Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Publicist

This afternoon our tennis team had an away match in another neighborhood. For Sunday matches, people bring their families. After the match, Laura and I stood chatting with a couple of ladies from the other team. I commented on some pink tennis balls they had, and one lady said, "Oh, so-and-so on our team had breast cancer last year and these are her good luck charm." Normally I probably wouldn't have said anything, but I thought Laura expected me to, so I said, "Oh, I had breast cancer too, good for her to be back out here playing."

They were like, "Oh, you did?" and etcetera, and then the one girl asked, "How old were you? You look so young." I said, "Well, I was 37 when I got diagnosed and that was a couple years ago. 2010 was not a great year."

Then Laura piped up and said, "But Mom, didn't you also finish your Ph.D. that year?"

It was so funny, because if I don't really announce to strangers that I had breast cancer, I really don't mention the fact that I have a Ph.D. It just practically never comes up. But we three ladies laughed and I said, "Yes, Laura is my PR person, and she's right, some good things happened that year too."

It was a sweet moment, though. Thinking about it afterwards, she was bragging on me the way an adult usually does for a child. Funny role reversal. And also, I think it was something in her that resisted having me so casually describe a whole year--ten percent of her life, really--as "not a great year." That was the form her rebuttal took.

It's been true the last couple of years, but now I notice more and more that she is my little shadow, hanging around by my elbow and listening to what I say and how I say it. I remember doing the same thing with my mother and the other women in the family, learning how to operate, learning how to be sociable and what tone to take, learning all the different registers of daily facework.

And with kids who are no longer little kids, you start to realize that they see not just the face we all present to them as their moms, they really see us. They know us.

No pressure.

13 comments:

Kate said...

No, no pressure at all. You are absolutely right. Our girls are watching.

Christian said...

I admire those who manage not to disclose their PhD status with alacrity to strangers. I am not one of those people.

Jessica Gottlieb said...

My mother and my children are the only people who care that I got a Master's Degree when the kids were little.

Maybe I should aim higher? Or maybe we should both play a little more tennis.

Nina said...

That's lovely - that that achievement of yours is there in Laura's mind as something worth mentioning in such a situation.

Allison said...

The best gift a parent can give a child is the knowledge of how things work. I didn't get that, had to figure it out later in life. Learning it early would have been way better. So good on ya!

Camp Papa said...

Two times you can figure your child is listening to what you say: When you're answering her direct question, and when you are speaking to someone else.

Amy said...

Yes, I was reminded of that lack of pressure just this morning, when Megs casually made reference to a less-than-desirable characteristic of mine (the twitch to be "right" -- correcting people when it's hardly, or not at all, necessary) and said, "I must get that from you." AUGGHHHH!

Elle said...

Omg, am laughing. On my blog, you know, this anecdote would have taken the form of "My Child Interrupted to Contradict and to Tell Strangers my Business. Here's How to Wash a Tween-Size Mouth out with Soap." The world needs us both in equal measure, obvsly. xoxox

Hootie said...

I've been training my children to casually mention my PhD in front of new acquaintances. On a related note, I'm training my children not to mention that my PhD is imaginary.

Beth said...

Becky, I know you've said this before, but you have the best commenters on the interwebs.

@Camp Papa: insightful and true, as always.

@Hootie: I won't tell anyone.

@Jessica: I feel you. Right after I got my PhD, I was signing up for some silly hotel rewards club, and I listed my self as "Dr." I still get mailings addressed to Dr., and it's bittersweet. A few weeks ago, we were staying at said hotel and everytime I called the front desk, they'd say, "Yes, Dr.?" At least someone calls me that, once in a blue moon.

I love that Laura was bragging about you. So sweet.

My Kids' Mom said...

@ Camp Papa: I'm not sure about "Two times you can figure your child is listening to what you say: When you're answering her direct question, and when you are speaking to someone else." My 10 yo son asks a question and ignores the answer, then asks again later. But if I use any curse words at all... the kid is listening. And, I'd specify that he listens best when I think he's out of earshot and I'm talking about him.

Jenni said...

Love that Laura.

Jenni said...

Love that Laura.