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Mothers & Fathers

Here, in a short vignette, is the difference between mothers and fathers boiled down to its essence.

Simon has discovered the book It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. He wants us to read it to him before every nap and every bed-time, and he revels in telling us that “Lucy is cross”, that “Sally is a little bit upset,” and that “Charlie Brown had trouble with the scissors.” It’s adorable.

Matt and I, when reading the book to Simon, both adjust the text for length and toddler comprehension. In the pages where Snoopy is atop his doghouse, pretending to be a WWI flying ace fighting—and then being shot down by—the Red Baron, our parenting takes dramatically different turns.

When I read it, Snoopy is pretending to be a pilot who lands in the countryside and then goes exploring in the dark. It works with the pictures, and it keeps me from having to use words like “war,” “shot,” and “enemy” that I’d rather Simon not hear or know about. He’s got his whole life to learn about these sad things; at not quite three I’d like to preserve his innocence.  So in my telling, cute little Snoopy is dreaming of earning his wings and taking a European holiday.

When Matt reads the book to Simon, the very same two-page spread includes very few words, but rather is comprised of a five-minute percussive and pantomime tour-de-force in which Matt graphically imitates air battle, faltering engines, and a slow-motion crash into enemy territory.

So there you have it. One boy. Two parents. One story. My telling: A Year in Provence. His telling: Band of Brothers. Vive la difference!

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