conversations with hank

(Authors note: There are some vague references to some drama unfolding in our extended family.  Thank you for your understanding and respecting our need for privacy)

Me: (sitting down to dinner) Does everyone have everything they need?

Pai: I’m good.

Hank: (mouth already full, thumbs up)

Molly: Bolacha (proudly displaying her butter crackers).

Me: Whoosh. I have been looking forward to sitting down all day.

Pai: It has been a busy day for you all.

Me: Yes.

Hank: And I was in punishment, too.

Pai: I heard when I came home for lunch and to take care of some things. Would you mind telling me what that was all about? I have no idea.

Hank: (groaning) Mama, can you tell it?  You tell stories better than me.

Me: I will spin this yarn, on one condition: I want you to help me tell this story. I value your point of view and there are always two sides to a disagreement and your opinion matters to me.

Hank: (proud, mouth full of soup, nodding)

Me: Well, as you know this day was filled with drama and sadness in our family.

Pai: I do. It has been a hard day on all of us. I very much hope that everything can be resolved by tomorrow.

Me: Me, too.

Hank: Me especially.

Me: So we were all busy in the house. Everyone had a job and everyone was contributing and after this whole week where Hank expressed his wish to be more responsible and an active part of the family team I gave him a job to do.

Pai: Oh.

Me: And it wasn’t the fact that Hank wanted to stay lazy today, even though the house was buzzing with opportunities to help. When I asked him at 11:45 to get dressed and go help his prima buy tomatoes, partly so we could have some adult conversations and partly to get him out of the din of stress Hank morphed into a boneless ooze and he started making that sound.

Pai: His whining sound?

Hank: (nervous giggling)

Me: That sound he makes like when you blow up a balloon and pinch the end so that is whines desperately as you let the air out?

Pai: I know that sound.

Me: So Hank oozed, and melted off the couch and on to the floor making the, “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrruuuummmmwmwwmwmeeeeeeeeeee.”

Hank: (laughing, slapping his hands over his ears)

Pai: That is exactly how you sound, Hank.

Hank: That is horrible. I didn’t know it sounded like that.

Me: So I then reminded him that would be helpful and responsible of him to simply go with his prima (cousin) and that it would take no more than 15 minutes and since it was Tuesday there were be very little people there so no need to worry about the crowds that gather on Thursday-Saturday and then…

Hank: (interrupting, ashamed) Then I was very rude. I said very rude and mean things and I hurt my mom’s feelings.

Pai: So you made a fight with your mother so you wouldn’t have to leave the house?

Hank: Yes. I didn’t know that was what I was doing until I was grounded. Then I was thinking, “that was stupid, Hank.” And then my mom came into my room and her feelings were hurt and I was more mean to her.

Me: Hank tried on his unfazed, cold, mean, sarcastic personality. He mansplained to me the true location of the praça and it was all so unlike him that I, and I apologized soon after, lost my temper.

Pai: Sounds like you were both pushing all the wrong buttons.

Hank: (nodding, mouth full)

Me: So Hank was grounded and I let everything going on around us affect how I treated Hank’s resistance and so we lost our morning. After you were home for lunch…

Pai: (interrupting) Where I too lost my temper because of all that has been going on with our family. You two are not alone.

Hank: I heard you from my room! You were mad.

Me: After lunch Hank and I had a good talk.

Hank: And I was still rude again to you.

Me: (nodding) But this time I was better equipped to handle it.

Hank: It is like a sickness. Like I tried it this morning and it was stuck in my mouth. I was just so full of anger it was still telling me what to do.

Me: I had a better grip on my temper and we talked about that. Being rude and sarcastic makes you feel powerful and in control. Our house and our family have been out of control today. Hank, you are just learning. You are trying on different hats. Today you tried on the sassafras, sarcastic, spiteful hat. And I have to hand it to you, you have a talent for sass and mean barbs. If you wanted you could choose to communicate and feel powerful that way, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Hank: I hated it. I would say things and then I felt terrible.

Pai: That is guilt. Mean people learn to ignore that feeling.

