Sometimes, there’s a real disconnect between what we, as parents, say we want for our children, and what we are actually happy about getting. For example: we say we want them to become strong, independent thinkers, but when they use that independence to question some of our deeply cherished beliefs, we tell them to “think again.” Along those same lines, we say we want them to be strong enough to withstand peer pressure, yet when they turn that same discernment on the things we are pressuring them to do (all good and valid, of course), we are taken aback.
It’s a strange balancing act: how do you teach someone not to be sucked into believing something just because “The Man” tells you to believe it, when you yourself are the biggest Man (at least in their lives) of all? I suppose that, just like the Wizard of Oz, all you can do is give them the tools they need (heart, brains, courage, home) and then let them figure out how to use them on their own. Even if sometimes—also just like the Wizard—that means that you get revealed as the man behind the curtain. Which is kind of, sort of, exactly what happened to me just the other day.
Here’s the story. Clementine and I were parked at the Flagstaff Family Food Center, waiting for her shift to start. (When life permits, she volunteers in the kitchen a few hours a week.) It was pouring down rain, so we we were sitting in the front seat of my car, watching a few men who were also waiting out the rain in the same parking lot. I stared at the men without really seeing them for several moments, watching them getting wetter and wetter as they stood huddled under the eaves of the food center, and then I turned to Clementine and said, “You know what I want to do when I get home? I want to watch ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ The scene where it floods in the Hundred Acres Woods. I want to watch that scene: I wonder if Netflix has it on instant queue?”
I pulled out my phone to check, and then began to mutter unhappily when I found that Netflix did not, in fact, have “Winnie the Pooh” or any other Disney movie on instant queue.
“Well, this sucks,” I groused. “I guess even from beyond the grave it’s not a dollar until it’s in Walt Disney’s pocket…I wonder if I can buy it on Playstation?…”
“You could watch something else,” Clementine suggested.
“I don’t want to watch something else,” I whined. “I want to watch this. I want to go home, put on my pajamas, get under a fluffy blanket and drink a cup of Earl Grey tea while watching ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ And now I can’t.”
Clementine looked at me, sulking in the driver’s seat, and then she glanced at the men huddled under the eaves, and then back at me again. “I’m so sorry to hear about your First World problems,” she said. “They sound really terrible.”
And just like that, instead of me being the one that needed to remind her how lucky she was to have all of the things she took for granted, she was the one who was reminding me. The curtain had come down.
I considered for a moment making some kind of “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” type of remark, pointing out all of the times when she, too, had made some kind of “first world complaint” in my presence, but, wisely (and, for me, surprisingly) I didn’t. I guess sometimes even The Man knows when they have been bested.