Chatting With Lexi: On Taylor Swift

sNDnYYZe_400x400I love riding in the car with Lexi because she’ll often say something unexpected, especially when I don’t think she’s paying attention. I should be used to it by now, but my firstborn still has a habit of surprising me. Last week I bought the new Taylor Swift album, and like a true #swifty I’ve had it on repeat at home and in my car. I knew all the song lyrics by Day 2, so I was singing along on this particular ride. Lexi was in the back, head buried in her book, but apparently she can multi-task because she looked up and said:

“Dad, is Taylor Swift married?”

“No, honey, she isn’t.”

“Oh, good. Because I was thinking all these lyrics would be strange if she was married.”

“What do you mean, Lex?”

“Well, I mean she’s talking about being up in the club talking to boys and stuff, and I was thinking if she was married that wouldn’t be a good thing.”

“You’re right, Lex. But she’s in her 20’s, and many young people these days do what’s called dating around.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means she goes out with a boy on dates, and that’s how they figure out if they want to take their relationship further.”

“So she goes around with him? Is that why it’s called dating around?”

“Um, no. It’s because she’s dated a lot of guys that way, to see if it works out, but it hasn’t, not to this point anyway.”

“That’s why so many of her songs sound like she’s sad?”

“You got that right. Or upset. Think about ‘Shake It Off.'”

“Oh yeah. [Singing] ‘I go on too many dates. But I can’t make ’em stay.'”

“She’s talking about ‘haters’ saying she dates a lot but no one seems to want to settle down with her, to get married or something like that.”

“Dad, do you think she wants to get married?”

“Probably. Someday. But right now I think she’d just like to have a long term relationship and see where it goes from there.”

“It must be hard to be famous. People talk about everything you do, and everywhere you go, and everyone you do stuff with.”

“Absolutely. I wouldn’t want to be famous. Well, not that way anyway. I would want to be ‘book famous.'”

“What does book famous mean?”

“It means I would love for everyone to want and buy my books, so my books would be famous, but I could still go and do things without people trying to take my picture.”

“I don’t like people taking my picture either.”

“I guess I just value my privacy, and when you’re someone like Taylor Swift you really don’t have any privacy.”

“Is that maybe why some of these boys don’t want to date her anymore? Because they want their privacy back?”

“Wow, Lex, that sounds like it might be a reason. I think one of them was a musician and he was jealous of her popularity so he broke up with her. Jealousy is never good.”

“Yeah, I read about it in my books all the time. It never leads to anything good.”

“You got that right. You should be happy for other people and the praise and attention they get, not upset because you don’t have that praise and attention.”

“It must be hard to be Taylor Swift.”

“I imagine it would be. But at least she gets to do what she loves.”

“Date around?”

“No. Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant. I meant she gets to write her music, to sing her songs, and to perform in front of audiences all around the world.”

“That’s cool too. Rainbow Dash can do a Sonic Rainboom.”



Chatting With Lexi: Knock First


It’s nice to be a fly on the wall here sometimes, because I can hear the most interesting things. This morning, for example, the girls are getting ready for school, which is usually an individual experience, with one zigging while the other one zags. But this morning they were in the bathroom at the same time, having a conversation.

Maddie: Close door.
Lexi: You want to close the door?
Maddie: I want to close door.
Lexi: But I want it open.
Maddie: No. Close door.
Lexi: Can’t we compromise?
Maddie: Huh?
Lexi: Compromise. You know, when we both can get some of what we want.
Maddie: I want to close door.
Lexi: And I want to keep it open. Soooooo, we can keep it halfway open.
Maddie: Half way. [She eases the door halfway closed, measuring it like a pro.]
Lexi: Yes. Just like that. It’s called compromise. Can you say compromise?
Maddie: Com pise.
Lexi: That’s pretty good Maddie. Now say the middle. Com-pro-mise.
Maddie: Com-po-mise.
Lexi: Great Maddie! [The sisters hug.]
Maddie: Com-po-mise! [She begins to close the door more, giggling.]
Lexi: Nooooo, Maddie. When we are in our new house we will have our own rooms, and I will sometimes keep my door closed. You can keep your door closed too.
Maddie: Own room!
Lexi: Yes, and when it’s just your door, you can do anything you want with it.
Maddie: Anything I want.
Lexi: Anything! Well, except slam it and stuff. But you can’t come in my room without permission?
Maddie: Mission?
Lexi: Yes, Maddie. If my door is closed you have to knock first.
Maddie: Knock first?
Lexi: Yes, knock, Maddie. You knock, like this [She raps twice on the bathroom door]. And I will ask who it is.

