The following was originally published (The Boise Weekly) February 25, 1999
The other day, my kid and I got into a thing over how to say her name. I didn’t see it coming, but then, I don’t see about nine/tenths of anything she does coming. She’s nine now, an age at which she has both the experience and the free time to dream up lots and lots of ways to surprise me.
And surprised I was when she declared out of the clear blue that she wanted me to ever again pronounce her name “A(as in LAMB)-nna.” “Ann” as in LAMB was okay, as was “Annie” as in LAMB. But were I to use her birth certificate name—Anna—I would have to say it “A(as in FAWN)-nna.”
“Dad, I really mean it. ‘A(as in LAMB)-nna’ is the ugliest name I’ve ever heard. Don’t call me that anymore. I wanna be ‘A(as in FAWN)-nna’ and don’t forget it.”
“Sure thing, ‘AWN-nie’.”
That’s when we got into the thing. She didn’t appreciate one bit me making sarcasm over what she perceived as a life-altering decision. It took me a while to understand how important it was to her, but then, it takes me a while to understand about nine/tenths of the important stuff.
* * *
I understand the Idaho Family Forum intends to introduce a bill to the state legislature which would require parental consent of any under-age girl who, for whatever reason, decides to get an abortion. If you’ll remember, they did the same thing last year, and it would be the law today except for the veto power and good graces of ex-Governor Phil Batt (who, by the way, is still Governor in my book and will be until a better man comes along and takes the job).
Believe it or not, as meddlesome, tiresome, hypocritical, intrusive, arrogant, officious, sexist, homophobic, regressive, ignorant, primitive, self-righteous, and just plain wrong as I find the Idaho Family Forum to be nine/tenths of the time on nine/tenths of everything, I can’t help but sympathize with them a tad on this one. My under-age girl is a few years too under-aged for me to be overly concerned about her looking for an abortion anytime soon. But should that sad happenstance ever arise, I’d like to think she’d come to Mom and Dad for those things Moms and Dads like to think they’re good at: advise and guidance, support and wisdom—with a little unconditional love thrown in for thickening.
I’d also like to think my kid will grow up trusting ol’ Mom’n’Dad without question, that she will always make approximately the same decisions we made, that she’s just like me and that whatever’s good for me will be good for her. I’d like to think I’ll be around forever and that she’ll always come to me for answers.
And I’d like to think I’m always right.
So maybe I’ll have a chat with the state legislature and see if they can’t make all that a law, too.
* * *
Naw. Too pompous, too intrusive, and too ham-handed. In other words, too Idaho Family Forum-ish. What’s more, the truth is there’s a whole bunch of Moms’n’Dads who are as crummy at making crucial choices as any under-age kid, and no law is going to make them better at it.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no expert on what constitutes being a perfect Mom’n’Dad. My parenting philosophy boils down to essentially this: raising children is a crap-shoot—a long, hair-raising ride, full of dead-ends and wrong turns and blind alleys and head-on collisions, and about nine/tenths of us don’t have any idea how it’s gonna turn out no matter what we do or how we do it.
I am pretty sure of this, though: it’s a good Mom’n’Dad practice to take every opportunity to assure our kids that no snag could possibly arise which would make us stop loving them. Judging by the way my kid lights up like a 200-watt daffodil every time she hears it, I’m pretty sure they need to know about unconditional love more than they need soccer and Furbies and in-line skates and cars when they get older and clothing from The Gap when they get goofy. I think unconditional love is like fluoride, only it stops cavities from developing in one’s life instead of one’s teeth.
Like I said, I’m no expert on excellent Mom’n’Dad-ism, but I’m about nine/tenths sure that, if kids know about the unconditional love clause of the Parent/Kid contract—and trust in it—it won’t be any parental consent law coming out of the legislature which makes them turn to us if they get into trouble.
On the other hand, if a troubled teen is left with no other reason to turn to her family than a state law forcing her to, she probably has good reason not to.
* * *
So anyway, I’m doing my best to remember to say “A(as in FAWN)-nna” these days. I don’t like it much. It leaves a slightly pretentious after-taste in my mouth. It’s like a Marge calling herself “Margueritte,” or a Susy changing the “y” to an “i” just so she can draw a cute heart where the dot oughta go. Know what I mean?
But it’s her decision and it’s her life and we both have to live with it—her a lot longer than I. Even if I don’t like it, I’ll call my little lamb “A(as in FAWN)-nna” and support her choice. For now, at least. Maybe later, I can talk her out of it.
February 25, 1999