Setting: Chinese Food Restaurant, Friday Night, Orange County, Calif.
“That guy is FAT! And HAPPY! I like his skirt!” C.J. said pointing to the restaurant’s statue of Buddha that was as tall as he is. C.J. put his arm around Buddha like they were best buddies George Clooney and Brad Pitt goofing for photographers on the red carpet. I gave C.J. a look and he backed away from Buddha. A lady in the waiting area giggled. C.J. shot her a knowing smile as if to say, “yeah lady, you know what’s up.”
(Two minutes later)
“C.J., sit down and stop touching your Mom’s earrings, please,” C.J.’s Dad said from across the table as he perused the menu.
(Two minutes later)
“C.J., get out from under the table and sit down. Fine, get Abby Cadabby off of the floor and then sit down,” said C.J’s Dad.
(Two minutes later)
“C.J. put your lip gloss back in your purse and sit down,” C.J.’s Dad said.
(Two minutes later)
“C.J., just stay out of your purse, please, and sit down,” C.J.’s Dad said.
The server approached our table to take our drink order.
“Do you have lemonade?” C.J. asked. “Ohhhhhh, pink lemonade? Dat’s my favorite because pink is my favorite color. I’ll have dat.”
“I’ll have a Tsingsao beer, please,” said C.J.’s Dad.
“Yes. Tsingsao,” the Chinese server said in his heavily affected broken English.
“SING SOW!” C.J. said in his best Chinese, five-year-old affected English.
“For God’s sake, get your son under control!” C.J.’s Dad said to me, his Irish eyes smiling and his fair-skinned face turning red.
“SING SOW!” C.J. said out loud again, liking the sound of it.
“It’s like being with a drunk, 21-year-old girl 24/7,” C.J.’s Dad whispered across the table to me. I had to agree. Sometimes that’s exactly what it’s like.
C.J. was a little hyper and out of sorts that night, but it was due to excitement, I can promise you that. His brother was at a sleepover, so C.J. had us all to himself. Instead of staying home to eat, we told C.J. that the three of us would go out on a date.
“A HOT date?!” he asked as we were at home deciding where to eat. I should have known then the kind of mood he was in and considered staying home.
When my hubby and I have a date night he always tells the boys that he is taking mommy out on a “hot date,” so, naturally, C.J. expected that our date night would be nothing short of hot. We let him pick the restaurant. “Chinese!” It’s his favorite.
The combination of not having to share our attention with his brother, being out on a “Hot Date” and getting to pick the restaurant, had him intoxicated with joy and power. A lethal combo when it comes to kids. In his mind, the night was young and it could go anywhere, it was full of potential. Perhaps he’d get to eat more than one fortune cookie, maybe we’d stay out late and miss bath time, maybe we’d forget to make him brush his teeth. The night was drunk on Tsingsao beer with possibilities.
C.J. slid out of his seat while his father and I were discussing our days. He stood next to our booth in the aisle, put his hands on his hips and proceeded to drop it like it’s hot. The kids at the next booth laughed. My husband’s face flushed and I bit my lips to stop giggles from making a necessary exit.
“Seriously woman, get control of your son!” C.J.’s Dad said to me. Guilty as charged. Sometimes I let C.J. hold on a little too tightly to his confidence and bravado because I feel like he needs it or will need it when dealing with haters in life. You need those two things (among other things) when you are growing up gender nonconforming and are among the youngest members of the LGBTQ community. But, I also don’t want my child to be poorly behaved. We are working on finding a balance.
“C.J. baby, we don’t drop it like it’s hot in restaurants,” I said with a smile as I pulled him into the booth and gave him a hug. His dad glared at both of us and, then, smiled.
We got quiet as we waited for our food to arrive and hoped C.J. would pull it together long enough for us eat, pay and leave (our version of Eat, Pray, Love).
“SING SOW!” It came out of nowhere. C.J.’s Dad shot me a look and I stifled a giggle. Now I was feeling drunk and all I was sipping on was my good friend Arnold Palmer.
C.J.’s Dad started talking about a case he was dealing with at work and was explaining how he arrested a guy.
