Everything I know, I stole.
I carry around a big canvas dufflebag with me and, everywhere I go, I steal truths from song lyrics and movies and books and overheard conversations. I have even shamelessly taken mighty truths from the mouths of babes.
I snatch these truths up and stuff them deep, deep down into my bag. These are now also my truths.
If I share, I must confess that I palmed them from someone else. It’s only right. I am a thief, after all, not a crook.
What I know about parenting middle-schoolers and teens, I swiped fair and square from Homer Simpson who said to his daughter, “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand!”
This is simply the most honest and powerful attitude a parent can have to keep from falling into the, “You don’t understand!” trap because, really, it’s not that at all. I do understand. I just don’t care where your friend’s parents let them go or what they let them do or have or say or wear.
Oh, I hear you. I understand your arguments and even applaud your reasoning and passion.
I do understand.
I just do not care.
What I know about coping I learned from Peter and Cleveland on “Family Guy.”
As Hans Solo and R2D2 in a skit, the two are attending the robot’s niece’s violin recital on the way to a battle. Peter whines nonstop about how the niece has already seen them so they could sneak out, and he asks if they have to sit through all the performers and on and on.
Cleveland finally deadpans, “This is happening. Make peace with it.”
I have dug this jewel out of my bag so many times it is starting to wear on the edges. Rarely is it the wait at the DMV or the migraine or winter (which, by the way, has been coming despite my objections yearly for all my natural born years) but is rather my stubborn insistence that the current state of affairs ought to be some other way. I can feel my peace returning at a cellular level just by saying to my lack of acceptance, ”This is happening. Make peace with it.”
See? How brilliant is that one gem? I have a lot more in my bag.
How I deal with difficult people, thanks to Ray Bradbury, is to see humanity as a pot of stew. In one of his stories, a passive man takes trips abroad as the “ugly American.” He is a happy carrot the rest of a time but, one week each year ... the little dude gets to be an onion.
An onion by nature makes others cry but, without it, the stew would be bland. It helps to know this as the nature of our shared experience. It is simply practical to handle an onion differently than a carrot, maybe with gloves. Kidd gloves or boxing gloves, as needed.
In the play, Red Riding Hood sings, “Mother said, ‘Straight ahead. Not to delay or be misled.’ I should have heeded her advice ... but he seemed so nice ... ” about her encounter with the wolf. The giant nugget of truth came at the end of her song when she says, “NICE is different than GOOD!”
What can I say? She left that truth right there in the open, turned on her little red heels and flounced back down the path. It’s mine now.
A bumper sticker I saw once said, “Housekeeping is like stringing beads all day long with no knot at the end of the string.” That’s mine now, too.
Never draw to an inside straight and, no matter what ails you, it’s always gas. My dad left these gems when he died. Mine.
“I like food more than I like being thin,” was skillfully taken from someone I brushed by, unnoticed, in a crowd.
Years ago, I remarked that my then six-year-old daughter and I were “poor” to a friend. My daughter corrected me, right away, reminding me that we had a roof and heat and water and lights so we weren’t “poor.” We just didn’t have any money so we were, rather, “broke.”
There is a difference, she said. She was so right.
“Out of the mouth of babes,” as they say — and right into my canvas bag.