Tea, beer and the Big Bang theory of parenting


It is like, she said, a Big Bang that you hold in your hand. Yes. Having a child, becoming a parent, are like being propelled into a brand new universe.

Ilene Baker of Philadelphia made this observation during her rapid-fire riff at last week’s Ignite Philly show at Johnny Brenda’s Tavern. I nodded often as Baker shared some hard-won maternal wisdom with a packed house of craft-brew-sipping hipsters.

I particularly liked this line: Don’t be afraid of anything, even though everyone is afraid of everything.

As Baker reeled off her wise aphorisms, I wondered to myself whether my own two kids, now both adults, ever quote anything my wife or I told them.

My daughter sometimes will say: “Well, you always taught me X …”

And I’ll think: Did I really do that? I don’t remember consciously teaching you much of anything. Those years were a blur; an overwhelming but mostly happy blur spiced with moments of high stress.

In the middle of it, my wife and I were so busy doing what had to be done, when did we have time or energy to teach?

But then I think of the wise sign hanging outside Old First Reformed Church in Old City: Children have rarely listened to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

Our kids do seem to have inhaled some good lessons from us:

Do work you love, and don’t fret about the pay. Friends are precious; collect them eagerly and hold them tight.

Then there’s this difficult lesson that Baker expressed well: Your parents are men and women with their own hopes, fears and disappointments, which have nothing to do with you.

My wife and I worked to remind our kids that we were more than just their parents, so that they’d learn the big wide world doesn’t exist merely to meet their whims. The emblem of that was our post-dinner cup of tea, a 10-minute period the kids knew to keep sacred as Eileen and I would compares notes on our work days and reconnect, before the night’s sequence of parenting tasks launched.

I like to think this tradition prepared us all, parent and child, for another hard truth about the grown-up child, also well-stated by Baker:

Some day, your kids will be men and women with their own hopes, fears and disappointments.

Which have nothing to do with you.

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