So last Sunday my son was having dinner with us, and there was a discussion going about the history of the Mongol Empire (not that I know anything about that, but Jeremy has been doing a lot of reading). Well, anyway, the conversation turned to that poem, you know the one: "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree..." and we disagreed over who we thought the author was. I was thinking Coleridge, but Jeremy's vote was for Wordsworth.
No point in having a daughter with a degree in honours English if you don't use her as a resource, right? So this text conversation totally happened:
Me: Was it Coleridge who wrote, "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan..."
Me: Ha, I win
Rose: He had a nerve disorder which gave him extreme and unrelenting pain only in his face, so he became addicted to laudanum, which clearly inspired that poem.
Rose: Why do you ask?
Me: Jerm and I were talking
Rose: Who did he think it was?
Rose: Ahhh. Good second guess. But no. Although some witty Romantic commenter said that Coleridge's best poem was Wordsworth. So, potato, potahto.
Rose: I can also discuss Coleridge's theory of mind quite extensively, should that ever come up.
I have to admit, I was pretty sure that not only was I right, but I also thought that Rose would laugh derisively at Jeremy's choice of Wordsworth. Got schooled, didn't I?
That same dinner-time conversation wandered, as conversations will, into a remember-when? kind of deal, where I learned another astonishing thing about how the smallest, least-memorable thing you might do as a parent can have incredibly far-reaching consequences. We were talking about self-confidence, and how Important it is, blah blah, blahdy-blah, and then this happened:
Jeremy: Remember when I was in Grade 1, and I told you about playing Magic with Boy A and Boy B (names withheld to protect the guilty) and how they were being mean and not playing fair, and you told me that if people weren't nice to me, then FUCK 'EM?
Me: Good God no, I have absolutely no memory of that (and I didn't, and still don't, friends and neighbours, not one single neuron twitches in recognition. But I am pretty sure I didn't literally say "fuck 'em", not when he was only 6.....but it's me, and I may have...)
Jeremy: Well, that stuck with me forever, once I figured out you weren't mad at me, you were mad at them, and it's pretty much why I decided to stop caring what others thought about me. It's why I wore that pink fuzzy housecoat all through Grade 12, actually.
.....so, a kind of throw-away comment, not carefully thought out for sure, has moulded my son's character in a completely unseen way. At least, that's how he sees it, and he's the one that counts. Funnily enough, one of the things I most admire about Jeremy is his sense of self, how grounded he is in who he is. And guess what? He credits me. Go figure.