Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous... or Subliminally Ridiculous

The other night we walked to the park after dinner to give Tom some quiet at home to grade papers.  Sean asked repeatedly why Tom wasn't coming to the park with us.

me: I already answered that question.

Sean: But why, Mama?

me: You know why.  Why isn't Dad coming with us?

Sean: No, you tell me!


Sean: (quietly defeated) Because he has to grade the newspapers.

Close enough.  It was beautiful outside: mid-50s, sunny, and a light breeze.  We arrived on the baseball diamond and Sean asked if we could play.  We ran the bases, pretended to pitch the ball and swing the bat.  It was glorious.  The moment was sublime.

Sean: Do we live on the earth?

me: Yes.  Yes we do.

Sean: Where is the earth?

me: The earth is all around us.  The earth is in front of us all the time.  It's beneath our feet.

Sean: Do Beckie and Brent and Jonathan live on the earth?

me: Yes.

Sean: Do Todd and Steve live on the earth?

me: Yes, they do, too.

Sean: Does Greta live on the earth?

me: Yes, Sean, all of our neighbors live on the earth. So do our family and friends.  And a lot of other people.

I have many sublime moments: rocking Audrey to sleep and snuggling with the kids while reading books.  Sublime.  When both kids are in the grocery cart, no one is crying, no one is poopy, and they are distracting each other.  That moment is sublime.  Watching Audrey find a thin marker, put it between her teeth like a woman doing the tango, and then crawl around the house.  When Sean dances around after his bath and calls himself a Happy Donkey.  That's sublime. (And perplexing, because where in the heyhey did he get that?)

Speaking of sublime has made me think of the word subliminal.  For example our friend and neighbor, Beckie, was in a rough car accident 10 days ago.  She broke her wrist and collarbone and had to be taken to the hospital via ambulance.  Sean has seen Beckie many times since the accident, and we have talked about how lucky she is that she was not hurt worse.  Now when getting in his carseat and Sean complains that his seatbelt is too tight, I call upon Beckie's unlucky circumstance.

Sean: (whining) It's too tight!

me: Do you remember when Beckie was in her car accident?

Sean: Yeah.

me: And what happened?

Sean: She hurt her arm and her shoulder.

me: That's right.  If we are in a car accident, we need your seatbelt to be tight.  Not loose.  Tight.

It's my subliminal way of saying, "stop whining!" or "No, I will not adjust your seatbelt for the 37th time."  Subliminal and effective.

Sean was running a low grade fever the other day, and he was going back and forth between chills and sweats.  During a sweaty moment he refused to wear his jacket when going outside.  I rolled my eyes to myself, tried to explain why he might want the coat in the 40 degree weather, and then gave up the fight.  It was not worth a tantrum.  However, while in the grocery store, I could see that his feverish chills were setting in.  He was whining and telling me how cold he was.  Though I could have chalked it up to his being sick, I decided to subliminally get my point across.

me: Do you remember when I told you to bring your coat?

Sean: (still whining) yeah.

me: Do you remember when I told you it was cold outside and you might want your coat to keep you warm?

Sean: yeah.

me: Well then next time maybe you will think twice before refusing to wear your coat.

Granted, I did feel a little guilty later. The boy was sick.  Perhaps not the best time to drive my point home.  It was, however, effective, because as soon as we got in the car, he sure did put his coat on.

We also encounter times that are neither sublime or ridiculous, respectively, but rather subliminally ridiculous.  The moment when the post-bath Happy Donkey dance turns into Sean slapping-his-naked-butt-dance. 

Don't get me wrong: I was laughing at the slapping-butt-dance.  Yet, I seem to be more afraid than Tom of when that dance might raise it's ugly head in public.  I am aware that Sean does not know how to censor himself around mixed company (and that he's not even aware of what mixed company is).  Tom and I seem to have slightly different views on flatulence and the like.  The subliminally ridiculous moment is harder to pin down.  It's harder to reprimand, and harder to describe why exactly it might be off-kilter.  The subliminally ridiculous moment is not necessarily a "bad" or "good" moment, but is fraught with humor, awkwardness, social tactless-ness, and embarrassment.  Well, the embarrassment is usually only felt by me.  The mother.  Because Tom is usually reveling in the humor of it all.

I'll give you an example. We were at the park a couple weeks ago and Sean was on a see-saw all by himself.  He figured out that if he used all of his weight and force, he could see-saw on his own.  His announcement of this achievement, though, brought different words.

Sean: Look, Mama!  I can bump my butt each time I go.


Or today, walking around outside, I kept smelling something rotten. I inspected the bags of leaves that have been sitting there since last December, and decided NOT to put my nose that close to them again.  I murmured something about it stinking on that side of the house.

Sean: No, I think that maybe I just farted.

But the one that really takes the cake: Easter dinner at Tom's parents house.  Not only was it the four of us and Tom's parents, but Tom's Aunt Betsy and her three kids, plus a foreign exchange student from Japan.  This delightful young woman from Japan is a peaceful spirit. She has a kind, beautiful smile, and Audrey (who is currently knee-deep in stranger danger) loves her.  No doubt the dark eyes and jet black hair help, but I believe Audrey is also drawn to her quiet, gentle spirit.  I asked Yasuho what she found most interesting, different, or difficult about American culture having lived here almost the entire school year.  Her answer: Americans' ability to carry guns and burping.  (Though I've never quite thought about these two ideas in the same sentence, I can see how they would be equally strange to someone observing our culture.)  Her exact words were, "If a girl is out on a date with a guy and she burps; the relationship is over."  Offensive, rude, intrusive, inappropriate.  These are the words that come to mind given her example.  Not but 30 minutes after having this discussion and while eating a delicious Easter dinner, I hear the sound of a fart escaping from my son.  Escape is probably not the right word: the fart was pushed out - making a much louder sound than is necessary, and the exuberance in both the fart and the Farter was felt more than three chairs away.

Sean: (grinning) It's stinky over here!

... as if waiting for someone to say something... and then...

Sean: I farted!

Ooooookay.  At Easter dinner?  While everyone's eating??  In front of Yasuho who just commented about American culture being different because of burping???  We take it to a new level here!  Subliminally ridiculous.

But let's take it back to the pristine, sublime moment we had the other night at the park.  The night was beautiful, the sun was setting.  There were people playing tennis on the tennis courts, and kids swinging on the swings, and other kids running around the playground.  We ran the bases multiple times, talked about the first base line and what it means for a ball to be fair or foul.  We even picked a lilac from a lilac tree and smelled it.  All three of us took a moment to stop and smell that lilac.  Sublime.

Sean: I think this tree is pretty.

me: Yeah, I do, too, buddy.  It's a beautiful tree.  And it smells good, too.

Sean: yeah.

Then noticing that the tree branches had some kind of disease on them, Sean further assessed the tree.

Sean: I think that maybe someone pooped on the branches.

me: Ehhhhm... (laughing) uhhh, I think the tree might have a disease.

Sean: No, look, Mama.  Someone pooped on those branches.

And in that moment, I decided not to try and explain the death and life of trees.  I tried not to reprimand or tell Sean he was wrong.  I turned away from what I thought might be a subliminally ridiculous moment and decided to embrace the sublime, ridiculous as it may be, through the eyes of my child.  Someone pooped on those branches.

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