I had my first real and honest lesson that parenting is about controlling- protecting-guiding-hovering-teaching-controlling-informing (not stifling, God, not stifling) AND THEN gracefully letting out the control line at very exact and all-knowing moments so they remain or become thoughtful, independent and well-adjusted people. And we parents are just supposed to know how to do this perfectly.
Maya is in Las Vegas for the rest of the summer. And from a distance she pressed the issue to shave her legs with me. We've had the discussion before, a few times, which ended with me deciding she was too young (she's 11), explaining it's a pain in the ass to do, it's a commitment and she is too young to have this matter. But if you haven't noticed, young kids are the new older kids. She accepted the decision at the time -and not begrudgingly -- but she made the pitch to her sweetheart stepmom, Sanne, after Maya arrived in Vegas. Sanne probably didn't realize all the discussions that Maya and I have already had on the subject. She told Maya she would help her shave her legs for the first time, but only if BD and I said it was ok. So, Maya pitched me on the phone, in front of other people. It came across as jokey and lame, undermining all our previous conversations.
We are a hairy people. Our hair is not light or inconspicuous and one of my big embarrassments as a preteen was my hairy legs which my mother did not let me shave until I was about 14. If anyone understands Maya desire right now, it's me. She's at the age where it bothers not necessarily her, but those around her. Of her friends, she is one of the only ones that doesn't shave her legs. I asked her if this was solely about what her friends were doing. She said no, but she was distracted, focusing only on the inflection of my voice that was swaying her way. I said, I've been telling you since you were three years old to always use your own mind and not blindly follow others. She said, Yea, yea, yea (can I shave 'em?).
And I realized that this was the precise time to let out some of the control line. I realized I had to save my strength for more important battles to come with her. I said, You can shave your legs, and have Sanne help you. I told Maya that if she realizes that it's a total pain that she can admit it without any I Told Yous, and we can take a break from shaving in the winter. Maya was stoked, not hearing anything after Yes.
I'll tell you, it was really hard to let go and make a decision against what I wanted for her. I want her not to care about her hairy legs right now. I want her to stay a carefree kid for as long as she can. I want her to be less concerned about her looks than the average woman. But I know these might be unrealistic wants. It's ok to want and push for these things, I know, but I also understand that it's not ok to keep her in my box of wants. She's growing up. Shaving her legs is really not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I guess I was mainly tripping on how parenting is always hard. It never lets up. I don't know if I always make the right call, but my calls will be full of thought.
Our apartment butts against and overlooks an alley. It's great because of the occasional alley drama. And it's bad because of occasional alley drama. Two nights ago, around 10pm, I heard a loud, drunken confrontation. "FUCK YOU!" And then all-out, loud male sobbing. Peeking from the balcony, I realized the scene was between a teenage boy and his father. The boy was resisting getting out of the passenger side of the car. "I HATE YOU," he yelled. Sobbing. More slurred insults. I think his mother was in the driver's seat. I saw the dad remove the man-sized kid from the car as the kid jellied about, flopping and crying and yelling. The dad was quiet and sort of calm and he half-dragged the boy into the alley-entrance of an apartment building. I said a lot of good thoughts for that family as I stood on my dark balcony, invading their tough night.
All I'm saying is parenting is hard. And Maya can shave her legs -- though I don't want her to --because there’s probably harder battles down the road. And I'm thinking easing up on some control and not fighting her on everything may show her how to give in on some things too.
In other news, I commute three days a week to work now. The trip takes an hour and twenty minutes each way whether I drive or take a train. Today I took the train for the first time. I loved every minute of the ride. I loved not sitting behind a wheel in congestion and contributing to the destruction of the planet. I loved the chill time to read or write, and I loved the scenery. There is something about the industrial backside of East Los Angeles, where the train tracks rein, that is visually breathtaking to me. I'm not saying I want to walk around in the yards and the factory lots alone, but as an invisible observer in a comfortable train seat, I think the scene is gorgeous: Large shacks made of wavy, grey metal with bright-orange rust lining the door frames. Massive electrical sculptures in a power-grid yard corralled like huge, sleeping cranes. Concrete walls/trains/buildings embellished with angular and hard graffiti made soft by their range of color. High, jalopied cylinder structures laced with rickety, zigzag stairs that lopsidedly still serve a function for a factory. Small, old houses that back the tracks and where clothes are strung up on a line in the yard, like prayer flags (Wind, bring them good fortune). All these things are artistically honest to me. They move me. Behind all the tagging and the broken-down structures and the wash on the line there are people trying to make it through. Just like anywhere. There are lives -- soft, fleshy, feeling lives -- behind the entire area that looks abandoned as a morning train passes.