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cliche parenting

Harvey grabbed the hair cutting scissors and took a big chunk out of his bangs today. I gave a friend a haircut last night and left the scissors lying on the sink in the bathroom. So I guess I should blame myself if I blame anyone. And hey, I figure it's good he used the hair cutting scissors and not the paper or fabric ones. At least he's learning there's a proper tool for every job.

Last week Zion emptied an entire box of tissues one by one into the toilet. Plunging wasn't enough to get the thing unclogged; I had to scoop up the sopping mess with a trash bag.

I find it strangely heartwarming when my children act like stereotypical children. So much of parenting has come as a surprise to me that I rarely find myself acting "like a parent" in any way I thought I would. When I try to teach some value or lay out some disciplinary scheme, Harvey looks at me all "who are you and when are you going to lay off this bull crap?" Witness our conversation the other day about a certain educational program.

"I don't think I like that show Veggie Tales," I said to Harvey. (We watched one episode online, called The Grapes of Wrath. There was a moral at the end, but only after a long segment of insults delivered by characters with awful accents. The moral was don't do insults, but I don't think Harvey's able to make a distinction between the model for right and the model for wrong. And the rude family of grapes was apparently from the Ozarks but they had a New York Jew for a father; that just doesn't make any sense!)

"Well, they have the bible at the end," said Harvey. "So that's great."

"I know," I said. "I like the bible part, but before they tell the bible verse they talk all snarky to each other. I don't like it when they talk all snarky. Do you like it when they talk all snarky?"

Harvey shrugged his shoulders, then he looked down at the floor as he slumped into a posture of guilt. I feared suddenly that I was shaming him for his preferences, which are probably beyond his control. Then he looked up at me and his eyes narrowed. "I don't want to tell you," he said.

Score one for Harvey.

I tell this story to illustrate that my children have minds of their own, and our relationship feels false when I try to "play" the parent in some way. It feels more authentic when I think of us as people trying to figure out how we can best live happily with each other. Our power distribution is unequal, sure, but Harvey and Zion are just as able as I am to make our daily lives together miserable. As such they have a more than equal say in how things go.

Which is why when they get up to a classic childhood cliche like cutting their hair or plugging the toilet, it makes me feel surprised and a bit soothed. Oh right, we're not the only ones doing this ever. Parenthood is still a shared human experience, no matter how "innovative" I think I'm being in my approach.

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