Mason’s Cameraphone Portrait
The kids have been on my mind lately, as much as I have anything on my mind. Chandler, Mason and Lennox are growing and developing in wonderful and exciting ways as they refuse to go out into their new neighborhood and make friends.
Mason was confident after the Hunter Entrance examination test. He was excited and amped up after being such a good young man, following instructions and orders, making it through a Board of Ed (Bored of ed?) hazing gauntlet. Sitting the exam with over 1000 kids, he was gripped -I think- by his growth since he moved to NYC as a suburban Cali boy. He is a great kid and wanted to talk all about it, though he is narratively challenged; most of the explanations and anecdotes he shared didn’t make too much sense.
Chandler called me the other day to explain where the car was as they led me down and out by a few minutes and her instructions were more confusing than the IRS instruction booklet. Her directions had a bout six sentences, none of which told me where the car was, though I could have followed them and gone “out the door to the left, but not all the way to the left, the one with glass, but not just a window of glass, but the whole door.” I would have found it if I had walked out either door because the car was right in front of the building, but the instructions were one of the first times she spoke to me since my Friday Transgression where I failed to pick her up after school.
Lennox has taken to qualified sycophancy. “Dad, you’re the best cook in the world,” she says earnestly looking up from her chocolate chip pancakes. As she finishes chewing that bite she continues, “and I’m not saying that just to be nice, I really mean it.” Variations on this like, “you’re handsome,” “you don’t look like you are 48,” and other such heart-warming-trifles come out whenever she is warm, well fed and well rested. And each compliment, with sincere eye contact, slightly raised brows and her trade-marked too-little-teeth-smile, she always adds the caveat , “and I’m not saying that just to be nice, I really mean it.”
In this little qualification or explanation she is showing her awareness that her utterances might be manipulative and be discounted as such. It’s like she’s read pillowbook and doesn’t want to be grouped with R***r, “the unreliable narrator.” This meta-awareness is a sigh of her new self-awareness. She has obviously seen someone use sycophantic flattery and loose credibility somewhere in Kindergarten or after care when the flattery was challenged. She sees the resultant cost of being tagged an “unreliable narrator” so she uses this catch phrase to inoculate herself against the harsh judgment of the adult world. Even as she puts on chapstick and holds her lips in a self-conscious kissable partition so as not to “remove the gloss” in a pure naïve princess innocence, she is also aware of truth, accuracy and perception as perishable commodities that must be nurtured, supported and protected. I wish her father was as good at reading quotidian political situations.