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Friday, November 16, 2012

Don't Be a Stranger

People sometimes ask me what it takes to maintain a good relationship with Bow. I think the old adage "don't be a stranger" is the key. People say this to each other, and what they mean is: "Don't forget to drop by. Don't stay away so long that by the time you come back again we won't recognize you, or will feel funny around you."

Human society right now is very confused about this issue. We tell our children not to talk to strangers, and yet we expect them to interact with strangers every day. People send their children to preschools where the caretakers are expected to be interchangeable. They go to schools where if the teacher is sick, on leave or in state mandated programs for self-improvement, another person that the children have never seen before in their lives can step in at a moment's notice and expect to get the same level of obedience and trust as the previous teacher. So we tell them not to talk to strangers, but require them to talk to strangers all the time. It's just one of many, many double messages that we send.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to an event at my daughter's school. I sat on the bleachers among a sea of strangers, and we watched one of those rituals that help to weave communities together: a basketball tournament. A hoop queen crowning. Families and children packed like sardines together, and nobody minding that strangers were touching them on all sides.

Nobody made a display to say "I am stronger than you are, so watch out," because that display was ritualized in the form of basketball. And nobody went around saying "I am the alpha female," because that competition was also ritualized.

Meanwhile, in order to leave early to attend this event, I had to have Lawrence come on Thursday to sit with Bow, even though he had just been here on Wednesday. And guess what? Even though on Wednesday, just like every other Wednesday, Bow made a powerful display of his might that lasted a full five minutes before Lawrence was allowed to go in, when Lawrence came on Thursday Bow just shrugged, as if to say: "Yeah, go ahead. Come in."

There was no challenge. There was no rattling of the doors, and Bow's hair did not stand on end. Lawrence could go in, because he hadn't been a stranger. If you came over yesterday, you can come today, too. No problem. Stay away for a whole week, and you are a stranger and have to earn your stripes.

I came home wearing my "cool mom" outfit, and Bow was not impressed. I'm no stranger, so it really doesn't matter what I wear. I'm okay.

That is the secret. There's nothing more to it than that. But  in a society where time is money, few people can afford not to be strangers, even to their own children.


  1. It sounds like you have had some interesting adventures the last few days.

    1. Well, I don't know if I would call them adventures, but I have been participating in the ordinary events that shape a teenager's life. I never got to do these things as a teen myself, but this time around I am getting a closer vantage point from which to observe.

  2. That is such a cute picture! You brought up some very true points about life.

    1. Thanks, Victoria. It is always nice to hear from you!