“Oh no you didn’t girlfriend!” C.J. said loudly with a flick of the wrist and a snap.
Our food arrived. C.J. shoved fried rice into his mouth with his spoon and, when that became too laborious, he used his dirty little fingers which were stained from the day’s art projects.
We were driving home and relishing in the quiet of the car.
“SING SOW!” C.J. shouted from the back seat with such enthusiasm that the contents of his purse dumped onto the floor of the car.
“Oh my!” he exclaimed.
Twenty-one-year-old drunk girl indeed.
“Sometimes I let C.J. hold on a little too tightly to his confidence and bravado because I feel like he needs it or will need it when dealing with haters in life. […] But, I also don’t want my child to be poorly behaved. We are working on finding a balance.”
I really hope you find that balance…
When my sister and/or myself were in such high spirits ANYWHERE we were expected to be somewhat still or quiet my mom pulled out whatever book we were doing as a read-aloud (and we ALWAYS had a book we were doing as a read-aloud) and began to read to us. It gave us both a reason to sit down and although it sometimes bothered those around us a little at first they often got into the story, and it had to have been less bothersome than two rambunctious kids playing tag around them…
Your blog warms my heart and reminds me so much of my own childhood, thank you.
Yours in Queerness,
This one made me laugh out loud! I love the way you capture such beautiful/funny/heart-warming moments with you’re writing! Great read 🙂
Love it! When I saw the picture of the two Easter baskets for your two sons, it made me wonder: Do you have have moments where you enjoy C.J. being the way he is simply for the fact that you get to do things with him that you typically only do with a daughter? If you look only at the surface of it, you get the best of both worlds with him and his brother!
HAHAHAHAH!! Hilarious Read
On a tangent……….have you considered getting C.J. into speech therapy? (Both my kids had speech therapy for a while.) At his age, he should be mastering the “th” sound. “Dat” is cute now, but it won’t be cute when he’s older and still saying it. After age 8, it is much, much harder to change speech, so now is the time to look into it.
Good post. I read this one three times and laughed each time.
I’ll admit that I did have to Google ‘drop it like it’s hot’. I wish I could have seen CJ do it. Maybe you should call him Snoop Pupp.
haha!! Your writing is excellent – I can imagine this all going down! He would have a BALL with my 4.5 year old daughter. They’d be besties, I’m sure. 🙂
Guess what? Sing-Sow is FUNNY! I guarantee all the little people in my family would get a huge kick out of that, no matter their orientation! Hell, I think it’s funny.
I know what you mean about drawing the line between allowing them some freedom to be confident and allowing them to be bad mannered. CJ is young. He’ll realize soon enough that dropping it like it’s hot is inappropriate for a restaurant. My daughter used to LOVE to wander around the table at restaurants. She’s 6.5 now, and gets that you have to stay in your seat. (except to visit every restaurant bathroom in history. I guess maybe that’s the next step!)
When I think of the word “sow” (as an outdoorsy type) I think of it in terms of the word used to describe a female bear. Everyone knows how ferociously female bears will defend their young. May we all be so protective of all children. May we all learn to Sing Sow.
Well, 21-year-old drunk girls do seem to have all the fun!!
This just made me smile. Hilarious!
I love reading about CJ. This is the first time I’ve commented, but he reminds me so much of my (also gender nonconforming) 8 year old son. Thank you so much for writing these. They really speak to my heart.
This post had me laughing so hard and it filled me with such immense admiration for your whole family! Thank you. C.J. is precious! My daughter is often the loudest, most active kid in any room and she thinks the whole world is a Broadway stage. It can be trying and exhausting to deal with the public antics of such… unique… children. You are finding the pearl where others would just see the grit. I think “Sing Sow!” is my new life-celebratory sound…
Why do I feel like I know this drunk 21 year-old girl…? 😉
i wish i was there to watch him drop it like its hot…he could prob shake out the moves haha…great story…as usual 🙂
You almost got me in trouble in class!!!! I could not stop giggling!!!! Poor CJ’s dad! But yeah, the whole dropping it like it was hot during dinner is not appropriate for anyone. lol Too cute!
