3.09.2010

when children are not nice

Mine are grown up. I’ve been helping them for the last 25 (Alex) and 21 (Theo) years. I helped them color in the lines. I helped them make sand castles. I helped them read chapter books. I helped them pick their clothes. I helped them learn to hold a fork and use a knife.

So you’d think, when I need a little help, they would be delighted. Far from it. One, and I won’t say which one, can barely contain a snarl when I ask him to explain how you move a picture out of the iPhoto file into a word document (that would be this file, and soon you might see the photo.) Okay, so I’ve asked him to explain it about ten times. So? How many times did I explain how the earth goes around the sun? or why we don’t bite strange children? These are far larger, more complicated, and deeply consequential issues than how you drag a square into a rectangle, if you ask me. If you ask them, I’m dumb. Thank goodness for friends; poor Frances has been patiently emailing explanations of the dragging thing for the last two hours.

Or perhaps, secretly, in some small part of the loved child’s heart, is the fear that mom is getting old, too old to keep up with technology, too old to understand the simplest, most rudimentary movements of everyday media. This means that the roles are being reversed--son has to teach mom, rather than mom teaching son, and that means that son’s generation will soon be ruling the world, operating on us, and doing our tax returns. They’re already reaching for our jobs, no? Good thing, too.

But please, a little patience, a little humility, a little remembrance of times past, when it was your own chubby fist grasping hold of a crayon, rather than my freckled hand on the keyboard, trying to grab hold of a rectangle that doesn’t really exist, dragging it into a document that doesn’t really exist, so that I can show it to readers who might want to see it--though, luckily, they do exist, even if I can’t see them. Kind of like what happens to the stars at the end of the night. As I once explained to a trusting four year old, they’re still there, up in the sky, all day, even if you can’t see them, and they see you, and twinkle down and shower you with luck. I suppose the next thing I’ll have to teach my sons is how to be kind to their elders, who will always be there, twinkling them with love.

14 comments:

Judith Ross said...

Trust me you have readers, devoted ones. I am thrilled to have discovered your blog today

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I read this. I really should be more patient/kind toward my mother when it comes to technology, too.
Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

My husband once got us a watch dog years ago. She took her job very seriously, maybe even too seriously. In fact, I often found myself apologizing for her doing such a good job. But in her old age, she grew deaf and I resorted to using hand signals and feeding her boiled shrimp and crackers on my hands and knees. She was a big dog and her front elbows puffed up like little golf balls from resting on them. We got her booties with little grippers on the bottom so she could gain better traction when she stood up. She hated them. There was more but you get the picture. In that last week of her life, I felt something emerge from her which was singular and pure.

Maggie never surrendered her desire to watch even at the very end. Instinct? Loyalty? Her job? Who knows? But the story was firmly in place. On some level, children never give up that story of parents who look out for them first, never.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is wonderful. And so unlike what is published online and off - beautifully written, thoughtful, distinct. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I think the irritation covers fear--fear that parents are indeed getting old and, under that, fear of losing them. It is the most elemental of fears--abandonment--and grown children are no more immune to it than are small ones. Denial is what allows us to get through life without drowning in the pains and fears by which we would otherwise be surrounded.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful writing... as someone who is yet to have children a good and different perspective. I should probably send this to my mum, I think she'd understand.

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning, As I type this, I'm realizing that I Can't Remember (a bad sign, I suppose) where I read the following exchange between an aging father and his 20-something son. The father interrupts the son's complaints about him to announce "Don't worry about understanding me....because one of these days, you're just going to BE me."
Admiringly,
David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Anonymous said...

Nodding my head and wiping away tears as I read this. How well I know your experience.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is beautiful. I am thrilled to be able to read your reflections on a regular basis again.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am where you are in life and I feel like you are holding my hand. Thank you

Anonymous said...

What beautiful insight about life. I read your article in the NY Time Magazine yesterday. Today, I have added your blog on my tab line. Thank you for your honest and eloquent reflection. I look forward to the sanctuary. I am in a helping profession, and while I am honored to help clients, family, friends; there are times when my cup is drained. Your reflections help to fill the cup back up. Thank you })

Leilani said...

I, too, read this and wipe away tears. My father decided to learn email and navigate the Web late last year, in the wake of my mother's death, in order to fill the long hours of loneliness. I regret that I was impatient with him, terse, annoyed. The guilt I felt was the subject of one of my very first blog posts:

http://aruffledfeather.blogspot.com/2009/09/new-territory.html

Now, he emails me with no problems. Probably no thanks to me :(

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful piece of writing. I found you via your book extract in the NY Times and immediately ordered the book. It is already in the catalogue at our local library - yes, even in New Zealand. I will be a regular reader of your blog from now on. Thank you!

columnist said...

A salutary reminder. Like one of your earlier commentators, my father learned to use the internet at the age of 78, (he's now 85), at my insistence, because we were leaving UK to come and live in Bangkok, and I wanted very much to keep in touch with him, as I had always done with with my mother, (who had died the year before). We were quite patient with him, (my partner more than me), but I'm proud to say he persevered and is quite adept now, but does have lapses. I will remember to be more accommodating!