Bitty Buddha 101: How (and Why) to Make a Mean Person Your Friend

I can’t count how many times someone’s called my first-grader a little Buddha. He’s an insightful little fart, often boiling down life’s tough stuff into the simplest terms from the backseat of my Hyundai. And he’s always unusually happy, even when his nose is bleeding like a scene from the Colosseum. One could argue that all first-graders have a happy nature, but that’s simply not true. I know, because my sixth-grader came out of the womb with her cup already half empty. (Boy, did THAT hurt. Rimshot!)

As a result of the constant flow of weird and wonderful things that come out of my son’s mouth, something awful happened: I became One of Those Annoying Moms Who Quotes Verbatim Conversations with Her Child on Facebook, like this one:

“Mom, I love you more than you love me.”
“Impossible. I love you times infinity.”
“Well, I love you times googol.”
Then, after much back and forth about I LOVE YOU googolplex, googolplex plus one, infinity plus infinity, he says, “Just kidding. I actually only love you about 10 percent.”

And this one:

“Mom, I think sometimes it’s better to be a kid than a grownup, because if you’re a kid and you punch someone, you just get in trouble. If you’re a grownup…JAIL.” 

And this picture:

Dodge Ram

With this caption:

“I think that guy really wants you to honk at him. It says, ‘Big Horn’ right there on the back, Mom.”

Look, I’m not saying he’s a total wizard, but he’s kind of growing on you, right?And sometimes he does make some amazing observations, about which I post things like this:

Playing a silly game of “what’s your favorite…” at bedtime, I asked my son, “What’s your favorite booger?” He said, “The not-bloody ones.” And when I laughed, he said, very seriously, “I’m not kidding. They’re gross. The blood tastes so bad on the booger!”

Indeed.

I could go on, but I won’t, because starting today, I’m just going to put the virtual microphone right under his chain. Today, Bitty Buddha wisdom, as dispensed to me from the back of my Hyundai and repeated to me for transcription when we got home–because he thought “we should probably put that on Google, to help people.”

I agree. Without further adieu…

HOW AND WHY TO MAKE A MEAN PERSON YOUR FRIEND

Hello, everybody. This is how you make a mean person into your friend. The reason you want to make them into your friend is because it’s hard to make friends with people who are mean. It’s really hard, because you think they’re so mean. That’s what most people think, so then the mean person doesn’t get friends, and they become sad. Try to make friends with them, so you don’t get hurt. But be careful, so you don’t get hit. These are the instructions:

First, you need to make friends with them.

Then, you need to help them become good, because friends normally obey each other and like to have fun, so he might obey you and be nice and be a good person.

Also, this is all how it started. Because I had a bloody nose at school, because another boy slapped me in the nose on accident. We were playing cops and robbers. He gets in a LOT of mischief almost every day. After the nosebleed, since I didn’t want to lose him as a friend—because it’s hard to make friends with people that are naughty—I had to make him better. I plan to stay friends with him so I can try to do that.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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You’re Doing It All Wrong: Parenting in the Information Age

The choice is obvious.

The choice is obvious.

To circumcise or not, to vaccinate or not, to breastfeed or not, to co-sleep or not: Parenting young kids has become a series of capital-W watershed choices that are presented as ways to make or break your child—physically, emotionally, developmentally. The stakes are always portrayed as the highest of high, with nearly every single debated issue (and there are LOTS of them) leading to this one conclusion: “If you do [or don’t do] X, your child will suffer grave consequences or even death.” But, hey, no pressure, right?

Since there are always horrifically true cautionary tales on both sides of every single one of these debates, both sides have plenty of ammunition to scare the bejesus out of parents. From deciding whether to let baby sleep on his back or tummy, to deciding whether to let older children walk to the park alone, mom and dad repeatedly get the message that life itself hinges on their decisions. It’s exhausting, and brand-new parents definitely bear the brunt of it. So, to me, it feels cruel to wag an angry finger at those parents who, for example, didn’t vaccinate their kids at the height of McCarthy-ism (Jenny, that is, not Joseph). We’re all just trying to figure out what information to trust, and make sure our kids don’t get toasted.