Hilarious! Thanks for the smiles! CJ is such a character. I love how he is so full of joy — drunk on life! 🙂
I love this post and your blog. I’m the mother of an 8 month old son. You inspire me!
This made me laugh. My roommate and I both turned 21 this past weekend, and I have to say this story was remarkably reminiscent of a night or two. XD
I can feel this hot date. 🙂 You all have a lot of pluck. And your writing is so fun to read.
I continue to be moved by your grace and your good humor. I imagine there are days when you have no idea where the balance is. I surely wouldn’t. I’d want to be as fiercly protective and encouraging as you are to CJ, and I’d have great trouble figuring out if I had gone off the rails in my attempt to do so. Raising kids is hard enough when they don’t face the social challenges CJ does. By the way, I recently noticed my 16-year-old son was using the word “gay” a lot. He uses it as a pejorative, which of course bothers me. When I talked to him about it, he said “kids today” mean it as “lame” rather than “homosexual” (and I notice they often call the decisions of schoolteachers “gay”). I told him how much it bothered me because of the history the word has in pepetuating opression and how hurtful it could be to the LGBTQ community. (I attribute my new sensitivity to you, by the way.) I think he was considerate of my point, but he insisted gay doesn’t mean what it used to mean, that he is not homophobic, and that I’m somewhat out of touch. So I searched for balance — do I stop at expressing my concern or do I “forbid” him from using the word? Why can’t parenting be easy? (Well, I guess it can be, but GOOD parenting is HARD.)
The “it doesn’t mean what it used to mean” argument has been used to defend pretty much every pejorative in the book. I’m not suggesting that your son is homophobic, just that that line of reasoning is a slippery slope. Would you hesitate over banning the N-word or profanity? You can’t control how he behaves outside of the home, he’s a teenager, after all, but you’re absolutely within you rights to forbid him from perpetuating that sort of thing under your roof.
I suggest sitting him down again, the next time you hear it, and explaining that little things like using the same word for both ‘homosexual’ and ‘lame’ (that one’s offensive to people who are actually lame, but I digress) add up to become big things, and that he doesn’t want to be the one whose words trigger an irreversible action in an LGBT kid who is struggling. It’s typically something small that leads someone to take action on suicidal thoughts. Anything could lead them to that breaking point. If a kid sees your son as someone who isn’t homophobic/a potential ally, and then hears him using the word ‘gay’ to mean something negative, it’s easy for a teenager (as they’re especially melodramatic) to add him to the list of “people who hate me.” Besides that, using phrases like “that’s so gay” automatically make one sound younger and immature–pretty much the opposite of the impression teens are typically trying to make.
Then you need to follow through. Explain that using that kind of language will have a consequence in your household. Keep track of the number of times he slips up, and if it happens, say, ten times, that’s a unit that equals one hour of community service (preferably in an LGBT-related organization if you have one in your area). As he gets out of the habit of saying it at home, he’ll also lose the habit of saying it with his friends. Who knows, perhaps they’ll follow suit. In any case, you’d be doing both your son and the world at large a favor. 🙂
Tiffany — I appreciate your thoughtful input. Your advice “If a kid sees your son as someone who isn’t homophobic/a potential ally, and then hears him using the word ‘gay’ to mean something negative, it’s easy for a teenager (as they’re especially melodramatic) to add him to the list of “people who hate me,” is a good point I didn’t think of.
So if your son says “gay” means “lame”, does he think that gay people are lame? It might be interesting to ask him how he would feel if the term hetrosexual meant lame – or if his name became a synonym for lame. Without question, the old adage that “names can never hurt me” is completely wrong. He needs to understand that when a person who is gay hears the word used negatively like that, they can feel fearful and mistrustful. Stories like this worry me as I thought youth were becoming smarter about diversity.
I’m going to be dropping it like it’s hot and singing sow all day now. Thanks for the laugh. Children are so precious.
SING-SOW!!!!! Indeed!!! And I intend to drop it like it’s hot all day!!!
I always love a CJ story!!
I love it and plan to repeat it often! Sing-Sow!!!!!!!! SING-SOW!!!!!!! SING-SOW!!!!!!!!!!!