Parenting, and why I’m no Irene Dunne

What got me started on this train of thought, was, of course, the Kid. He has a habit of referring to his elders as, “Boss,” however it all started with me and my very special name, “Crime Boss.”

Irene Dunne was a nice upstanding gal who did right by her community, family, and faith — kind of a paragon who worked hard for charitable causes and said things worthy of thought and respect, like, “I drifted into acting and drifted out. Acting is not everything. Living is.”

Love Affair Irene Dunn and Scotty Beckett

Here’s the thing, I’m not particularly nice, and I’m certainly no paragon. I try to remember that every time the kid in my care is inattentive, absent-minded, or boneheaded. Before I start shrieking I remember I’m the same charmer that lit a surreptitious cigarette in one of the upstairs bathrooms at sixteen, dropped the fuming thing on the toilet seat in a coughing fit, only to watch in horror as the paint lit and crackled and blistered… It was a house built in the 1920’s, I have no idea what kind of lacquer they used on the wooden seat, but it sure as hell was flammable. My father, instead of yelling at me or grounding me, coolly surveyed the damage, made sure the fire was out, and told me to detach the seat, scrape the paint, and refinish.

It was my first experience redoing furniture – but that’s not the point. The point is there was a lesson in his parenting style. The lesson was about practicality, problem solving, and patience. I don’t think I got it then (although I never smoked another cigarette) but I certainly get it now.

16 comments

  1. Remember I mentioned that 5 car rear ender I caused on the Hollywood Freeway at 18? Well I had to rebuild by hand the front of hat old Dotson pickup truck.That was my punishment by two very wise parents…that and only being allowed to drive to school and back for 6 months. (Then I blew up the engine….I was a handful) That was when I was going to turn 21 and my Birthday present was to be a weekend in Las Vegas….instead I got a bicycle. (that was stolen six months later) But I had great parents just like your dad. Your story reminded me of that.

  2. Dearest V
    As a child The Dandy decided that his dear mama’s very dear sheepskin rug was in need of some hygienic attention.
    As this was an exceptional item a bath would be the only kind that could possibly do, and no normal bath at that.
    So into the tub went a good quantity of fine bath crystals, Estee Lauder bath oils and two whole bottles of Chanel perfume (in the days of the eau de toilette splash).
    Now, I’m sure the mat enjoyed its dip, but let’s just say it was never really the same again….
    Mater on discovering the malady burst into tears of laughter before gaily remarking “No pocket money until the perfume at least is replaced…”
    And so it was that I discovered the value of money and the joy of scent.
    A true story, the moral of which being ‘never fear for from a bad apple good seeds often spring’.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  3. I don’t think living people we frequently come in contact with – including ourselves – can possibly be paragons. Life, while it is in progress, is just too complex and messy. We see that with celebs – as in Marilyn, James Dean, Princess Di did not become legends until they were gone and memory and imagination smoothed out the rough spots. Same thing with family members who are no longer here, and hopefully with me, when the time comes. And presumably you – I suspect that your good heart, so clearly visible in your posts, will trump your shocking confession that you are not always nice…

    • The complex I’ll cop to, the messy — never! The Kid took off for his European schooling and my house is… let’s just say I’m one of those people who cleans under stress. xox, V

  4. Heather in Arles

    What does it say about me that I was far, far more fascinated with the Disney villains as a child than the heroines? They were far better dressed, for one. And Cruella Deville was a true favorite. Lady knew how to work a cigarette holder. And that hair! Oh, it is driving me crazy…what is the name of the comedienne with the crazy hair like that?? I can’t believe I can’t remember! Heeelp…

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