My friend C. drove our kids to their soccer game in Queens today because her son said “you NEVER come to my games.”
Now I happen to know that Carolyn does go to games, and practices, because I’ve been there with her, in the freezing cold and the soaking wet and the steamy heat. She’s schlepped my kid along with her kid to practices uptown, downtown, eastside, westside, and everywhere in between.
And yes, you’re absolutely right, I owe her big time, but that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about what infected C. this morning: guilt-inducing amnesia germs (GAG for short). I’ve had bouts of this disease, and if you’re a parent, then you probably have too. The infection spreads like this:
“You never let me stay up late.”
“My brother always gets what he wants and I never do.”
“Why can’t we ever take a taxi?”
“Nobody cares what I do, ever.”
“You always miss my concerts.”
“How come we never get to have pizza for dinner?”
There is a corollary medical condition here called miserari absolutis, in which the patient decides that the current unhappiness is in fact permanent—and actually, upon reflection, s/he has been miserable since birth.
GAG exists independently of actual fact. The patient may in fact have been up hours past bedtime the previous evening, been given all his brother’s toys, taken five taxis, spent the entire afternoon with one or the other parent, had every concert extensively videotaped, and eaten enough pizza to sink several battleships.
Logic has no effect on GAG, however, for either the patient or the parent. The misery is so palpable, the pain so great, that the parent who has been infected can only react: administer later hours, taxis, pizzas, rides to Queens, whatever the case calls for.
Luckily GAG is not terminal, although under certain situations I can see that it might be. Nor has a permanent cure for GAG been discovered. Administering large doses of alcohol to the parent can sometimes help—but that may also exacerbate the disease, in that the parent wants the child only to be quiet so that mommy can enjoy her glass of pinot gris. (Speaking hypothetically, of course. I would never turn on the TV and order in a pizza just so I can start cocktail hour early.)
I’m also afraid that children do not grow out of the infectious stage. As long as the host parent is alive, GAG thrives, seeking out education, housing, cars, perhaps eventually babysitting for grandchildren. Grandchildren, in fact, are about the only solace, if by solace one means “payback:” Try these phrases on for size: “we haven’t seen the grandkids in ages,” or “I’m sure you’re too busy to visit us,” or “I guess you have lots of better things to do these days than bother with me.”
Feels good, doesn’t it?