Parenting Adventures with Penny: How Do You Do “It”

So what do you know. It’s Tanya the talker. They say that girl was born with “the veil.” I could never figure out what that meant. But all I know is that she sure does talk with every breath she takes. So what do you know. It’s Tanya the talker. They say that girl was born with “the veil.” I could never figure out what that meant. But all I know is that she sure does talk with every breath she takes. To her, words are like air. I wonder if she talks even when there is nobody there to listen.

I tried to be pleasant and show her all the polite signs that people show when they want to end a conversation but she was not attentive to them. So with reluctance in my heart, I engaged in a conversation.

Never mind the four children that I was trying to occupy. Never mind the one child that she was trying to keep from destroying the store and terrorizing the customers.

This topic was so routine I had already made up a response to her questions years ago. She asked, “Penny, how on earth do you do it?”

I knew what “it” was. “It” was taking four children out by myself and managing to keep my sanity while keeping them acting like civilized little people instead of a bunch of wild children. “It” was the audacity to expect my children to actually obey me, their mother, while in public.

I replied, “Do you really want to know, because most people who ask me this question are just filling the air with words.”

“Yes,” she replied.

“I do what Harriet Tubman did, she is my inspiration. She took hundreds of people on life threatening journeys by herself. Unwilling to find contentment in her own freedom, she risked life and limb to save others by taking them to freedom along the underground railroad.

“Knowing that an escaped slave who turned back would give precious secrets of the underground railroad to the enemy, she persuaded the sometimes tired and scared slaves to continue. One of her persuasive tools was her shot gun.

“Her genius didn’t stop there. She also carried medicine to give crying babies if there was imminent danger of being captured.

“Harriet Tubman believed in Malcolm X’s famous saying, “by any means necessary.”

“In many respects the role of a parent is that of a conductor. As Ms.Tubman conducted many trips on the underground railroad, I am directing my children along a journey. This journey begins the moment I discover that I am pregnant and ends, in a large part, when my children become adults. I am responsible for transforming immature minds into responsible, reasonable, and mature adults who think independent of a peer group.”

Tanya, the talker, seemed to be at a loss for words at this point. She did manage to summon one more question, however. “Do you think you are too strict,” she responded.

How could she ask this question when her four year old was terrorizing everyone in the place while my children were sitting and standing by waiting for me to continue grocery shopping?

I said, “I balance discipline with love and I allow my children the freedom of self-expression. However, their self- expression ends when they begin to disobey a direct command or break a household rule.

“And as long as our society strongly directs my sons into activities that will lead to jail instead of college, and as long as people can only see a ballplayer in the future of my sons, I will adopt the mind set of Harriet and Malcolm. By any and every means necessary all of my children will become strong, well educated adults.

“I have nothing against ballplayers. However, since there are so few slots available for men in professional sports, my sons have a better chance statistically alone to become a neurosurgeon then they do to become a pro ballplayer despite great talent.”

With that having been said, Tanya suddenly became more interested in her child and less concerned with my affairs.

“Well, I’ll be seeing you, Penny,” she said.
I replied, “Let’s get together sometime.”

“Ok” she responded.


February 23, 2004
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