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: 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.


The Race Conversation

raceconversation“Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.” ~Lyndon B. Johnson

I never really cared about race, but race was always concerned with me. Maybe because I was born black, or perhaps because I was born in this country, or probably both. Definitely both. There’s just something to be said about being that “other” that is contrasted with the majority, that absence of color when compared with the presence of all color. I mean, that’s what white is, right? The presence of all color. So why isn’t it all-inclusive? And why should any of it matter anyway?

The United States has been characterized as this great big “melting pot,” where people from all backgrounds and ethnicities are welcome and appreciated, as this giant quilt that stitches people together and creates something new and incredible from each pattern. Yet more often than not it is instead a middle school lunchroom with its cliques and ostracizing behavior. Now, while race isn’t the only dividing line, it is still one of the thickest. And I don’t think I’ll ever understand why.

But that’s a conversation for another time.

What’s important to me at this exact moment is my children having to deal with these issues without really understanding them. Continue reading “The Race Conversation”

That’s What She Said

She said my taste in music sucked, and I almost believed her. I mean, not everyone is still as devoted to heavy metal as they used to be, but perhaps she took it just a tad too far, like she takes everything. Drama queen is the label I would put on her if I did that sort of thing, labeling others as if they were packages of meat. But maybe she would like that, being labeled dramatic for the whole world to see, or at least for our little corner of the whole world to see. I used to think I knew her and what she would think in any situation, but that changed last week at school. I’m still trying to figure out if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

“It’s not that you’re lame, but my friends think you’re lame,” she told me yesterday. Not “my other friends,” but “my friends,” like I’m not one of them.

“Someday you’ll understand why I’m doing what I’m doing,” she said last week when it all started, cryptic as always.

“There are cool people, and then there’s you,” she texted me this morning, and I haven’t responded yet.

Come to think of it, I never respond to her because she never leaves spacing within her array of words for me to break in. Even when she texts, if I respond I have no clue if she even reads it. I often ask myself, especially lately, why I still hang around with her, you know, when others aren’t looking. Maybe because when others aren’t around she can be different. Notice I used the word “can” because it doesn’t always happen. Case in point: the text she sent this morning. Of course who am I to know if she wasn’t with others when she typed it into her phone? Odds are she actually wasn’t alone because she’s never alone.

Except of course when she’s with me, because I let her do what she wants and when she wants, the only one who does it so far as I can tell. Maybe that’s why she still hangs around with me in secret, and also probably why I let her treat me the way she does. Well, that and she lets me feel her up. That helps too. But I’m getting off topic. I know I’m not the coolest kid around. Hell, I still wear a bomber jacket and quote Shakespeare in my spare time, but at least I’m authentic. All of her “new” friends are so cookie cutter it would be laughable… if any of them actually understood what that means. And I don’t point it out because I don’t get words in edgewise.

“I let you touch me because we’re close like that,” she said, even though we aren’t really close like that. And she never touches me either, which would deny her words in and of itself.

“There are times when I wish things were different,” she told me, and I think I know the times she means, like all the times we used to have before she got accepted into the cool kid circle last week in school. And I knew those times would go, but I didn’t realize they would disappear so soon.

“Believe me, if I had a choice things would change,” she said. Of course they have changed, and she doesn’t even know how it makes me feel, how defeated I am inside because of it.

And yet, when we’re alone, when all there is between us is as thin as a sheet, when we’re as close as Romeo & Juliet, that’s when I realize my love for her isn’t meant to last, that if it can’t sustain an emergence into the light then it’s not reciprocated and it means nothing. And for all that she says, it will never change unless her actions start doing the talking. I put in my beats by dre headphones while I sit on my bed and realize this, letting the soothing sounds of Megadeth take me away. And waiting for her to bring me back.