Parenthood is a series of forks in the road, and I suspect the signage we face at these forks has become much messier and more involved than it was for generations past. It’s damn scary to keep trying to play by ever-changing road rules, as information keeps getting repackaged, reversed, or revised. It’s also scary to realize that even if we play by the numbers—or, on the opposite end, just sit at the fork and hope the winds will decide the proper tine to blow us down—there is the potential that we’re going to harm our children. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. Your actions can lead to horrible consequences. Your inaction can lead to horrible consequences.

The Disney measles drama is what’s on my mind as I write this blog. To me, it’s just one more reminder that, in the Information Age, a Critical Thinking class should be required coursework for parents. Heck, why not for everyone? As a society steeped in information and with crisis after crisis being presented to us in a steady flow, we need now more than ever to be better equipped to separate data from opinion, judge for ourselves what deserves our attention, recognize a spin when we see it, and draw logic-driven rather than mob-driven or fear-driven conclusions. That’s not an easy task if you aren’t taught the skills to accomplish it. I for damn sure could use a refresher course,  much more than I needed one of those cute little hospital classes on taking care of a newborn, as it turns out.

I write these words after reading this angry dad’s article. I’m not cheerleading everything he wrote (as there are many parts where I find the data points interesting but don’t draw the same conclusions as he does). I certainly haven’t walked a mile in his shoes, but I can see he’s wearing his thinking cap and trying to encourage critical thought. That deserves some praise. As he put it in his intro: “I hope when you’re done reading that you say to yourself, ‘he gave me a ton to think about.’”

Mission accomplished.

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All Better

My son wept today. Even though he’s six, such displays are rare with him. The tears were over a Lego creation he worked on for maybe an hour, tops, something he very generously called a Transformer. To me, it looked like it could be a Lego anything: a building, a sandwich, a tribute to Tetris.

“This right here? It’s a shooter. It grows at night, when the bad guys are out, like this—vvvvssshhoowwww, bachonk, bachonk—with wings that can’t be broken. AND it defends against rockets. Pah-kew! Pah-kew!”

He had just finished describing this terrifying beauty to me, in great and passionate detail, when he went running off, tripped, and sent the whole thing flying. When it landed on the ceramic tile in our kitchen, his creation shattered back into all its original pieces. There were maybe a hundred, all told. We had to get out the dustpan and everything.

The weeping that ensued wasn’t a goldfish-died kind of weeping, and he didn’t seem particularly interested in having an audience. It was more like a crop-is-ruined-better-get-a-second-job sort of stoic sadness you might see from a farmer at the end of a particularly bad summer. Yeah, things got kind of real for him for a few minutes there.

Instead of running to comfort him, I watched from the next room. I know he’s only six, but I wanted to see what he’d do with the ordeal. Because, you know, life is like that. Shit randomly breaks and goes wrong, and you can’t always repair it. Whether it’s shattered glass, a dropped egg, or something intangible, like a friendship, some breaks won’t mend. That’s a hard and important lesson to learn. This was a decidedly privileged and painless way to start teaching it. I’d be a fool to pass that up.

When I was in the fifth grade, I won a raffle for a beautiful porcelain figurine. Among the entire school population, there were only two winners—two such figurines—and to be one of those winners felt like winning a Pulitzer. I’m sure I didn’t think of it in those terms at the time, maybe more like meeting Olivia Newton-John or waking up with boobs. About five minutes after I retrieved the doll from the school office—she had this flowing blue gown, long black hair, and sultry eyes with eyeshadow—some kid on a BMX bike came tearing through the breezeway where I was standing, crashed into me, and sent her flying. She completely shattered, save for her sad head.

“Can we glue it?” I sobbed to my mom. She had witnessed the whole scene unfolding as she walked from her car to pick me up. “We can, right!?”

No way in hell could my mom put eight million shards of porcelain back together to look like Catherine Zeta-Jones in a ball gown. That doll couldn’t be glued. She couldn’t be replaced. It was time to let disappointments just be disappointing. My mom knew (or just learned) what I’m continuously learning: Parents can fix only so much, and that’s actually a good thing. Because real life has curves and ditches that cannot be avoided. You gotta practice for them when you can.

I could see that today was that kind of training day for my son. When he was ready, I took him up in my arms and hugged and kissed him and told him how much it sucks when something you work so hard on gets ruined. But I didn’t make it “all better” for him. I didn’t even try. That’s his job, and he figured out how to do it all by himself.

Transformer II: The Second Coming

Transformer II: The Second Coming

 

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