Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary

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She followed her mother’s instructions carefully and watched the needle move up and down, leaving behind a trail of tiny, even stitches.

This morning I drive the older boys to school, because young B has a cold and Michael opts to stay home with him, leaving me free to go to work. Driving older boys is a treat, because I do it so rarely, and because, while I love my B, it does get a bit wearing having to start my morning commute with knock-knock jokes. One or two knock-knock jokes I enjoy; any more and it’s an assault on my sensibilities. I know, I’m a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to knock-knock jokes.

Anyway, T is in the front seat and therefore has control over the musical selection and his choice is “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult. Because what better way to start off the day. About halfway through the song, which I am enjoying in an absentminded sort of way while most of my brain is devoted to making mental lists of endless tasks that need accomplishing, he speaks up. “Hey. I think they’re singing about that Shakespeare play.”

And readers, the angels break out into chorus. My children, one of them at least, has been listening.

It’s not like I am a demanding mother. My output, it’s not a lot. I enjoy golden silence like every introvert, and I am not uncomfortable with a quiet car. But to know that one of my offspring has noticed how much Shakespeare I’ve been reading lately, to know that he listened, at least a little, when I described the plot of Romeo and Juliet during dinner one night, to know that forever after this song will be “that Shakespeare song,” that is the stuff of true joy.

Parenting is a funny job. The best indicator to know you’re doing an okay job is a lack of recognition. No phone calls from the guidance counselor? Your child is not on drugs! No texts from a concerned parent? Your child is not a bully! Rarer is that clear message from the universe: “Hey, you are totally rocking this parenting gig.” But that’s what I got this morning. One of my kids was able to think critically about a song he’s listened to a hundred times and come up with, “Oh, dude, my mom muttered something about this Romeo guy. Like, Shakespeare?”

I’ll take it.

P.S. All you parents out there that I know and love? You are totally rocking this parenting gig.

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