Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Target Practice

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imagesWhen the sliding glass doors open at Target, I stride in.  I get what I need.  I check out and leave, fighting the feeling that always sneaks in the door with me.  Target has everything I need except my daughters. 

Some of my best and worst parenting moments took place at Target.  The girls and I loved rumbling around the store in (or pushing) one of the huge carts with the two built-in seats.  Those monster carts – no longer available, I notice – were unquestionably dangerous and also quite fun for little people.  We would find books, toys, and art supplies as well as paper towels, detergent, and saline solution.  We stopped anywhere they wanted to stop and almost always got an icee and some popcorn.  The world was no bigger than my daughters and me, and it was a good and happy world.  Am I embarrassed that we found such contentment in a consumer paradise?  No.  I feel nothing but lucky.  

Other trips to Target involved temper tantrums, which I never handled well, or fighting between the girls, which I handled terribly.  Some trips involved saying yes too often or no too harshly.  Some trips involved checking my phone too often.  Do I think they noticed?  Yes.  That last bit – checking the phone – is the part I really hate.  If I have learned anything over the last 17 years of parenting, it is to “Be where you are” with your children.  The learning goes both ways, and what could possibly be taking place on your phone that can’t wait?  I’ll tell you what:  not a damn thing.  

My consolation is that parenting doesn’t end until the day you die.  I’m still learning things from my parents, who are 78.

2015-02-24-Woods2Perhaps the profoundest parental wisdom I’ve come across is from “Into the Woods” (can you tell I’m obsessed?)   Bernadette Peters sings the song in all its glory here, but Mandy Patinkin’s version on Larry King Live in 1995 is pretty amazing and surprising too.  Lyrics are below, if you don’t have time for the clicks.

“Children Will Listen”

How do you say to your child in the night
Nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white
How do you say it will all be all right
When you know that it might not be true?
What do you do?

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen.

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free.
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes a spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you.

Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen
How do you say to a child who’s in flight
“Don’t slip away and I won’t hold so tight”
What can you say that no matter how slight
Won’t be misunderstood?

What do you leave to your child when you’re dead?
Only whatever you put in its head
Things that your mother and father had said
Which were left to them too.
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful you do them too
Children will see
And learn.

FullSizeRenderGuide them, but step away
Children will glisten
Tamper with what is true
And children will turn
If just to be free
Careful before you say
“Listen to me”

Children will listen.

*     *     *

It occurs to me that I’ll be crying over Amazon Prime when the daughters, away at school, no longer need me to order laptop chargers and granola bars.

*      *      *

This post was provoked by Matt Osborne’s incredible reflection on Parenting by the Book yesterday.  If you haven’t checked it out – do.  Xo

16 Comments

  1. Jen, these lyrics resonate with me. I’ve never heard them, and they leap off the page at exactly the right time. The kids are always watching. Parenting is one of the toughest gigs in the land!

  2. Beautiful, Jen!

  3. I loved this sweet post and reflection today. 🙂

    • You’ve seen it all at my house, “Miss Anne”! And you’re off to such a wonderful start on the parenting journey with darling baby Margaret. Can’t wait to see you both again soon. Xo

  4. Thank you for sharing this, it hits home even when the kids are all grown up.

  5. I love this so much! Thank you!

  6. Mandy Patinkin, of Homeland fame, can sing like that? I’m floored! Nice post too:-)

  7. I love this post Jennifer. When you graduated from Ravenscroft, Jennifer, my daughter was two. My experience is that the first thirty-one years of one’s child’s life are the hardest years (my daughter Leigh is 31). As age accumulates and senility encroaches, she will take care of me (I hope). But however old I may be when I shuffle off this mortal coil, Leigh will always be in my mind my little girl. “Parenting doesn’t end until the day you die.”

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