Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Full House or Straight Flush?

Being a parent often requires the ability to have a "poker face," regardless of the fact that you want to flinch, scream, cry, shout, laugh, smile or totally storm out of the room. Some days the "poker face" is harder than others.

The other day I was in the car with Keith alone. Usually during our secluded rides together, Keith will take the opportunity to chat with me, pass ideas by me, or sometimes ask me those big life questions that make me really think.

On this particular day, Keith was in a questioning mood. He asked me about raising his allowance (no), if he could make his own web site (yes, with conditions), and if he would get his own car when he turned 16 (I say no, hubby says yes- we'll see).

After a moment or so of quiet, Keith fidgeted a little then took a deep breath.

He leaned in to me and asked quietly, "You know the 'w' word?..."

This line of questioning is never good. A) We were in the car alone. There was no need to whisper- except if Keith was nervous or embarrassed. B) I'm never sure where the line of questioning is going: What is the "w" word, and to what topic of conversation will this lead?

The "poker face" is in full force at this point, as I try to respond casually, "The 'w' word? What is that?"

"You know- the 'w' word...," he repeats for emphasis.

"Well..." I pause. "How about you tell me what you mean?"

"Well...," he blushes. "...Whore."

Poker face. Poker face. Breathe. Breathe.

"What about it?" I ask casually.

"What... does it mean?" he asks, brow furrowed.

"Well, it means a person who is promiscuous," I danced. I want to tell the truth, but not cross the line into "WAY too much information..."

"Oh," he said, understanding. "So, is it like a 'slut'?"


"Yes," I say as though we are conversing about the weather. "So, um, where did you hear these words?"

"Oh, I'd rather not say," he says quickly.

Mind running wild... Poker Face... Breathe...

"Keith, it's okay to tell me anything- you know that. But I need to know: where did you hear those words?"

Keith blushes furiously. Oh... Never good...

"Okay," he finally takes a deep breath. "...Dad."

"Dad?" I repeat incredulously.

"Yeah," he smiles at my inability to keep my poker face at that one. "He was telling me words I should never say."

I am searching desperately for something to say. I really don't want to know the answers to any questions I'm thinking. I really don't want to undermine Hubby's parenting abilities, especially since I don't know the whole conversation or the context of the situation.

So I pretend to suddenly be overly concerned with the traffic as I drive. I let the silence settle in for a minute.

Finally Keith questions, "Mom?"

"Hmm?" I try to ask casually.

"You know I don't say those, right?" he asks, looking concerned.

"Of course!" I smile confidently at him.

"Okay, good," he sighs, relieved. "Thanks."

"Sure. For what?"

"For not freaking out."

"Why would I freak out?" I ask.

"Well, dad sorta' did."


"When I asked him about what I just asked you," he said.

"Oh. But you all worked it out?" I wanted to make sure my co-parent team member was in the clear.

"Oh, yeah. I asked him about the 'w' word and he freaked out a little. Then we talked about it and he told me all the words I'm not supposed to say."

"Oh... But he didn't tell you what it meant?"

"Like I was going to ask him that," Keith chuckled.

"Okay..." I let the subject drop.

There were so many other things I wanted to say, ask, advise. But with my children, the "poker face" is the most effective means of communication.

If I push, they bolt like frightened deer. But the "poker face" has them walking up tentatively to eat out of my hand.

The irony is that I have no clue how to play poker. I could lose everything I own and then some in a poker match against anyone who knew the basics.

But--- If I ever do learn how to play the card game of poker, I've already got my bluff expression down pat!...

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