Everything I Know about Parenting I Learned from Tony and Carmella
Over the last couple months, Tony (mine- not the big screen version) and I have been watching the Sopranos on DVD. We’re up to the fourth season now and when we start an episode we both find ourselves cringing before the story even begins, our hearts beating faster before the ubiquitous intro music even finishes.
Some may think that we are cringing because of the violence- thinking of cement boots, guns with silencers, and swimming with the fishes. Perhaps it’s the gratuitous nudity and callous sex- which makes us watch through slitted eyelids, blushing despite 10 years together. But we get through all of those scenes like champs- it’s only TV after all. The parts of the show that really get me going involve… yes, some of you may have guessed it- the Soprano teenagers. Our girls haven’t even joined us yet and I’m already panicked about their potential resemblance to the little hellions who pout, scowl, cry, scheme, rant, and make cutting jibes with the ease that only teenagers possess.
Be Still My Racing Heart
To illustrate just how harrowing the Sopranos can be- in the last couple of episodes, the son (AJ) has gotten expelled from high school for cheating and vandalism, and the daughter (Meadow) has decided to drop out of college and run off to Europe with a clearly flaky friend! Talk about a horror show for new parents! At these crucial moments, Tony and I clasp sweaty hands and stare at each other, panic barely concealed beneath the surface of our faces. It could be mostly me who stares at Tony with eyes like dinner plates, trying to convey my alarm at the prospect of our girls getting expelled from school. Can you imagine? The horror! The horror!
Sure, there was a test or two that I may have done a little cheating on and I certainly forged my share of absentee notes (particularly in my senior year when I’d already received my college acceptance letter). Okay, I also drank my share of cheap wine coolers and warm beers, went to questionable parties (and dated questionable boys), and generally did any number of unauthorized things… but this hasn’t irrevocably stacked the cosmic karmic balance against us, has it? Tony, I imagine, can also provide a litany of mostly minor misdeeds that kept his parents shaking their heads- once they learned about them. But we turned out alright and our parents never had *literal* heart attacks, right? That’s got to count for something too. Oops- there is also the tattoo I got while still underage… that’s gonna come back to haunt me… damn!
It would be better if the Sopranos wasn’t so flippin’ realistic. Meadow has repeatedly said she hates her parents out of one side of her mouth, while asking for shopping money out of the other- isn’t that the picture of every teenage girl to a greater or lesser extent? AJ acts alternately like a dazed deer in headlights- as if he doesn’t even understand the language his parents are speaking and then shifts to sneers of utter contempt at their admonitions and repeated bleats of "Don’t you realize how serious this is?".
Support groups now forming…
So, while Tony and I struggle to figure out how much of our income we must allocate annually to have their college tuition safely tucked away by the time they are 10 years old, we wring our hands wondering how we, NOT they will get through their teenage years. I’ve signed up for a twins support group, a new mothers group, and now know that we will start commiserating with our fellow comrades in the fight to maintain sanity through those harrowing years. Hell, maybe we should form that group now- just so we get really good at it- we could do mock disaster response, kinda like earthquake or fire drills, but instead they would be "She took the car without my permission" or "They haven’t spoken to me in three weeks" or "She’s decided college just isn’t interesting" drills. Our first aid kits will include phone trees, casserole rotation schedules, a good bottle of red wine, some ice cream, running shoes (one healthy response to stress required), and smelling salts.
It’s less to two weeks to go and on their last ultrasound, the girls had their heads pressed against each other just under my ribcage- thick as thieves. One’s rosebud lips right next to the other’s tiny perfect ear, and I’m just certain they are in there laughing and talking about the years ahead. Oh the places we will go! The sleepless nights we’ll cause! And rubes that we are, Tony and I will be helpless to do anything but love them through every peak and valley. That’s not to say we won’t be better at working out punishments that Tony and Carmella. Who ever thought that taking away a Discover card for 3 weeks was an appropriate punishment- surely we won’t be that guillible.
Suddenly, I have a flash of Tony and Carmella enjoying a rare moment of shared amusement… and who are they laughing at? Us.