[At this point, of course I am having flashbacks to that Cosby Show episode where Rudy and Vanessa are being taught a similar lesson by their parents. “You say who it is.” “Who it is.”]

Maddie: Who it is?
Lexi: Yes, I’ll ask who it is, and you tell me your name.
Maddie: Mad-uh-lynn.
Lexi: But louder. Scream it because I might not hear you through the door.
Maddie: MAD-UH-LYNN.
Lexi: Just like that. And if I say “come in,” it means you can open the door, come in, and nicely close it behind you. But if I say “not right now,” it means you turn around and nicely walk away.
Maddie: Nicely.
Lexi: Yes, nicely. We can still be nice to each other, even if I don’t want you in my room. That’s why we are going to have our own rooms. And in your room I’ll do the same thing.
Maddie: Knock first. [She knocks on the bathroom door.]
Lexi: Exactly! And you can let me in or tell me nicely to go away too. That’s what’s so cool about having our own rooms.
Maddie: I love new house!
Lexi: Me too! But always remember to knock first.
Maddie: Knock first.
Me: Yeah, it’s time to get ready for school.
Lexi: We’re good. Maddie gets it now.


Chatting With Lexi: The Scales

scales 10We were driving in the car tonight, on our way to the zoo, when, as often happens when she’s not using her iPad, Lexi asked me about where the animals go in winter. I thought about it, realized I had no answer, and basically said the zoo people know how to handle the situation. She was nonplussed, but moved on. Then she told me about how she had been there for a friend’s birthday a few weeks ago, which reminded me whose birthday it is today…

Me: Speaking of birthdays, did you know that it is Michael Jackson’s birthday today?
Lexi: He’s your favorite singer. Does he still have birthdays even though he’s dead?
Me: Well, it’s still the day he was born on, so I guess so. I remember it anyway.
Lexi: How old would he be today?
Me: Um… well, he died seven years ago so he would be fifty-seven today.
Lexi: Wow, and people still celebrate it?
Me: Yeah. Why not? He was very influential to a lot of people, just like he still is to me, even though he’s dead.
Lexi: Because there’s still a lot of music he put out that you can listen to.
Me: Exactly right.

So I decided to check my iPod for MJ songs so I could play a few in honor of his birthday, but my iPod is all screwy and somehow I only have five MJ songs on it at the moment. I set it to play all five songs, and the first one was “Remember the Time.”

Me: This one’s called “Remember the Time.” It’s from 1992, and the video was spectacular. All of his videos were spectacular.
Lexi: What was it about?
Me: Well, it was about Egypt. It had an Egyptian theme.
Me: I know you do. And I do too, at least how it’s represented in the video for this song.
Lexi: What does the video show?
Me: Well, it’s set in ancient Egypt. Eddie Murphy is this Pharaoh, and Michael Jackson is a magician trying to win the favor of the Pharaoh…
Lexi: I know all about ancient Egypt. When they died, it’s real nasty, but they took out the organs and put them in these jars.
Me: Yes, canopic jars.
Lexi: Yeah, those. They put all the organs in them, but not the heart. The heart they left in the body.
Me: How come?
Lexi: Because after death they were supposed to go to the underworld and this god down there weighed the heart on these scales. There was like this feather of truth on the scales too, and if the heart weighed more than the feather some bird ate the heart and you couldn’t go to the afterlife.
Me: Whoa. Are you serious?
Lexi: Well, yeah, something like that. It was rough.
Me: Did you know that many mythologies deal with something like these scales you’re talking about?
Lexi: No. I only know about that because it was in this book I read about ancient Egypt.
Me: Would you be scared if they were going to take your heart to weigh it?
Lexi: No. I would be DEAD. I wouldn’t know anything.
Me: I know that, but if you were still aware of things…
Lexi: Um, that can’t happen, dad.
Me: Okay, okay. Whatever. My point is that even to get to the afterlife you have to take this serious test. It’s like school, except with scales.
Lexi: Um, yeah, it’s nothing like that.
Me: How would you know? Were you around back then?
Lexi: How did we even get on this topic anyway?
Me: Because I talked about Michael Jackson.
Lexi: Oh yeah. Can you turn up the volume on that?
Me: Sure, Lex. Sure.


