Thursday, August 30, 2012

Because I Said So: Dinner table conversation a test of dad's knowledge

I could write a different version of today's "Because I Said So" column daily given the range of topics my kids come up with. Just last night we discussed The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, The Cay by Theodore Taylor, Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, bad words, school and dreams we've had. It doesn't seem like supper should take long enough to eat to have the been able to cover so many subjects but, believe me, it does.

Please enjoy today's column, because Middle-Aged Man says so.

Dinner table conversation a test of dad's knowledge
Suppertime conversations around our table often jump back and forth in topic like a poorly edited film. Non-sequiturs are served as a side dish to fried chicken and pot roast. Talk of school and television, upcoming plans and the gossip of friends are revealed like the striated layers of a casserole.

The other night the subject of superhero powers came up. Specifically the question was "What two superpowers would you want if you could pick?" It's the sort of palaver a palate might appreciate with a Southern staple of meat and two.

The kids bandied about the obvious choices — flying, invisibility, being really small or really fast. Me, I told them my superpowers, if it were up to me, would be a tolerance for lactose and to shape shift into a morning person. Such is the secret identity of Middle-Aged Man.

Kids, on the other gloved hand, consider themselves immortal and dream to flaunt that immortality with an ability to fly or jump or to be unseen as they lurk from room to room.

I flew to the kitchen mid-meal to refill a wineglass and returned to suggest, "X-ray vision!" not realizing the talk had advanced with a new question: "What country, other than this one, would you want to live in?" My superpower exclamation was met with super sighs and eye-rolling, you have to be quicker than Flash to keep up with the plot points around this table.

Italy, France, Brazil, England and Greece were all mentioned in this category. I'm pretty sure someone suggested Florida. The conversation devolved into a stereotypical discussion of accents, informed more, I'm afraid, by years of viewing "The Simpsons" and "House Hunters International" than anything learned in school. The kids are conversational lightweights at best.

It occurs to me now that I probably should have visited my own wish list for powers upon this nascent Jobless League of America. What would I imbue them with were I to inject a Super-Soldier Serum similar to Captain America's into their meatloaf? Invisibility is a possibility, though super silence might be better.

I leapt to the kitchen to slice more bread (and to top off the wine) only to return and hear my son talking about Middle-earth. "That's not even a real place!" I scoffed, imagining him applying for a passport and visa. But they'd moved on without me to a discussion of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," something I know even less about than gamma rays or the value of the euro.

There are many times I'm left out of the main course of discourse altogether; times when the incongruity of subjects leaves me standing still and unable to keep up, like a Hobbit attempting to walk up a mountainside of mashed potatoes.

Eating with kids is not a dinner party of high society talk, but a whirlwind of issues and debates that require a superhuman attention span. Stan Lee tells us that "with great power comes great responsibility." I tell you that with a great big family comes great suppertime confusion.

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