The biggest problem with being the non-custodial parent isn't the squabbling over visitation rights — which we never did, thank heaven — or issuing those monthly checks. It's coming to the realization that the kids keep turning into entirely different people while we're not watching.

Picture my son Russell, born on the Fourth of July sixteen years ago, at a time when I knew my days in the household were numbered. It probably wouldn't have been difficult to predict that he'd be on the tall side by now — on both sides of the family, the men are tall and the women are short, with the singular exception of his sister — but there are plenty of things about him I wouldn't have anticipated at all.

Foremost among these traits is his prodigious musical talent. He picks up instruments the way Silly Putty picks up the Sunday comics — if he gets close enough, it's a simple matter of absorption. So far, he's gone through piano, guitar and tuba, and I figure it's probably about time for one of the wind instruments. And he can find a tune in almost any collection of notes, a distinct departure from the practice of his old man, whose every composition seems to be the result of what might happen if Tom Lehrer joined the Ventures.

We haven't talked much about that boy-girl stuff, partly because it's been overshadowed lately by big sister's official indifference to such things, but mostly because I don't feel any more qualified to bring up the subject now than I did back in the Jurassic period when I was his age. For his sake, I hope he handles these matters better than I; fortunately, this isn't difficult.

I mention all this because it is Mother's Day, as proclaimed by the Congress and the greeting-card industry, and since Mom, more than Dad, has been the driving force in these kids' lives — well, thanks be to Mom.

The Vent

#52
11 May 1997

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