Chatting With Lexi: On Boys

bathroom-boys-sign-men-hiBoys are fickle creatures. Some are intent on being masculine. Others are really sensitive. And still more are both masculine and sensitive at different times. That’s the glory of the human male, that there really are no generalizations that hold up across the board. But when you’re a 10 years old girl all boys are the same.

Recently, I had a conversation with Lexi about boys, but I’m not really sure I got through to her about the nature of relationships with boys, and how they change as you get older. Or… maybe she got through to me.

Me: Did you have a good time at your summer class this week?
Lexi: Yeah. I met so many new people, and I made a new friend too!
Me: Is your new friend a girl or a boy?
Lexi: Well duh. It’s a girl.
Me: How come it’s “duh”? How would I know your new friend was a girl?
Lexi: Because… the boys and the girls were in separate groups.
Me: How would I know that?
Lexi: Well, because girls think differently than boys, so we only worked with girls.
Me: How do girls think differently than boys?
Lexi: Uh, well, you know. Girls are more about, uh, I don’t know.
Me: So you’re assuming girls think differently because your teacher separated you from the boys, or is it something else?
Lexi: Well, boys are just different. They’re all into trucks and stuff. I like drawing and painting.
Me: A lot of boys like drawing and painting. And a lot of them aren’t into trucks either.
Lexi: You know what I mean!
Me: I know you’re making general statements about an entire group. You like Minecraft, don’t you?
Lexi: Yeah.
Me: Well, a lot of girls like Minecraft, but the toys are usually in the boy section of the store. And the clothes are usually in the boy section of the store.
Lexi: So.
Me: So… think about it. People are individuals. Just because you like Minecraft doesn’t make me think you’re a boy. It helps me know you’re an individual.
Lexi: But boys like to joke around all the time.
Me: Some boys do, but as you get older you’ll see that not all boys are like that. And people change. You’re going to change. Someday you’re probably going to start liking boys.
Lexi: I like some boys now. I have some boys who are my friends.
Me: No, I mean you’re going to start liking boys, like your mother likes me.
Lexi: Mom loves you.
Me: Exactly.
Lexi: Ewwwww. I’m never going to like a boy like that.
Me: Never say never. Yikes, now I sound just like Justin Bieber.
Lexi: Who’s Justin Bieber?
Me: Not important. My point is that you never know what’s going to happen in the future.
Lexi: Well, I can say it now, and it’s going to be true forever. I’m never going to like a boy like that.
Me: We’ll talk again in 10 years.
Lexi: We can’t talk again tomorrow?
Me: Not what I meant. I just meant things change. When I was your age I never thought I’d like a girl either. Now look at me.
Lexi: But I’m not you.
Me: I know. That’s obvious. I’m just saying things might change.
Lexi: Yeah. Everything else will change. I am never going to like a boy.
Me: If you say so.
Lexi: Now you’re just making fun of me.
Me: Yes. Yes I am.
Lexi: Hmph.


Chatting With Lexi: On Being Fair

Not Fair Concept.

The refrain of “NOT FAIR” can be heard pretty much every hour on the hour in our household, either by Lexi or by her sister, and Maddie only does it because she hears it a lot from the older one. I’ve tried explaining to Lexi how the things she feels aren’t fair don’t really fit into the category she tries to force them into, how they’re really just privileges she can’t have for a certain period of time, not rights.

We were on vacation for the past few days, and as you can guess, several of the rules are a bit relaxed, like the screen time limit, and the snack food manifesto. I’ve learned, though, that if you give an inch they expect you to give a yard. And if you don’t then it’s… NOT FAIR.

So, I’ve taken some quality time lately to explain, and explain again, exactly what constitutes being fair in life, and Lexi has taken a lot of time out of her busy schedule to break down for me what being fair means to a 10-year old.

Me: It’s time to do something with your sister.
Lexi: I don’t want to.
Me: I didn’t ask if you wanted to.
Me: What’s not fair?
Lexi: That you’re making me do something with Maddie.
Me: Seriously? You so much don’t want to do something with your sister that you’re going to pull out the “not fair” card?
Lexi: What is the “not fair” card?
Me: You know how when we play Monopoly and you have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?
Lexi: Yeah.
Me: Well, it’s the same type of thing. It’s like playing with your sister is being in jail to you. Do you know that there are tons of people who would trade with you in a heartbeat, who want a sister but who don’t have one?
Lexi: I didn’t say playing with Maddie was jail! I just said I didn’t want to play with her RIGHT NOW.
Me: So you’d rather lie on the couch and stare at your hand than play with your sister?
Lexi: [laughing] I’m not staring at my hand!
Me: Could’ve fooled me.

