A brief chronicle of a brief visit during the Dobrenko Cold War
Gosh, what a banger!! How could I forget about this one?? The PARM? The SLIPPIES?
Can wilder come clean my house
Can't stop thinking abt that giant hunk of parmesan. Who bought it & ate it, & are their dreams haunted by image of yr dad's head?
when i was twenty-something i worked in a cafe and had a week of stuff happening like, breaking bottles, spilling stuff, just all the accidents. i had a coworker called Sanya from Bulgaria and she told me that people were jealous of me and that's what caused the week of bad luck. basically, evil eye stuff. I was like "if people think i'm cool then why is this a bad thing?" anyway, she told me to go home and get my mother to wrap a red string around my wrist three times and tie it, and that would protect me. so that's what I did. bad stuff stopped happening. I literally have not thought about Sanya or that red string for years, and the whole 'dula' thing just reminded me of it.
5. Vietnam has heaps of superstitions, including but not limited to: not eating a banana before tests;eating beans before tests (cause "bean" in VNese is a homophone of "pass"); and my family's favorite: asking me to report my dreams to them so they can buy lottery tickets. Apparently, all animals/things on Earth is associated with a number, and the only way to win the lottery is to dream of them, the more slugs/deer/hyena you saw the higher the chance.
2. Being a grandparent is amazing! It's indescribably moving to watch your child be a parent. Grandparenting is pure fun. And you can just laugh when your grandkids act up with their parents because it's not your responsibility! I may have differing opinions about some aspects of my kids' parenting styles, but I keep them to myself and never give unsolicited advice. I respect them as adults who are figuring out their own best ways to raise their children and don't expect them to do things the same way I did.
the Melissa & Doug cleaning set absolutely SLAPS & kids love having jobs, too, so that seems like a net positive???
Complete off-topic question that consumed me for the second half of the article- what does Wilder call the soft monkey-cloth-cozy-cuddle that he has in his grip while smiling in your dad’s arms? It is similar (and much less creepy) to the frog/alligator that my now-15-year-old son carried everywhere for five years. Called, completely unoriginally, Froggy.
One of my favorite things about toddlers is what they love and what they call those things. It’s an early insight into who they are.
Love this article, how self aware you are a all the dynamics. The thing my mom does that I am determined to NOT do as a parent is always want things to be happy. Bad day? “Tomorrow will be better”. Haven’t talked in awhile? “ what’s new and fun in your world?”. Sharing a struggle? “Oh well that won’t last”. Sometimes we need to acknowledge that something sucked/sucks!
I have only read a few of your witty, wondrous family tales, Alex, but every one makes me guffaw, think, and nearly cry, and I am already developing a parasocial relationship with your parents. They are adorable in their besotted neuroticism, and hijinks ensue when set in counterpoint to your own flavor of sensible neuroticism (which reminds me of a 1940s book called “Be Glad You’re Neurotic,” whose title I always remembered but whose contents I never got around to reading).
I started wondering if neurotic parents are a prerequisite for comedic genius. My first thought was David Sedaris, but then I remembered his father mistaking a part of his hat for a cookie and eating it, and I realized that is the Arctic opposite of your parents—although it is still admittedly another shade of neuroticism:
“We’re in Paris, eating dinner in a nice restaurant, and my father is telling a story. ‘So,’ he says, ‘I found this brown something-or-other in my suitcase, and I started chewing on it, thinking that maybe it was part of a cookie.’
“’Had you packed any cookies?’ my friend Maja asks.
“My father considers this an irrelevant question and brushes it off, saying, ‘Not that I know of, but that’s not the point.’
“‘So you found this thing in your suitcase, and your first instinct was to put it in your mouth?’
“‘Well, yes,’ he says. ‘Sure I did. But the thing is …’
“He continues his story, but, aside from my sisters and me, his audience is snagged on what would strike any sane adult as a considerable stumbling block. Why would a full-grown man place a foreign object into his mouth, especially if it was brown and discovered in a rarely used suitcase? It is a reasonable question, partially answered when the coffee arrives and my father slips a fistful of sugar into the pocket of his sport coat.”
“‘So,’ he says, ‘I found this brown-colored something-or-other in my suitcase, and I must have chewed on the thing for a good five minutes, until I realized I was eating the brim of my cap. Can you beat that? A piece of it must have broken off during the flight—but hell, how was I supposed to know what it was?’
“My friend Maja finds this amusing. ‘So you literally ate your hat?’
“‘Well, yes,’ my father says. ‘But not the whole thing. I stopped after the first bite.’” (https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a1024/esq0699-jun-sedaris-1/)
There are still two acts left in a Shakespearean play. Five acts; exposition, rising action, climax, falling and resolution... I didn’t learn much with my English degree but that was POUNDED into us... Aristotle was the three-act dude ... both of them are dead, so one dead guy vs another dead guy, eventually they all look alike...
Where was I... oh, yeah, grandparenthood.
Nobody prepares you for that but I’ve discovered it’s always best to just fall back and just ... be. Nothing else is expected of me... I’m not expected to have parenting advice, wisdom or any of that. My three grandkids are not MY project. When they are at my house, it’s really the prime directive; keep them alive and do no harm. (5, 3 & 2) And dispense ice cream. My kids are in charge of their own kids...
There is some competition among the grandparents for “favored status” which drives me a bit nuts. I won’t compete on that so I guess I’m like 6th on one side, 4th on the other (one son, one daughter) but that’s ok. Maybe I’m not, who knows but I tap out on playing favorites.
