This week in Parenthesis, a young boy goes to his first dance, a subway encounter brings a blogger to tears -- and more.
Laughing it up People I Want To Punch In The Throat blogger Jen noticed recently that her 7-year-old son, Gomer, had become “far more reserved.”
“One year ago my son was a bubbly kid who cracked us up on a daily basis... Now he's worried about what everyone will think of him,” she writes. When Gomer revealed that he’d “decided to stop telling funny stories, because he didn't like kids laughing at him,” Jen says she was heartbroken. Most parents would be troubled to see their kids holding back on account of their peers’ judgment -- but this situation cuts particularly close to the bone for Jen, a humor writer who puts her distinctively honest personality on the line every time she posts. “I tried to help Gomer understand the power of humor and the amazing gift that it is,” she writes -- and we know that’s not a platitude, but a lesson learned from experience.
Happy dance Homecoming season doesn’t bring back too many fond memories for Mr. Lady of Whiskey In My Sippy Cup, because she only went to one high school dance -- in her senior year. This year, it was her freshman son’s turn to go to “his *gulp* first dance,” and although he was reluctant to brave the party on his own, she made sure he had a ticket. (Not that she herself was ready for this milestone -- “I just can't even grasp the notion that a human begin who I grew inside of my body and bore unto this earth and fed and clothed and changed and loved for like no time at all has been on earth long enough to also have attended homecoming,” she writes.)
“Driving away from that parking lot” at drop-off time “was one of the hardest things I've ever done,” she admits. But happily, the dance was a huge success. “He's not really a smiler, ... But man was he ever smiling on Saturday night.” Her father’s ghost “I didn't expect to meet a nice older man on the Metro, reading Hamlet on his Kindle,” Amalah blogger Amy writes -- but she did, and the result was part Shakespearean ghost story, part cathartic Greek drama. Even though her fellow commuter didn’t look physically familiar, his situational resemblance to Amy’s Shakespeare teacher father, who died last year, was uncanny. The experience was so transcendent that in the course of their short conversation, Amy writes, “I suddenly realized I was openly using this poor man as a stand-in, having a conversation with a surrogate PopPop and expecting a total stranger to be proud of my kid and the funny little book he wrote.” The man’s abrupt departure at the end of their ride -- along with the harsh reality that he “[wasn’t] coming back” -- brought on an emotional reaction that was “ugly,” “raw” and prolonged. “I didn’t expect it to hurt this much, still.”
“There is no poverty so great as a child without a family” In a post on Rage Against The Minivan -- where she’s been chronicling her most recent trip to Haiti -- Kristen Howerton explored the roots of her desire to be an active participant in improving the lives of others (children in particular). The blogger says she was “surprised” and driven to “self-doubt” by her initial stoicism on the current trip, until a recent orphanage visit when she and her fellow travelers were swarmed with children “just craving a mom and a dad.”
“It broke my heart as these children burrowed their heads into my tummy and encircled me in their arms, embracing me like they were hungry for love,” she writes, adding: “There is no poverty so great as a child without a family.” But instead of letting despair paralyze her, Howerton “jumped into action.”
“I think this is how many of us cope with extreme poverty or injustice,” she explains. “We ... find actionable steps that make us feel like we are doing something, and we hopefully help in a way that actually helps to solve the problem.”