5 Year-old with a Knife

I was handed a Swiss Army knife for my 5th birthday by my mom’s stepdad. As soon as I opened it I heard her sigh, “No!”

The thought of handing my 5-year old a pocket knife strikes me as absurd as handing one to either my 11 or 13-year old. But that’s because they’ve never handled a knife, never cut themselves, never used it incorrectly so that they could learn otherwise from experience. In turn, they’ve never sharpened a stick to use as a spear, never split twigs to use as tools, never fashioned a fish hook.

I’ve ensured their safety by denying them the opportunity of learning basic survival skills. What a terrible exchange rate.

I Can Read Sheet Music

I taught myself to read sheet music this afternoon, specifically for the violin. The music teacher has an axe to grind about #2’s skill and practice. I never learned to play an instrument or read music. So I can’t correct it if I have no idea how to instruct it. As of today I have a rudimentary understanding of string music and it’s so COOL!! Why didn’t I do this before?!?

Meanwhile, the boy… Apparently 1.5 years of violin lessons in one district amounts to little more than training to make wet fart noises with your hands in another district. I walked him through just the notes, then the measures, then the annotations unique to strings (and bows), everything I had learned in the last 2 hours. Realizing there is plenty of work cut out for us, I ask him to break out his violin and demonstrate while Jaimi and I scramble to make a late dinner for the family.

There’s that special moment when you look at your spouse and you both know you’re on exactly the same page, that whatever the challenge is, it is yours together, and it will not defeat anyone in the household. You acknowledge with your eyes that this is about to suck. We had that moment while I was peeling shrimp and Jaimi was rinsing broccoli as we listened to the introduction to the slaughter of the St Lawrence Overture. It was time to come to my son’s defense, demand he put the device down, and for me to notify the instructor that the boy isn’t the right student for her, she’s not the right tutor for him and we all just need to move along quickly. No sense in wasting anyone’s time when there are serious education issues afoot.

It was really nice sitting on the sofa tonight, at 10:30, after the emails to educators where written, calls to the boy’s mom to get sign off on my plan, after the late-napping 2 year old was put back down to bed again, after dishes were done, after the boys had turned off their headlamps for their books, and Jaimi and I sat down – finally – agreeing not to recap the day. We just shut up. In 30 seconds we were both snoring.

Happy Monday.

Reverence

Tonight’s post is sponsored by the letter R and the word “reverence.”

I teach my kids that we harm no animals unless we are feeding ourselves or (less likely) defending ourselves. But we eat the muscles and soft tissue of animals. That’s a daily part of our diet.

I don’t hide from my kids that we participate in the wholesale, clinical slaughter of cows, pigs, fish, chicken and occasionally sheep. This is how we have our proteins available for purchase, neatly packed with blood absorbing inserts, wrapped in tidy leak-proof plastic. I have no shame in informing them that someone else does the dirty work of killing the animal, and then another person slices it up into the parts that we purchase by the pound.

I would slaughter, gut and feather a chicken in front of my kids if only to show them this is where chicken strips come from. Or a turkey for Thanksgiving. Not for shock value, but to guide them that a clucking, thinking animal lost their life for your dinner.

I was perhaps 5 or 6 when my father first taught me to catch a rainbow trout from a fresh water stream and then demonstrated how to knock it out (or kill it) against a stone, then to insert a pocket knife into the anus, slicing up the belly to the gills. Cross slice from below the gills down and remove the intestines, then toss the intestines to the other side of the stream for the wild life to eat.

That’s food. That’s how an animal lands on your plate. Someone is doing that ugly work for you every single day, nearly every single meal.

As much as I appreciate television hosts who are willing to tread into darker waters of humanity, they lose me when they back up, horrified, watching goats, sheep and cows slaughtered in front of the camera in 2nd or 3rd world countries. Seriously? You ate a cheese burger before you departed LAX. You had lamb chops outside of O’Hare. Now you’re horrified?

Self righteous hypocrites.

“Human Up”. You’re an omnivore. Stop pretending that this is some terrible 3rd world ghetto shit that you can’t even handle watching while a local thanks the animal then bleeds, guts and breaks down with a rusty knife, all the while praising their kill for its loss and their benefit, with actual reverence for the sacrifice the animal had no choice in making. Reverence makes these people more respectable than us because they looked into the eyes of their dinner and said thank you before they slit its throat. Meanwhile we got pissy at the register for having to pay an extra $0.10 for a plastic bag to keep the pre-packaged sirloin separate from our fruits and vegetables.

We continue to lose touch with the reality and humanness of what we are. That’s not a good thing.

When to Call Out a Liar

Brutal honesty is difficult. It’s something I’m not very good at because conflict REALLY makes me uncomfortable. But a couple years ago I had to stand in front of a grown adult, a person I had entrusted the professional care and safety of at least one of my children to, and called her a liar…to her face, in the presence of other adults who were also her clients.

I never take such an accusation lightly. I’ve had to fire staff for the same. It always makes me nauseous. But this was deeply personal. I offered her the opportunity to prove me wrong. I knew she couldn’t, or I never would have made the accusation to begin with. I already knew the truth. It had to be said because this could no longer continue without me being complacent to the misdeed.

All of this directs me, baffled, as to why those in the industry of independent reporting of facts – actual journalists, not “media personalities” – aren’t willing to stand up and say, “Mr. President, what you just said is factually untrue, those are not the words or the meaning you implied less than 24 hours ago or over the last few months of your own tweets. Sir, you are a liar. You are lying to your employer, the American people. How should your employer respond to your flagrant deceit? How do you respond to your staff who you find are guilty of lying to you? We have sworn affidavits of many of them, but the American people would like to know just how stupid you think we collectively are? How much of your deceit and bafoonery do you expect your employer to tolerate?”

Dear Mr. Bourdain

Damnit! I hoped to share a beer and a story with you some day. You had a mastery of word and an intimate knowledge of the texture that makes us all human. I’m so sorry it was too much to bear. That part I understand. But I’m admittedly angry that you made your closest friend find you like this.

You’re going to genuinely be missed, Tony.