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Everlasting Gobstopper

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

Below, I have typed out a typical after-dinner conversation during what I am going to designate the I Didn’t Inhale Stage of early childhood development. I pause here for a nod to Bill Clinton, who attempted to set voters’ minds at ease during his first run for the presidency by explaining that while he had smoked marijuana, he hadn’t actually inhaled.

Did your kids go through this stage too? Though mine never went on to argue the situational definition of the word is (Sorry, Bill. Couldn’t resist!), I admit to being quite impressed at their dexterity. I thought you had to have an advanced degree to perpetrate these types of mental gymnastics.

One of my daughters was particularly adept. I have no doubts about her character development but let’s just say that if she ever decides to go into business, you’d all better hold on to your wallets.

Daughter: May I have some dessert?

Me: Sure. (giving her the dessert)

Daughter: (contented silence follows, after which daughter looks up with messy face) May I have more dessert?

Me: No. I think you’ve had enough for now.

Daughter: But I didn’t like it.

Me: Oh. I’m sorry you didn’t like it.

Daughter: (decisive) No, I didn’t like it. So I want some more.

Me: No, honey.

Daughter: (becoming agitated) But I didn’t like it! I didn’t like it!

Many other variants on this conversation took place. Imagine my dragging a tantrumming child out of Chuck-E-Cheese after an adrenaline-filled morning of gambling. Uh–playing, playing! I meant to say playing. For crying out loud! What is wrong with you people?

Me: Time go home for lunch and a rest.

Daughter: But I didn’t have fun! I didn’t have fun!

I have mixed feelings as I recall those days. I see our children’s tears of disillusionment and hear their protests. Their distress was very real and surprisingly pure. My daughters cried out to me to right what they perceived as injustice as surely as they would have sought me if a bully had yanked the lollipops from their mouths or the Pokémon cards from their sweaty little hands.

How could the dessert be gone if they were not sated? How could play time be over if they had not grown tired of playing? I was supposed to be their savior. But my NO could easily have cast me as persecutor. I was such a meanie.

It’s funny to think about now. But probably only because this was a battle they never had a chance of winning. Thank goodness. Envision the sort of adults they might have become had their coups succeeded! I can imagine any number of “rules” they might have extrapolated from their experience. Here are a few which come immediately to mind:

  1. Your job is to make me happy.
  2. It’s not over until I say it’s over.
  3. I get to have my cake and eat it too.
  4. Life is supposed to be fair—and I get to define fair.
  5. I am a victim.
  6. You owe me.
  7. It’s all about me.
  8. I shouldn’t feel pain.
  9. Rules are for other people.
  10. You are responsible for my feelings.

I hadn’t thought about this brief period for years. I might have forgotten this stage altogether if not for the surprising Summer of 2011.

Niko: I know we agreed that Hanna and I would only stay for four weeks…but not having the use of your computer made it impossible for us to do the activities and see the sights we had wanted to. I am certain that if we just stay a few more weeks, we can accomplish the things we want to do and still make this vacation a success.

SO.

We’ve decided to extend our visit by a few weeks.

Is that ok?

Me: I understand your frustration but that won’t work for us. Whether or not you extend is your choice but you will still have to leave our house on the agreed-upon date. I’m sorry, the answer is no.

Niko: But I didn’t have fun.

This post is part of The Story of Hanna, a true tale of love, friendship, betrayal, loss, and aging. Hanna was my best friend for over 30 years. Until the Terrible Summer of 2011 when things went terribly awry. For the prior installment click here. For the next installment, click here.

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19 responses »

  1. Thanks for working through all this with us, your intrepid readers. Your story of Hanna is heartbreaking. I can relate to so much of it. And I know far too many adults who live by your 10 rules!

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  2. Ah, the story unfolds. I remember those days of tantrums and meany mom. Healthy people know that they don’t always get what they want and they learn to process disappointment as well as to empathize. How awful to be put in that position. With each of these posts, I can feel the walls crumbling.

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  3. It is obvious that you took the friendship very seriously and that this detailed account is not ‘only’ a coming to terms with the course the relationship took . I also experience it as on ode to that friendship. You do know how to keep your readers in suspense, writing with such detail and lucidity. The term ‘slow reading’ comes to mind. As with slow food: high quality, very well thought out and extremely interesting.

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    • Thanks, Mogromo! Sometimes it is intentional, sometimes accidental. I wrote most of these essays in 2012 and 2013 and then I printed them out and tried to put them in what seemed like the best order and then made some notes on where I thought there were gaps that needed to be filled. There are few problems now with the sequence I have committed to–some things are starting to feel out of order as I wind down and have few essays left to finish the puzzle, so to speak. But that is ok. Since it is a slow unfolding, as you say, the jumping around in time and order is not so bad.

      I am so glad you are reading and enjoying the story!

      (I did take the friendship very seriously! They did too, especially Hanna. I suspect that after so many years of that life, her mental health and insight weren’t what they used to be. Of course I could not fix that.)

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. That is so funny and so true. Kids are way too adept at non sequitur arguing, which of course is impossible to reason with. You are so right about gambling, I mean playing, at Chuck E. Cheese, haha.

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  5. Those 10 “rules” are how most all youth operate these days, it seems. Not just youth, either.

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  6. It would be interesting to see how Bill Clinton would do in Colorado since the state has legalized medicinal marijuana, and several cities/towns have also legalized recreational marijuana. Even so, there are many ongoing busts throughout the state of those who still prefer to grow many plants between their rows of crops or in their basement and then complain when they get caught; one recent one said in court that if he didn’t inhale, like Pres. Clinton, then what’s the problem?

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