“Do people have a tendency to dump on you?” asked Paul Simon in 1966. I would answer in the affirmative in that just this morning I was subjected to a lengthy insight into a neighbor’s digestive health. Did I begin the conversation by inquiring about his recent medical procedure? I did not. Indeed, the words, “Please tell me in abundant detail about the preparation for your colonoscopy” have never passed my lips.
Yet, there I was. Like a fly preserved in amber: Trapped. Listening. Hoping for deliverance of any kind. A medical emergency of my own would have been a welcome reprieve. As would being struck by lightening. You might not think that anyone would prefer a myocardial infarction to a conversation but you weren’t there absorbing the graphic particulars.
I am all in favor of difficult conversations. Disgusting conversations not so much.
The day got better though. I had lunch with an old friend. Mel and I don’t see each other often enough—careers, family, geography–but what a pleasure to catch up. What I enjoy most about our conversation is that there is no agenda. Mel doesn’t try to sell me insurance, or convert me to an obscure religion. He doesn’t make recommendations about my diet or health. He’s not soliciting political contributions. And he most certainly does not tell me about the preparations for his colonoscopy.
Our entire educational/parenting conglomerate seems predicated on changing kids. How can my child get higher SAT scores, better grades? How can my child win the debate or lacrosse tournament? How can my child be admitted to a “top” college?
Do our kids hear a cacophony of “you need to change; you could be doing better; you’re not okay as you are”? Wouldn’t your child prefer some no agenda time?
At the very least, wouldn’t your child enjoy a “green zone,” a respite from suggestion, correction, even information? I am all in favor of proper grammar, clean rooms, unbitten nails, done homework, and mowed lawns. But shouldn’t there be an interregnum between talk of chores? So much of parenting is inoculations and unpleasantness. There is something to be said for joy.
If your child’s relationship with you is more important that your child’s relationship with her g.p.a., consider scheduling some no agenda time. Take your daughter to lunch. Shoot the breeze. Talk about nothing and enjoy some comfortable silences. Tell some bad jokes. Mel and I look forward to seeing you; we’ll be at the next table. We promise that any recent undignified medical procedures will not come up in conversation.