meshes with my getting anything done at work the next day. It’s just not fun. I learned that in college–looking at a plate of eggs at 6AM and falling asleep at an 8AM class just didn’t bring the joie de vive that it should have for someone who had the freedom to be social all night.
I can say the F word. I like to save it for emergencies though, because otherwise it loses its effect, and there really isn’t a better word in reserve. Well, there is, but it’s not in English–it’s a swear in Russian that packs quite a punch, but when translated, comes across as “penis from the mountain,” which doesn’t reflect extreme anger as intended. Lesson: never swear in a foreign language.
I can hook up stereo wires, pack a trunk, and use a lawnmower. I can drive a stick shift. I can do all the things that were relegated to the male world or put in the “no” and “don’t touch,” category growing up.
I can do anything I want. But the problem is this–It’s no longer a big deal. That’s how you know you’ve grown up…when you can do anything you want, but “anything,” is no longer fun. Fun, for me, is growing more carrots that I could ever eat, reading a book, running. Or writing this post. All nerd things.
I wonder if, when I contemplated all the things I’d be able to do when I grew up–the things everyone prohibited earlier in life–the idea ever crossed my teen mind that it wouldn’t be fun. Or productive. Did I even know what productive was?
When I’m at school and this subject comes up, I take the liberty of informing students, “Yeah, you’ll be able to do anything you want. And it’ll suck. Because you’ll have bills, responsibilities, and people counting on you. So you won’t party. You won’t blow off work, and you won’t waste stuff. Because you’ll be paying for it. In fact, study more now. You’ll be grateful later.
They all groan and tell me how terrible I am for even saying that. And I smile through the veil of a million years of experience and the commensurate beatdowns I’ve taken giving me the right to make such a statement. That’s the joy of teaching. Everyone hates the truth. That is the truth. But it must get out in the open.
And once in a while it’s fun to say. And I do. Because I can do anything I want.