Hank: I don’t want to learn to ignore it. Guilt isn’t like salad. I don’t need to learn to like it. I don’t think it is good for me.

Me: (laughing) Truth!

Pai: (smirking)

Hank: I didn’t like who I was today.

Me: I didn’t like who I was today, either. Again, I am sorry I lost my temper with you this morning. I would have been fine if you needed a lazy day with all that was happening around you. I just needed you to communicate what you wanted in a different way. We are all fallible. We all make mistakes. I didn’t have the mental reserves to deal with it today and I am sorry. That is not your fault.

Hank: I know. If I had just said, “Mama, I need a cuecas (underwear) day. Can I help you in another way?” You would have been fine with that.

Me: (nodding) I would have. I know it.

Hank: Prima (our cousin Monica) said the same thing. She said she was never aloud to speak to her mother like I speak to you sometimes and so she was glad I got a punishment, because she doesn’t want me to grow up to be an adult with a whining problem.

Pai: (chuckling)

Me: (smiling) Can you imagine? (adopting my most ear piercing whine) “Mr. Sudderlands, I just can’t finnish this report today because I have already done so much and I am just done and I want to go home and lay on the sofa in my cuecas (underwear).”

Hank: (giggling)

Pai: I know some adults with a whining problem. I agree with your prima (cousin). I do not want you to develop that habit.

Me: We’ve all learned a lot today. It has been a stressful day, but I am proud that we have all learned from it and that at the end of the day we are better for our mistakes.

Hank: Mama?

Me: (tucking into my now cold soup) Hum?

Hank: (pointing at Molly)

Molly: (completely asleep, head on a pillow of butter crackers)

Pai: (setting to the task of peeling her out of her high chair without waking her up)

Molly: (stirring, eyes cracking open slightly)

Me: (finger to my lips)

Hank: (mirroring me)

Together: Shhhhhhhhhh.


No Title for This Madness (Tantrum)




Me: (walking into a dark bedroom to confront a grounded Hank) Are you ready to answer my question now?

Hank: (sprawled across his bed, listless in the dark) I don’t even remember your question.

Me: You have a talent, my friend, for picking the wrong day, the wrong time and the wrong place to dish me a plate of sass.

Hank: (monotone, without a trace of energy) I really don’t remember.

Me: (deep breath) Why is it that you want to go out for an afternoon with Prima (cousin Monica) and her friend hiking and geo-cashing, but when I ask you to walk across the street to help Prima (cousin Monica) buy some tomatoes you refuse?

Hank: (not making eye contact) It’s not across the street.

Me: (angry) The praça is across the street.

Hank: No, it isn’t.

Me: Really? Really, Hank? Do you think giving me lip is a good idea right now. Do you have any idea how selfish and inappropriate you are being today OF ALL DAYS?

Hank: (freakishly calm) The praça is behind Continente (supermarket), around the corner and across from the feira (flee market). It is not across the street.

Me: (seething) Answer my question.

Hank: I don’t even remember your question.

Me: (fists clenched) You are going to grow old in this room. You will be grounded for so long I will be long dead and buried before you see the outside world again. I promise you if your intention is to make me shake with rage you are succeeding, Henrique José. Now, why is it that you clearly want to go do fun things with Monica and her friend, but right now you can’t do a little thing to help your mother and prima (cousin).

Hank: (rolling over, turning his back to me) Because I don’t want to get dressed.

Me: Then (deep breath) you will get exactly what you want today because you are not leaving this room. Lights will remain off and the blinds are down. When you apologize for your disrespect we will discuss the terms of your internment. Until you can find the sincerity and compassion I know lives in your heart you will remain in this room.

Hank: (now just throwing daggers) I don’t know what half of those words mean.

Me: Thank you, Hank. Thank you for teaching yourself a valuable lesson today. Today you learned how easy it is to become cold, heartless and malevolent. You learned it takes no work at all. Less work than it takes to be charitable, compassionate and respectful. I am so grateful I don’t have to teach you this lesson. You just taught yourself. (pause, on my way out the door) I hope my boy decides to return today, because you must be a changeling child. You must have been left here in the night, because I haven’t met this Hank. No, this is the first time I have met you. And I don’t like the person in front of me, wreaking havoc over a trip to buy tomatoes, breaking hearts and hurting feelings.


