Let’s face it, there’s probably nothing more comical than family dynamics, except maybe the divine right of kings… and these two things have a lot in common. First, both are rife with good material as Shakespeare, Woody Allen, and HBO well know. (The divine right of kings is a doctrine started by Europe’s medieval kings, essentially proclaiming that God had chosen them to rule so therefore they could do as they liked, were answerable to no one, expected total obedience, thus rebellion against them was both a crime and a sin.) In my role as a mother, I’ve tried this idea out when times have been tough. You know, Mother, crowned with authority over the kitchen, common room, and overlord of the laundry.
Through the years, I’ve scripted many laws onto parchment, like:
My dinner menu shall not be subject to criticism.
Disturbing the sleep of elder’s shall be regarded as a crime.
Let all know the dog shall be walked.
Woe to any who leave wet towels on bedroom floors for they shall incur wrath, or mold and mildew.
Value thyselves and thy rich interior life. Or to put it another way – put down that device and do your homework!
Stuff like that. Of course, it never works. Our family dispositions are four people of naturally high drama. And our dog is no better. She is as highly tuned as the rest. Thus, I often envision myself as the Grand Poobah, (from the comic opera, The Mikado) an impressive title with limited influence, a lone conductor, waving the wand, trying to insure harmony.
This past week required special attentiveness. So, I made a pot of garlic-y kidney beans, and worked my magic. After all, I’m a Southerner, and we know how to tune in. Z headed into exam week, and all that entails in the British educational system, which is enough for any philosopher teenager to ponder on. Brain empowering kale smoothies and a new phone to txt her friends about the nastiness of tests. The youngest full of determination to paint her nails, to be in charge. We chat. As soon as she steps out the door from school, it’s always been that way, but now, more than ever, we peer closely, scrutinize and analyze relationships in our lives. And of course throw in the essential sleepover, popcorn, and a movie with that. Nights communing in Paris ‘garrets’ with friends and colleagues, political parody shows, and emails with some comedic value or new way of doing things to Andrew because things in the world right now, well, could use a bitta’ that.
Family is a transitional work, made up of many parts, the needs, dreams of people mixing and colliding in one space, called home. I like to think of our Parisian family life as ‘performance art.’ While I zip off emails to schools, to committees, to clubs, to tour guides, I whisk the cornbread batter, fend off another argument about who drank all the Volvic juicy, bite my tongue while assuring Andrew I remembered to mail those packages to Texas. The dog is barking again at someone walking down the stairs though I’ve explained to her numerous times that other people live here too. She just doesn’t seem to want to believe it. We all sit down to dinner.
We’re now taking offers from Disney.