And moving right along…
Friday, September 11, 2015
In the long hot days of August, Murphy’s star is in the ascendent and nothing works right. No wind equals no wind power, blackouts are pretty much all day and half the night, and just forget about net access — via email or any other way. Nobody wants to heat the house further by lighting a candle, but the kids must have memorized their way through and around the place. If they’re not reading, writing, or painting, they’re as content in the dark as not. Kim and Christina would call the dark their friend, and I’d not be surprised if Rene and Serena do as well.
Daughter Dearest should be home next week. She had a little harder time than she thought, getting train tickets and an entry permit into Wingnutistan (one of Sammy’s correspondents came up with that, and the opposition has picked that up as a good handle). Hooray, just in time to start school! I’m cleaning out the old studio for her to sleep in, but I’m going to float the idea of her sleeping in the living room with the kids to keep things on the up-and-up this winter. Or maybe I shouldn’t use that particular phrase right now.
I had The Talk with each of the kids last week, one at a time — like I said, August is an unlucky month, so I waited. I started with Rene, figuring he’d be the easiest, and work my way up the difficulty ladder with Serena, Kim, and Christina. I took each of them down to the pond, where we could sit at the picnic table and relax as much as possible — being by the water helps me think, anyway. I don’t want to go into all the details, so I’ll mostly summarize.
Rene turned out to be a bit of a challenge — and let the others know what was up. “Me and Serena aren’t even boyfriend-girlfriend!” he protested before I got halfway through. “Besides, we’re not gonna do anything stupid anyway.”
“You never know,” I said. “You might not think it’s stupid at the time, either. Besides, look at Christina — she’s probably the smartest one of all of you guys, and…”
Rene nodded. “Yeah. I don’t understand that at all.”
“Anyone who says they do are probably lying,” I laughed. “The biological drive is powerful stuff, though.”
Serena lived up to her name — serene — and had an interesting insight. “It’s like a three-act play,” she said after I delivered my spiel. “Act I: child. Act II: adolescent. Act III: adult.”
“Maybe. There’s no curtain, though, and no intermissions. But ‘all the world’s a stage,’ right?”
“‘And all the men and women merely players,’” she grinned.
“I suppose. But you and the others are about to hit Act II, and that’s where the drama really starts.”
Kim was a handful, every inch the high-strung artíste. “Look,” he said, “I care about Christina too much to do anything to hurt her!”
“I know,” I said, trying to reassure him. “You have a lot of self-control that I didn’t have at your age. But right now, you guys are feeling pretty intense, and that just makes everything harder on both of you. You two could lose control and not even realize it. It’s like…” I thought of Serena’s analogy, and (ahem) groped for another. “It’s like trying to draw when your hands are shaking — you can’t make it come out right.”
Kim went quiet for a minute. “We… we’ve talked about it,” he admitted. “I told her it’s too soon, we’re both really not old enough. She says she knows, but…” he waved his hand, “she doesn’t get it! She said something like being ready whenever I am.”
He plopped his chin into his hands and looked across the pond. “I guess you’ll tell her parents,” he said. “They probably think I’m a total snake anyway, the way they look at me.”
“No they don’t,” I said. “At least Guillermo doesn’t — he knows who’s pushing who. I don’t know about Maria. They’re just really worried, and so are we. But I don’t think they blame you.
“I’ve tried to explain their own daughter to them, and I’ll try explaining your girlfriend to you. Christina is probably a genius. She’s as bright as anyone I’ve known, and I’ve known some seriously intelligent people. The thing about geniuses is, they like to make their own rules. Look at it this way, though: any painting, even a masterpiece, needs a canvas to give it structure. Right now, you’re the canvas she’s painting herself on. It’s a huge responsibility, and it’s not fair to you, but at least you’ve got us to help you.”
“So you’re the frame, huh?”
“Huh. I didn’t think about that, but yeah. We give the painting — and the canvas — some boundaries and a lot of support.”
I went to sleep that night trying to figure out what analogy would work with Christina, then woke up with the answer. Thank you, God. And Serena.
Forewarned or not, she knew what was coming when we got to the pond and was determined (at first) to make it difficult. “This is gonna be the sex talk, isn’t it?” she asked, looking at a cloud. “You sure you want to do this? Give me some pointers?”
“You know about hormones, right?” I countered.
“Yeah,” she gave me a curious glance and returned to the sky. “I covered that material a couple months ago.”
“Well, guess what? Reading about something, and experiencing it, are two different things.”
She really looked at me for the first time. “I— oh. I never thought of that.”
“Yeah. The changes start before you start having periods. Mood swings, intense feelings… it’s your own personal biochemistry experiment, and you don’t have a choice about being the subject of it.”
“You mean… me and Kim… it’s all chemical reactions?”
“Some would say so, but I don’t agree — it’s the easy way out. Sure, that’s part of it, but we’re more than just our hormones. We might not be able to control what they do to us, but we can control what we do to other people. Or with them.”
She chewed on that for a while. “Mama and Papa said it was a phase, or a crush, something I’d get over. I thought that was an easy answer, too. What you say gives me a better overview.”
“But not the whole thing?”
She shook her head. “I understand a little better now. But it doesn’t help how I feel about Kim. Or explain it.”
“Well, like I told Kim, geniuses like to make their own rules. If one of the rules you make is to not let hormones override your good sense — what you know is right and wrong — you’ll be OK.”
“Yeah. Thanks for… for that. It helps a lot.” She hugged me, and we walked back. That was the entirety of our conversation: she heard what she’d needed to hear.
So today, on the fourteenth anniversary of a disaster that predated all four kids and participated a greater disaster, the one we’re living in now, a smaller disaster is averted. For now, anyway.