Sometimes I wonder if my kids are aiming high enough.
Last week I was helping Jesse tie his skates before an ice hockey game against his sister’s team.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Visualizing the game.”
I was impressed.
“Great idea,” I said.
“Amanda has gotten past me twice,” he said, eyes still closed.
“I’m playing defense. Amanda got past me twice.”
When he said he was visualizing the game, I figured it was a more of a guided visualization, one more oriented toward, say, success. But no, he was just watching the action unfold, as if it were on TV. And it wasn’t going all that well. Apparently his team was already down 0-2, in his mind.
This wasn’t the first time I noticed him setting his sights low. When he was 5, his older sister announced she would grow up one day to be President of the United States.
Jesse said he would like to be Governor of Montana.
Nothing against the Big Sky State, but who dreams of being in charge of it?
For her part, my daughter is not immune to bleak visions.
Out of the blue one day, she asked me, “Dad, are you allowed to take showers in prison?”
Now there’s a conversation starter.
But I decided to go with it. Maybe there was a recent crime I didn’t know about.
“Of course you can shower in prison, honey.”
“But do you have to shower with other people?”
“Yeah, probably,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“That would be kind of gross, right? Showering with other people?”
“It wouldn’t be ideal.”
“Well, if you were in prison you’d be in a female facility. You’d be with other women.”
“But they’d be dirty. They’d have tattoos.”
“I guess. But if you wound up in prison, maybe you’d have your own tattoos by then. Maybe it wouldn’t bother you.”
“I don’t want to shower with other people.”
“Look, I don’t want you showering with other people either. I was just saying. About the tattoos.”
Other parents will recognize this type of conversation. It’s the kind where you reach the end, and you say, Wait a minute, how the hell did we wind up here?
My 11-year-old daughter was picturing life in prison. She wasn’t objecting to being there. She was just concerned about bathing arrangements.
It’s possible my children inherited their worst-case thinking from me.
Sometimes I catch myself contemplating a holiday trip or child’s slumber party, and thinking, Okay, if I can just get through this.
As if I’m starting basic training at Fort Bragg.
Maybe this cast of mind comes from being a defense attorney and regularly asking myself questions like these:
What if my client doesn’t show up for trial?
What if my client commits another armed robbery?
What if my client is armed right now?
What if my client shaves his head and gets a facial tattoo right before trial?
Or maybe my daughter was thinking about prison that day because I had recently mentioned arson.
At school drop-off, I said to her, “Please don’t set anything on fire today.”
And the reason I said that was, well … here was our email exchange from two days earlier:
Fire in cafeteria microwave … very serious … tell you later (2:20pm)
Uh-oh. Did you cause it? (2:22pm)
With your stinky Armenian cheese? (2:25pm)
So this is where we are, as a household. Starting out the day hoping we don’t set fire to a building, or wind up in prison, or get beaten by Amanda in ice hockey.
SOS, Deepak Chopra. Our visualizing needs work.