Sunday, November 18, 2007

Parents Are Better People

I had intended to write a straight-up proclamation (or defense) but then I remembered Q.

Q and her boyfriend had a baby girl, Gigi. Q and boyfriend engaged in routine screaming matches, nicely timed to start around 1:00 am. Oh, and one would be in a car screaming and the other in a house. They traded spots sometimes.

Q has a way with words. I learned this phrase: "you small dick bitch."

If Gigi bounced a ball into the street or put a stick in her mouth, Q screamed at her, too. And those midnight fights also seemed to be the official custody switch. Four am? Certainly, time to bring the kid to her father.

Just after midnight one Minnesota winter -- way back when, when things were actually cold -- I was brushing my teeth and happened to look at the window. There was Q, getting out of a car and quite carefully drawing out . . . . a pit bull puppy ( ! ), which she started gently carrying to the house.

For one stupid second I was relieved. Until Q looked back and screamed: "COME ON."

Diapered, barefoot and not quite two, Gigi staggered out of the car and after her mother, who carried the dog.

I didn't have children of my own yet. Just the memory makes me want to run outside and scoop up that baby. She's over ten now and we've long left that corner.

If I'm going to return to that initial impulse--parents are better people -- it's gotta be good parents are better people.

Now I can defend myself.

For me, good parenting means (some of but not limited to at least always) this: remember when you fell in love? Head over heels, obsessive, in love? Heady times, when body language and inflection matter-- you tend to the beloved. You give up the last piece of cake, the best cut of meat, and leave the last sip of cream for her coffee.

Good parenting mirrors that state, that complete willingness to understand the needs of another: are you happy? sad? need a sweater, a snack, a ride? what can I do? who are you? what do you want in life? what are you thinking? let me look in--even if I don't like every last thing, I'll love you.

I like people in that state more than I like people wound tight in their own lives, in narrow concerns. Expand toward someone else -- you're a better person.

Maybe it's just real love of any sort that does the trick. I hope Gigi found some.

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