Me: (shutting the door on this conversation)


The Gas We Pass

Driving through Tuscany

Driving through Tuscany


Me: (at the dinner table, belching)

Pai: Perdão (I beg your pardon)!

Me: (recovering) Yes, I do. (sincere, hand to my heart) I beg your pardon. So sorry. It could not be contained.

Pai: I doubt that.

Hank: (to Monica) My Mãe (mom) burps a lot.

Me: Guilty.

Pai: You would think by now you would be over the habit.

Monica: It isn’t very rude in America, is it?

Me: Eh, depends. Yes, it is bad manners. I am just a bit of a besta (brute, fool). I absolutely have to release the toxins or else they will manifest in other ways.

Pai: (knowing where this is going) Oh, good lord.

Hank: Other ways?

Pai: Must we?

Me: Apparently, I cannot keep your son ignorant.

Pai: (grumble)

Me: Hank, my darling, my unique chemistry has proven that if I do not release the evils, what medieval peoples called gas, then it will evolve into farts, or wind as the Brits still call it and then I would never get to eat a meal without getting up from the table at least twice.

Pai: Scientifically, untrue. Don’t listen to her, Hank.

Monica: Why would you leave the table? We’re family, just fart. Everybody farts.

Hank: (hyper-giggling)

Me: I love how in this family farting is totally acceptable and burping is rude. Strange. Is all of Portugal this strange or is it just your clan?

Hank: When I have to fart I leave what I am doing and go into the hallway or the bathroom.

Me: And that is the best habit to form. I promise you, that politeness will pay off one day. No one kinder than a person that farts downwind from their loved ones.

Monica: Argh, yes. My best friend farts all the time. When he would stay over it was the worst.

Me: Hank, this is also an important life lesson. When you fart while in bed, WHATEVER YOU DO, do not release the gas out from between the sheets. Lock it in. Seal off the crime scene.

Hank: (riots of laughter)

Monica: (giggling)

Pai: (trying to remain unamused, but smirking)

Me: Give yourself and whomever you are sharing your bedroom with a stay of execution. By doing so the gas will slowly be released into the atmosphere, filtered by your bed sheets and covers. Best course of action, really. And don’t get me started on bathtub fart bubbles. Whhhoooosh! (making a face as if something smells bad)

Hank: (positively purple with laughter)

Me: So it is best to let me burp. I am sorry, but it is better for all of us.

Pai: (major side eye)

Me: And don’t look at me in that tone of voice, Dr. Pereira. Day one. I have never hid who I was.  My name is Joy and I belch.  I am addicted to burping.  I am a burp-aholic. A burp-a-saurus-rex.

Monica: (giggling) Don’t look at me in that tone of voice? Who says these things?

Me: My mother. I started throwing her shady glances at age six. (attention back to my darling husband) Everybody, farts and burps. It’s the gas we pass. I simply own it, stylishly. (mocking a hair flip)

Hank: (Convulsing laughing, close to hyperventilation)

Monica: (taking his arm and patting him on the back)

Hank: (blurts out) Fart bubbles. (trying to catch his breath) Fart bubbles! (crying laughing)

Me: Fart bubbles are utterly beautiful… until they pop.

Hank: (completely looses it)

Pai: (can’t help but laughs)

Monica: (giggling)

Me: You could have picked a skinny, boring, better house keeping, latin wife, Dr. Pereira, but you choose me. I belch, but I am fun.

Pai: (flirty) There was never a choice.

Me: (belching) Perdão.

Pai: (dropping his cutlery, exasperated, yet surrendering)

Hank: (may need hospitalization from the lack of oxygen, silently, hysterically laughing)

Me: I tried to say, “Love you,” with that burp, but I never mastered that talent.

Pai: (finally embracing the hilarity of the conversation) There’s still time.