Looking For a Secular Florida Umbrella School?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

As G and I sat in the orthodontist's waiting room the other day waiting for S to have her impressions done, we listened in on a conversation taking place next to us between a grandma who was waiting on her grandson and grandma's boyfriend.

I had Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell plopped in my lap and had to remember to occasionally turn a page or two. G was leaning across me also feigning interest in my book. She would reach over and help me turn the pages when it became too obvious that I wasn't reading.

What first caught our ear was his question regarding the article she was reading aloud to him on OCD, "What's OCD?"

"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder."

"Oh. I think I must have that."

"You do not!"

"Yes I do, I'm obsessed and compulsive about you."

Grandma giggled and then went on to point out the mini melodrama unfolding across the room. A teenage girl was waiting with her mother, and when it was time for the mother to go in for her appointment, she asked her daughter if she wanted to come back and wait with her there. She stayed put, eyes rolling.

Grandma explained, "It's just NOT the thing to do when you're a teenager."


"Be seen with your parents!"

"Since when?"

"Since always."

"It wasn't that way when we were growing up."

"Of course it was. You just don't remember." She then relayed several anecdotes about her own grandchildren describing the social suicide of being seen with parents and the ridiculous lengths kids go to avoid the situation. She seemed to accept disrespect and insolence as the norm.

"No, I remember, I'd never admit any different to you anyway, and I don't recall ever being embarrassed about being with my parents at that age. Well, except when I went on my mother's honeymoon."


"When Mother married Bob, they took me along. My aunt offered to keep me, but Mother had never left me with anyone else before, and insisted I come along. I thought it was a little odd, but nobody except me even knew they were on their honeymoon. It looked like a regular family vacation."

"What kind of accommodations did you have?"

"We just had the one bedroom. I was old enough to know what was going on, and as I recall, they sent me off to the movies quite a bit."

G and I suppressed a chuckle, and as I looked around at all the other surly looking kids in the room I wondered when kids' attitudes got so ugly and what caused it, and why people are willing to accept it as just the way things are. My grandparents were respectful, participating members of their own families. They may not have cared for their parents' music, and cut loose once they were finally away at school, as evidenced by my grandmother's flapper hairdo in her college graduating photo and stories of my grandfather and his tuxedoed Yale buddies hotwiring a tractor and taking it for a midnight ride. My parents had minor, innocent rebellions, sneaking down to Billy Sullivan's basement and dancing the night away, riding motorcycles, but they were always respectful and close to their parents. I had a big nasty rebellion, but as long as I lived under my parents' roof, I was an unwilling, though always publicly respectful participant.

My bright, sunny, S came out of the back about then, wearing the t-shirt the orthodontist had given her as part of an incentive program, and a big, happy smile. For arriving on time, good brushing, and wearing the shirt to appointments, you earn wooden nickels redeemable for some pretty good rewards (she's shooting for the $15 VISA check card.) If you bring your appointment slips with you, you can enter them in a monthly drawing for more prizes. She had the remnant shell of a lingering baby tooth they decided to remove tucked safely in a little pink, plastic treasure box. I could sense the scorn at her enthusiasm oozing from the jaded ones still in the waiting room. Both girls wrapped their arms around my waist, my arms around their shoulders, and as a single entity, turning sideways so we could fit through the doorway, exited the office.

In the car we laughed about how the other kids in the waiting room were too sophisticated to be seen with their parents, or in their t-shirts collecting wooden nickels, or entering silly raffles. We agreed that their bad attitudes were very cool. It increases our odds of winning.

No comments: