I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Art is a gift from Jesus"

My six-year-old spaz-boy Jones is often over-shadowed by his very accomplished 10-year-old sis. He generally accepts her tutelage with adoration, but lately has been making “I just want to win, just once” noises. Time for some alone time with Mom, I reasoned. It came to pass that Girl had a dress rehearsal at a church that was within walking distance of several museums and the big city library. The rehearsal would be three hours long -- too long to pass by talking among the parents and too short to justify the drive home and back. By happy coincidence, it was also “First Friday,” when museums have late hours, so I took Jones along. We dropped sister off and had a lovely adventure, with Jones gamely “leading” me through the city night.

We ran into a father and daughter in the children’s area of the one museum. I’ve had this experience before where I come across a father out with his kids, clearly actively engaged with them. By all rights, this father and I should be able to recognize the same kinship with each other that mommies automatically enjoy. But I always say something too familiar and the daddy bristles. On a field trip, I once made a flip “What are ya gonna do” remark to a dad about going by my mommy title rather than my first name at school functions and got lectured about how we don’t lose our identities when we become parents. Oh, I’m sorry, did you want to talk about comprehensive immigration reform on the bus ride to the zoo?

So Jones come up to me and exclaims “Art is a gift from Jesus!” To which I reply, puzzling where he might have heard this -- on tv?, “Umm, yeah? Is that right?” Because for some reason it’s important to me that I appear to this dad as an indulgent parent rather than child-bride to a fundamentalist cult. The daddy looks at me with acknowledgement and blandly says, “Where do they get these ideas?” And I, taking the offered hand of parental solidarity, say, “Yeah, religion is like sex. They can’t just learn it in the street.” Oh, he folds up like a fan. Oh, I’ve spooked the daddy. He doesn’t meet my eyes the rest of our parallel play in the children’s room.

Now, I know I said the s-word, but I’m telling you. If that dad had been a mom, she would have just said something earthy right back or proffered her own embarrassing anecdote. We won’t have true equality until we can all be like my own step-father, who, having raised his kids on his own, can stand with a bunch of mommies and talk smack on his own kids like the best of them.

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