That’s another thing that nobody prepares you for in grandparenthood; how your own children are really not “yours” or your grandkids have other adults who have these familial ties... I’m all over the place, but if there is anything I’m trying to say is; moving into grandparenthood is a lot like immigrating... you don’t really know where you fit in, your world suddenly has all these strangers in it, everyone is speaking a different language and you are a bit timid speaking it.
This piece is one of my favs. My grandparents are all from Russia and Ukraine. Lots of superstitions handed down. Buck stopped with my kids. My mom had me wear a red ribbon to ward off the evil eye. Lots of evil eyes from the eastern block. Food was always something to be hoarded. My grandmother once tried to pawn off her friends leftover spaghetti on me. She also wrapped a piece of wedding cake into her napkin and stuffed it in her purse for later.
Lovely gentle humour; very evocative, engaging and real. I identify strongly with all the issues raised.
I'm a grandfather of 9 months standing, and have yet to meet the little darlin', since by some quirk they are living in Australia (which is regarded as a tragic misfortune around here).
Despite the distance, I'm well aware of the conflict between following the sage advice of father... I mean grandfather, and his "other half": despite about a year of phone conversations discussing current events without any discernable disagreement, son got "vaccinated" so that he could spend Christmas with the in_laws.
My mother was particularly anxious about me going near edges, since she had a limp, a polio legacy, and wouldn't have found it easy to intervene. But as soon as I was old enough I cured my pronounced fear of heights by taking up climbing, when you soon get bored out of your fear, and practice at assessing actual risk. It's up to us to overcome our parents' shortcomings. We need something to work on! We wouldn't be happy if life were too easy!
One of the most significant legacies my father gave me was advice on going to school: when a teacher tells you something, think to yourself "does that seem right to me"? The result of that (and presumably some other factors) is that I was relieved to grow up feeling that life makes sense, everything is understandable even if it's not all understood. I feel sorry for people who need superstitions to relieve their unnecessary fears, like children afraid of the dark . There are quite enough things that really are scary, right now.
My wife and I have talked about the exact same generational difference that your father brought up. The fact that *their* parents were the arbiters of child-rearing wisdom. They were effectively the cutting edge of child psychology. And this was true no matter how many generations back you go. Every new generation of parents was just heeding the advice of the last generation.
Millenials, and perhaps some of Gen X, are the first ones who have access to countless articles, explainer videos, podcasts, conversations, listicles, books, magazines, studies and even training courses about child psychology and child development, and all of it is created, curated and promoted by actual experts who have invested years of study in the field of child psychology. And while my wife and I have certainly heeded this advice and reaped the benefits of implementing it, I can't help but notice just how much of it has felt so utterly counter-intuitive at almost every phase of my kids' lives based on the way we were raised as kids.
I do sense a certain amount of resentment from our parents' generation toward ours in this regard, and I feel like it's for two reasons: 1.) The proposition of trusting a bunch of total strangers to tell you something as important as "How to Raise Your Kids" probably seems unthinkable to them, which I can kind of get. 2.) I think that every generation up until now has looked at the role of "The Wise, Respected, Unquestioned, All-Knowing, All-Capable Grandparent" as an honorable and privileged milestone that you one day reach with grace. How it must feel for your kids to need your wisdom in such a way, and how you must look forward to becoming the person who can share that divine wisdom. But then you finally get there, and suddenly... your services are no longer needed. "We'll be the ones giving *you* the advice now". That's got to hurt, right?
I love this for so many reasons, but I think mostly how well you articulate your seething disproportionate rage. I remember that so well (when my kids were babies the Internet was briefly anti-pacifiers (aka Binkys), so that babies would learn to “self-soothe.” My in-laws thought that was ludicrous. What’s most important is how you delight in your parents and Wilder’s delight in each other. I look forward to when you and Wilder can have complicit conversations about all of this.
#3 - What’s your relationship with your parents?? My older sister and I are VERY close to our parents. My sister moved out at 18 to live with her then boyfriend; my parents had to kick me out at 25. Bwaha. I currently live with them as a not-so-great co-caregiver with my Dad (my Mom has moderate-advanced dementia). When we were living on our own and just coming over to visit, there was--and still is--loud laughter, reminiscing, and Motown playing in the background. We've always loved hanging out with our parents and for someone like my ex-hubby, who was abandoned by his addict parents and raised by his grandmother, spending all that time--and WANTING to spend all that time--with them was something of an anomaly for him. Sadly. When my parents contracted COVID at the beginning of it in March 2020 (my Dad ended up in the hospital for 10 days because of it), my sister and I quarantined with them. Their primary doctors--who would check in with them via telehealth calls--were amazed that we attended the calls with them; because they saw patients whose children could care less about their parents' health. Everyone's relationship with their parents is different <shrugs>. For my sister and I, they're the only parents we've got. They raised us well. They gave us a great life. Dad's 80 and Mom's almost 79, they celebrated 58 years together last month and all I can think about is, "I hope they leave this earth together." That's not going to happen, of course, but I'd rather lose them all at once rather than separately.
#4 - What’s a funny thing your parents do? They wear the same colors. So, if they ever get separated while they're out doing whatever, they can say "He (or she) is wearing the same thing I am." The majority of the time it's a T-shirt and pants/sweats/track pants. I think they started doing that after they retired.
#5 - Does your fam have any weird superstitions? We do not. I guess we're normal in that aspect. LOL
My ex in-laws are from Cold War era Poland and cannot stand restaurants for all the reasons you mentioned. You’d rather go somewhere loud and unhealthy when you could have good ol’ fish and boiled veggies at home?? Classic fat American L.