Later on that day…

Me: It’s time to help me with the laundry.
Me: Wait. Hold up one second. Do you wear clothes?
Lexi: [sighing] Yeah.
Me: Do you want to wear dirty clothes all the time?
Lexi: Uh, no.
Me: Then, uh, who do you think washes the clothes?
Lexi: You do.
Me: Good. We’re getting somewhere. So I do my part to help you wear nice, clean clothes. And you need to do your part too.
Lexi: Why? I’m a kid. It’s NOT FAIR.
Me: You’re 10-years old. I know of at least a few 10-year olds who wash and dry their own clothes. And guess what? They also put them away. I’m asking you to do only one of those tasks.
Lexi: Oh daaaaad. But I hate putting my clothes away.
Me: Guess what? Washing, drying, and folding your clothes is no picnic either. But do you hear me complaining?
Lexi: Noooooo, but you’re an adult. It’s your job.
Me: Um, my job? My job is to make sure you’re taken care of, not to put away your clothes. It wouldn’t be… what’s the word? … oh yeah, FAIR, for me to rob you of the chance to do a job I know you’re very capable of performing.
Lexi: Daaaaad.

And then, this morning…

Me: What do you mean when you say something’s not fair?
Lexi: I don’t know. It’s just not fair.
Me: Like what though? You use the phrase enough. You have to know what you mean by it.
Lexi: Well, it’s like, when I don’t get to do what I want.
Me: So in order for things to be fair then you always need to get your way?
Lexi: I guess so.
Me: Then I guess I’ll just have to get used to hearing it for a long time then, and you’ll have to get used to things not being “fair.”
Lexi: How come?
Me: Well, let me put it this way… What’s the most important thing in life?
Lexi: To have fun.
Me: No, it’s to be safe.
Lexi: But being safe is boring! I want to have fun.
Me: Life is about being responsible, so when you do have the fun it’s safe and you know everything else has been taken care of first.
Lexi: But I just want to have fun!
Me: See, Lexi, for you to be able to have all that fun someone has to be responsible, to make sure that you’re safe, to make sure that you can be responsible too someday. And sometimes in order to make sure of all those other things we can’t allow you to do what you want to do when you want to do it.
Lexi: But that’s NOT FAIR.
Me: From your perspective, yes, that’s not fair. But if you were the parent you would understand. I used to tell my mom the exact same thing, and now I tell her I get it. Someday I’m sure you’ll get it too, but until then I guess we’re just not going to be “fair” to you.
Lexi: How come you always curl your fingers like bunny ears when you say “fair”?
Me: Those are called air quotes. It means I’m being sarcastic.
Lexi: Um, okay. Can I get back to my show now?
Me: Well, that’s NOT FAIR. I wanted to spend time with you.
Lexi: Daaaaaad.


Learning to Speak

I’m outgoing, or at least I’d like to think I am. I can play the role well enough, anyway, the title character in a multi-act play that is set to run for eons off-Broadway. And I guess that’s all I could ask for before. But now… now I feel like I’ve simply been grandstanding, pretending to be the man who speaks his mind. When it really matters, though, what do I actually say?

I’m just going to come out and say it. I have a hard time saying things that matter. Maybe it’s because I’m always so concerned with how others view me. Perhaps I’ve gotten so good at playing the devil’s advocate that speaking what I actually feel has become a daunting task? Sometimes I blame my writing skills for the marbles in my mouth. Why say it when I can write it?

That’s gotten me into trouble before, though. Like the time I…

  • broke up with someone over email
  • explained my financial dishonesty over email
  • wrote a letter to explain my verbal issues
  • wrote a scandalous poem about a friend
  • ended a friendship over email

When I can write beautifully crafted prose explaining myself, when I can go on for over 1000 words putting every essence of my soul into the written word that I feel will always save me, why should I make the insane effort necessary to sit down and talk to someone face to face? Well, because of the reactions to each and every one of those written missives above. That’s when I realize I’m a coward.

To write down words that I should speak instead makes me worse than the characters I write who cheat, lie, and steal to get what they want. They embrace their baser instincts. They rely on what has always worked for them in the past to get them through whatever they’re going through in the present, never learning from their mistakes, and hurting others in the process.

So I’m learning to speak, learning to open up my mouth and, despite the butterflies, get it out there in the open. So there can be feedback. So the other person can look into my eyes when I speak my truth, whether that truth be positive or negative. Other people deserve that much, if not so much more.


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