Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's your talent?

We're in a phase right now, as a family, of admiring ourselves.

Every family dinner conversation seems to include a litany of how well we raised our marvelous children, usually in comparison with our newly-fledged ones encounters with their peers, who do not seem to have absorbed the same lessons of self-reliance that ours did.

At my son's birthday dinner last week we somehow got into a description of how talented we all were. DH is Mr. Music. Son Seng Lim is Mr. Music, Jr.  I trotted out my old joke that I'm pretty good at everything and superlative at nothing.

And daughter Nga, who has always been a little bit of a cuckoo in this nest, says , "well what am I good at?

And everyone's first reaction was a moment of awkward silence while we all struggled for the answer.

It was awful.

N in fact has an amazing talent; she's a gifted professional figure skater who has traveled the world getting paid to do this. She's been to US Junior Nationals. But for just a moment our minds went blank.

And then we all realized what Nga's talent really is. She's amazing with people, something the rest of us fail at to varying degrees. She makes friends easily, and keeps them happy. She gets along with all sorts of people.

There are all kinds of talent. Our society thinks of talent as skill-- art or music or sports.

But some people are just talented at life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

26 is the new 21

Today is my son Seng Lim's 26th birthday.

It's been making me feel melancholy all day, but not because I feel old, or because he's not completely awesome (he is).

It's because I feel somehow personally responsible for not fixing the world for him.

Because my gift to him today is the loss of his health care coverage. Generations ago kids got cut loose at 16, and then at 18. Back in the day it was 21.  Now 26 is the year that we say "That's it. You're really an adult now. Make your own dentist appointments."

Even 26 years ago bringing a child into the world was a terrifying act of faith, because unlike the generations prior to my own, I didn't have to. Starting with my generation, sex in the modern West was decoupled from procreation, and child bearing became a chosen gift to the future.  I really did give life to my children, because I had the capability to choose to do that.

But I wanted to bring them into a world that was better than the world I got. A world that honored artists, and tolerated alternate opinions, and took care of its vulnerable, and that didn't study war any more.

When Seng Lim was three, quite literally on his third birthday, the United States went to war. I remember sitting in a cafe with a friend and vowing that there would be no war when my son turned 18 and was vulnerable to a possible draft.  But when he was 17 we did it again, starting a war in a place we had no business being. I went home that day and put a sign up in our window that says "NO WAR" and it is still there, almost 10 years later. We have been at war, somewhere, for that young man's entire life. How did that happen.

These thoughts are too sad for a birthday, which just makes me mad. Does it need to be my grandson to whom I can finally say "here is the clean, peaceful, just world that I promised your father when he was born"?

Happy Birthday, Seng Lim. I'm sorry.