The Birds, The Bees, and Actually Talking About Sex: Parental Advisory

You know how it is when you’re watching a legitimate movie and you start to feel it coming. You know what I mean. It’s when the main characters begin eying each other in “that” way, and you know that sex between them is inevitable. And it almost feels like you’re about to have sex too, because you’re all nervous and sweaty, an odd feeling indeed. But you’re not nervous or sweaty because of impending coitus, well, not yours anyway. You’re nervous and sweaty because you’re suddenly embarrassed. And you don’t even know why. Well, I’m here to tell you why.

From the time we are little, we are told and shown that sex is wrong, something to be hidden, something to be embarrassed about. Our parents, our teachers, and other adults we come in contact with avoid the topic if at all possible. In fact, the only time we really hear about it is when we catch our parents naked and we ask them why girls and boys are different (I’m sure they wished right then that they had splurged for that lock to put on the bathroom door). But even then, when they’re given the perfect opportunity to tell us the mysteries various and sundry, they don’t take it. Instead they tell us some schlock about birds, bees, and pollinating flowers, the furthest thing from sexual relations as there could be.

So, how do we find this stuff out? From friends, from older relatives, and from movies. Yes indeed, from those same movies we eventually become embarrassed about seeing once we’re all grown up and sex is less of a mystery than it once was. But even then we see sex through a lens, which is what makes it embarrassing.

The only time sex isn’t embarrassing is when we are right in the middle of the act itself, and that’s only because our minds are so completely occupied with the act that we can’t focus on being embarrassed. Directly afterwards, though, that nervous, sweaty feeling returns. And don’t think it’s just human nature either, because it isn’t. People who grow up in homes where sex isn’t a taboo subject are much more well-adjusted when it comes to their own bodies and those of others. Sex is natural, and created by god, so why treat it as if it were unnatural just because we were raised with it being a taboo subject in our own homes?

That’s why porn is such a huge industry. People watch it, read it, and stare at it because they are fascinated by something that has never been explained to them. Porn is all about exposing the mystery, trying to get to the bottom (insert joke here) of something that shouldn’t be hidden. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think our children should see a conception on film, or know the harsh terms for sex that are out there. I’m just saying that in our sheltering of them, we do them and ourselves a disservice. Instead, we need to tell them about the beauty of sharing love, not this garbage about birds, bees, and flowers.

And that brings us full circle. If we weren’t told from an early age that sex is wrong, maybe we could make up our own minds on it as we get older instead of letting our friends and the media make up our minds for us. And maybe the next time we see that legitimate movie with the sex scenes, we won’t get embarrassed. We will appreciate it for what it is.


Sam’s Weekly Water Cooler Musings: On Judging

You know how it is, when you’re at work and things are boring, or you’re just thirsty, so everyone migrates to the office water cooler. Then you stand around like seagulls in a parking lot, gripping those plastic cups of water and shuffling from leg to leg. Then, inevitably someone breaks the silence with the dumbest topic but everyone latches on to it like it’s the lord’s own word. That’s the theme of this weekly blog entry.

So, today at the water cooler we got to talking about looks people give each other and the misinterpretations that accompany those looks. For example, you’re walking down the street and coming toward you from the other direction is a well-dressed large black man. What look do you give him? Do you pass him by without even giving it a second thought? You’re sitting in your car at a red light in a rather seedy neighborhood and realize your car doors are still unlocked. A homeless man standing on the curb is giving you a look. Do you click your doors locked and risk his misinterpretation or do you just wait for the light to turn green?

We really do spend our lives in an insular bubble, don’t we? And we learn from an early age to doubt the intentions of mysterious people our parents called STRANGERS. Yet, they also tell us about the inherent goodness in humankind. Well, we can’t have it both ways. We do what we’ve been trained to do when it comes to issues like the ones I outlined above. I know I’m not the only one who would lock my doors at that red light.

In the end we settled on the middle ground. But to do that, we need to be receptive and open to others who are not like us, something that is really hard for most people. When do we trust our instincts instead of continuing reliance on the stranger danger paradigm? Now, I’m not saying to trust everyone, but don’t judge when you don’t know. By the way, I was that well-dressed large black man walking toward you on the street. What did you do?


Sam’s Weekly Water Cooler Musings: The Archive

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