Permission to Be a Kid

When you’re nearly seven, the oldest of three brothers, and a card-carrying “old soul,” as so many are apt to term you, you often feel pretty grown up. 

So when a parent tells the aforementioned very big boy that part of his vacation will be spent at Sesame Place, I suppose he or she has to expect commentary of the following ilk:

“Sesame Place is for babies.”

“We’re only going for August.  What am I supposed to do there?”

“You know they have nothing for big kids there.”

“Those characters aren’t real.  They’re just people dressed up.  You know that, right?”

“Maybe I should just stay in the car.”

But something happens when your youngest brother is only two and you are “forced” to frequent a place that he would enjoy.  It gives a bigger boy permission to revisit his childhood.  And though he really hasn’t left it yet, I think he often feels as if he has. 

At Sesame Place, when no one is watching, you can forget about all the pressures and rules of being a burgeoning big kid and just be a kid.  And you can splash in the water with your little brothers, pretend the characters are real, and choose a stuffed Cookie Monster as your beloved souvenir to take home. 

And you can also push the pause button in this whirlwind that is childhood and catch the smiles–yours and his–that result.

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It’s the Chicken’s Fault

Approximately ten years ago, on a pre-movie dinner date at a quiet restaurant in Providence, I ordered, without much thought, a shrimp and pasta dinner.  Instead of eating the shrimp, however, I opted to push the critters to the side, out of my way, and probably even put a few on Don’s plate.  And as I ate the pasta, it dawned on me:  I didn’t have to eat the fish.  I didn’t want to eat the fish.  After thirty-plus years of eating meat and fish out of mere habit, I could make the decision to stop. 

And so I did.  Right there in that restaurant–and for the next ten years.

Admittedly, I’ve probably been more of a carbotarian (if that’s now a word) than a vegetarian (though there really are plenty of vegetables I like); but as far as meat and fish–none, not for a decade.   I made an exception when my unfortunate genetics required my adding a fish oil tablet every day (along with a potent high blood pressure pill) to my diet.  And even though my doctor suggested eating tuna–and I tried–that was short-lived (as in one sandwich).  I couldn’t.  I wasn’t ready, and it wasn’t time.

But something changed this summer.  And though I’d love to brag that I made a conscious decision to eat meat and only meat that is raised on happy farms, it wasn’t quite like that.  It was a crockpot full of chicken teriyaki, the smell of which I had bonded with throughout the entire day.  When it was time to taste-test, instead of giving some to my friend, who was willing and able to try it and offer her opinion, I grabbed a fork, fished for a cube, and, to her horror, I think, popped it in my mouth.  And it was good.  And probably not raised on a happy farm. 

So for the last few weeks I have been dabbling–slowly, but most definitely surely.  And my cooking life has become easier in ways I never could have imagined.  I can actually make the same meal for everyone–no variations on a theme required.  And when you’re cooking for five, anything that makes life easier is welcome.

And I am at peace with this decision.  We aim to avoid attaching much emotion to our eating and try to teach our children that you need to listen to your body in terms of food–eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.  And I think the same is true of what kind of food one eats–eat meat if your body is asking for it; stop if it’s asking you to stop (or to take a break). 

But stay away from that siren that is crockpot chicken teriyaki.  It has power enough!

I Want to Hold Your Hand

One might think living in one of America’s most beautiful places (a recent designation, thank you very much) and top tourist destination–especially in the summer–is a non-stop vacation.  Well, it might be, if you were staying at the Hotel Viking on Bellevue Avenue, visiting the spa every afternoon, and dining at Castle Hill in the evenings. 

When you live here, just as anywhere else (especially with three young children, two dogs, and a cat), there is laundry to be done, dog poop to scoop, floors to sweep. To feel as though you’re on vacation, you actually have to go on vacation–drive away from the beauty that is Newport, go someplace else. 

Which is what we did last week. 

And sometimes leaving behind the daily grind is the only way to restore a person’s powers of observation, powers that are hampered if not occasionally completely obscured by constant wiping, vacuuming, and, to be honest, refereeing.  Seemingly endless summer days, while admittedly good for the soul, can have a decidedly different effect on three boys ages six and under who are with each other from the moment they get up and until they finally fall into bed–so much so that this at times beleaguered and befuddled mother often wondered if there was any fraternal affection left. 

And then we went on vacation.  And I was able to see in an instant what I hadn’t been able to see in eight weeks.  And everything became clear.