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Child complexes and parental preparation

The Jacksons from the March 31 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

The throaty purr of eight well-tuned cylinders pulling into the yard woke Amanda Jackson from the nap she had been enjoying on the living room couch. Brady was home. She heard the crunch of gravel under the wheels as his vintage Trans Am pulled up to the house, or more accurately, house trailer, in which they lived. A moment later she heard the engine shut off and then the car door slam shut. ‘I should move,’ she thought to herself, but didn’t. A few seconds later she heard the door open and Brady step inside.

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cartoon image of a family seated at a table
cartoon image of a family seated at a table
cartoon image of a family seated at a table

“Hi honey,” she called out drowsily. “I’m on the couch.”

“I’ll be right there,” Brady called back. “I’m just gonna wash up real quick.” Amanda heard him run the water briefly in the sink by the back door, and then heard the telltale squeak of the towel bar as he dried off.

“Hi sweetie,” he said as he leaned over to kiss her forehead a moment later. “How are you feeling?”

Amanda smiled sleepily. “Tired,” she said, “and big.”

“Well that’s to be expected,” said Brady. He put his hand on her belly. “How’s the little guy?”

“Busy,” she said. “Doing yoga or something. I don’t know. And it might not be a guy, don’t forget.”

“I know,” said Brady. “I just said guy because it’s easy. Next time I’ll say girl. To make sure she doesn’t get a complex. If it is a girl.” He paused. “I guess I’ll have to alternate to make it even.”

Amanda smiled. “So when the baby’s born it won’t have a complex. It’ll just be very confused.”

“Something like that,” said Brady.

“Sorry I haven’t made supper,” she said. “I lay down just to rest a little and next thing I knew you were pulling up outside. I’m a terrible wife.”

“Awful,” Brady agreed with a grin. “But I’m sure you’ll be a fantastic mother so that will make up for it.”

Amanda reached up and touched his face. “I’m glad you think so,” she said. “I’m not as confident as you are.” She stretched and tried to settle into a more comfortable position. “I didn’t have the kind of parental role models you had,” she said. “Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll be completely clueless.

Brady was silent for a moment. “I’m not worried,” he said. “It’s not rocket science. We’ll be fine. Just think how good we are at criticizing other people’s parenting skills.”

Amanda laughed. “That’s true,” she said. “Nobody does it better.”

“Tell you what,” said Brady. “We should come up with a parental training regime to prepare ourselves for the job. We could start by hanging out at the McDonald’s Playland for a few hours every week and make notes about what all the parents there are doing wrong. And we could spend more time with Randy and Jackie and critique their skills when we get home.”

“I don’t know why we have to actually go to the McDonald’s Playland to criticize those parents,” said Amanda. “Can’t we just criticize them from home, for taking their kids to McDon­ald’s in the first place?”

“Well, we could,” said Brady, “but that would take all the fun out of it. Plus, I want a double quarter-pounder BLT with extra cheese and no onions or pickles and super-sized fries, which I can only have if we actually go. We have to be willing to make sacrifices if we’re going to be good parents. And eating at McDonald’s a few times between now and then is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

“You’re so heroic,” said Amanda. “I’m not sure if you are committed or if you just should be.”

“Probably both,” said Brady. “But I am very committed. My goal in having children is to have better ones than either Randy or Jennifer. Like, not way better, just a little better. Just enough better so that when Mom and Dad go home after a family dinner Mom will say to Dad, aren’t Brady and Amanda’s kids just the best? And Dad will say, they sure are sweet. And that will make up for me being such a pain in the you-know-what to them for so many years.”

Amanda pondered that for a moment. “I think we should get into family counselling right away,” she said. “Because the kids are sure going to need it if that’s your goal. Might as well get a head start.”

“I’m just kidding,” said Brady. He got to his feet. “How about I barbecue up a couple of burgers? You’re hungry I’m sure.”

“Starving,” said Amanda. She let her head rest on the arm of the couch. “You’re the best husband ever,” she said.

“That’ll make up for me being a terrible parent,” said Brady.

“Absolutely,” said Amanda. “Totally.”

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