What the Lady Said

For the record, my parents played me new wave when I was a little kid; I still love it, and also riot grrrl, glam rock, some classical, and much modern music that I don’t know how to classify anymore. Ruth and Nora listen to reggae and oldies with a smattering of funk.

So I explained to my therapist about the truck, and it turned into a bigger conversation about culture. I’ve expressed in the past my frustration with the fact that it seems like Ruth and Nora’s culture “wins”; it is important in the relationship in the way that mine isn’t. Well, my therapist has pointed out that this is at least in part my fault. By trying to anticipate their wishes in this area, I end up minimizing my beliefs/culture/religion/tastes/etc. I don’t mean that I have any desire to get Cricket, say, religious children’s books in German—but I have wondered whether I should take the Christian children’s books I have (among many secular ones, I hasten to add)—off the shelf and hide them somewhere when Cricket visits, in case his moms are offended that I let him come in contact with that kind of thing. (And then, of course, I wonder whether the old testament bible story books would be okay—because they are part of our shared heritage—or not—because they have a Christian perspective. I could drive myself crazy with this kind of thing.)

My therapist says, “What are you, nuts? You need to be who you are in your own home. Not only because living some kind of weirdo double life will make you increasingly resentful but because Cricket deserves access to that. He might like your music, he might like your books, and if you stuff those things in the closet whenever he comes around, he’s going to feel shut out. Not cool, miss.” —I hope you don’t mind my putting her thoughts into my idiom.

In terms of familial differences, we’re the family that tends to have cookies around (because I love to make ‘em), that plays videogames, that listens to punk and goes to Mass and reads graphic novels. Once we have a futurekid, that futurekid will be living our culture, and I wouldn’t want to explain to him or her why we’re going to be doing things a little differently whenever Cricket comes around. Too weird.

This starts with the truck, apparently—my therapist encouraged me to do what I feel moved to do—I would add to that, “so long as it isn’t obviously disrespectful or inappropriate.” I feel a bit nervous about this new policy, to be honest. My therapist seems to believe that it will eventually lead to some kind of confrontation, and I hope that she’s wrong.

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5 thoughts on “What the Lady Said

  1. Cricket deserves your authenticity, and his moms are going to have to make some sacrifices (eventually) to be able to accept that. It’s appropriate to make your house child-safe if Cricket’s going to be around, but that shouldn’t mean shifting the culture or the tone of the household. You can’t live happily in the closet.

    And there are exceptions, which you’ll know because you won’t have this kind of existential angst about them! I was thinking of an example Dawn gave once (found it!) about how Pennie’s apartment was decorated with vivid rap-metal band posters that tiny Noah bravely said were “not for kids!” or something like that and they found some kind of mutually acceptable resolution…. Or in our case, when Rowan was coming to stay we took down the art in the dining room that’s clearly a woman’s naked backside because even though it’s artistic and not tawdry, we didn’t want to make Rowan feel uncomfortable in our home. It was no big deal for us to do that and we didn’t think twice about doing it. The picture is back up again now that he’s gone, but if another child comes into our life it will probably come down again and we’ll pick out some more neutral alternative. To me, keeping parent-approved nudity away from a teenager is entirely different from Christian adults having Christian books that a non-Christian child might see.

    It certainly seems that Ruth and Nora are being unreasonable, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or healthy or necessary for you to go along with it, especially if you’re the one who’s hurt when they get their way. Since I seem to be big on recycling advice I’ve given my partner for use with her dean when I’m suggesting what you can do with Ruth, I’ll say that there can be a benefit to playing dumb just a little bit. If you can cheerfully say, “Oh, I loved those Christian books as a child and think it’s great for children to get as much diversity as possible in the stories they read. You should see this great book on Mayan pyramids I just found!” you’ll be much better off than if you’re defensive or apologizing, which is likely to unsettle them and/or make them feel defensive and accused or something icky. There are different kinds of confrontations, and I hope you can find ones that are easier on all of you but get you to resolution, you know what I mean?

  2. I think that is great advice. As an adoptee, I would feel very hurt if my first family only showed me the side of them that they thought I wanted to see. I want to know the person as a whole, the good, the bad and the ugly!!

    • It’s a point of view that wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own, but once it was pointed out, it makes perfect sense. Thanks for adding to my understanding. =)

  3. I agree with your therapist about being yourself, but I don’t think it will necessarily lead to confrontation.

    I don’t know Ruth and Nora, but I’m quite control-ish myself and it would never occur to me that family members we visit (grandparents, aunts & uncles, etc.) should have different books on their shelves or music on their stereo for my kids’ visits with them.

    Since I’m not involved in visits w/ my son’s birth parents, the closest comparison I can make is with my in-laws: I want to maintain a happy relationship with them, but they don’t live around the corner so this really just means being friendly during a couple of visits per year.

    They are a different religion, have very different taste in food, movies, tv, music, hobbies, etc. While I would be pretty bugged if my kids grew up to like those same movies or be that same religion, I don’t hold my in-laws responsible for seeing that it doesn’t happen.

    I don’t feel like two weeks a year of “their culture” is going to outweigh the other 50 weeks of “our culture”; I don’t even see it as a battle. If Ruth and Nora are pretty reasonable people, they’ll want you to be yourself. And if they don’t–well, that’s not reasonable!

    And I totally love the idea of a control-oriented gal having reggae as her usual music. That’s golden.

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