by Kelly George Alblinger
This is your captain speaking, and on behalf of the crew I’d like to welcome you aboard this Karma Airlines flight. Today we’ll be taking off from New Mommy and flying to our destination, Advanced Parenting. Our flight time will seem interminable, although it’s really only a few years. We’ll reach a cruising altitude of 9,000 feet, which is not high enough for your parachute to fully open should you choose to exit the plane before we reach our destination. I suggest that you buckle up because we will definitely encounter some turbulence. Please turn off your electronic devices as we taxi to the runway; don’t panic, you will be able to reconnect as soon as we are in the air. Once again, thank you for choosing to take this exciting journey with us. Flight attendants, start serving the freaking peanuts!
Doesn’t that seem like the speech you should hear when you sign on to become a parent?
This section of the book really grabbed my attention.
I am in this space right now, as my husband and I grapple with the future of our relationship. This marriage has been difficult for more than two decades, due in large part to my husband’s alcoholism. He is sober now, with 20 months of dry days to his credit. But it took an act of emotional terrorism by me to jumpstart that outcome. It seems that it always takes an outlandish display of emotion to motivate my husband and my son (my boys) into action, and in the meantime, I’m just trying to serve the freaking peanuts.
I learned a long time ago that both my boys were looking to me for guidance about how to feel. Like a flight attendant, I put on a smile and calmly took care of their needs, gliding down the aisle with my cart of snacks and drinks, picking up trash and making everything neat and tidy in my wake. Once they were comforted and reassured that everything was okay, I would disappear into the lavatory while they were otherwise occupied and have a breakdown or throw a temper tantrum.
The parenting memo was delivered to me along with the baby, but I was too busy to read it carefully, so I just skimmed it for highlights. Hmm, shield child from uncomfortable situations and emotions; fix whatever goes wrong; give participation trophy just for showing up. Even without the time to delve fully into the content of the memo I realized that was bullshit and I simply disregarded it. Except the part about fixing stuff because I am an excellent fixer. Pro Tip: Volunteering in the classroom and/or the PTA is an excellent strategy for not only keeping a close eye on your little darling, but also for subtly currying favor for your kid with the teacher who might otherwise be inclined to fail them in math.
I fought the good fight with electronics, and my son didn’t get a phone until he was 13. He is now 21, and it feels as though we’ve lost him in the electronic void. Prior to COVID his waking hours were filled by the fairly even distribution of eating, skateboarding, school, job, Snapchat, and auto maintenance. The aforementioned activities all contained some form of socialization, as it was unthinkable to do any of them alone. Lockdown has changed all that, and he now spends his time solo, trapped in the house with his parental units unless he is at work. His vocational school program is closed, the skate parks are closed, and Snapchat is boring because no one is allowed out to do anything interesting. Fortunately he works in the auto industry so he gets that need fulfilled, but when he’s home he’s either watching YouTube on his phone or playing Grand Theft Auto on Playstation. I miss my bright-eyed, skateboard crazy kid just as Glennon missed her boy. But mine is officially now a man, so my parenting license has expired.
On page 167 Glennon says, “I’ve taught you that home is where you spend your leftover energy, out there is where you give your best. I need to course-correct…you are not showing respect to the people inside your home. If you don’t get that right, nothing you do out there will matter much.” YES. YES. YES. That, my sisters, is my current challenge. With the last tiny bit of influence I have left, I hope to teach my son that the people he lives with deserve the best of him, not just whatever is leftover at the end of the day. And it’s a lesson that I hope to teach myself as well.
In the interim, I’ll just keep serving the freaking peanuts.
Reminder: No book club entry for the week of Thanksgiving. We'll be back on December 3.
Also, I received a request from Sue to consider hosting a zoom for book club members to meet live. Absolutely! I'd love to, and think it's a great idea. There's so much to discuss. Stay posted for more information to come!