My kids and I are over the moon about today’s Goodle Doodle of Douglas Adams who I feel has influenced the lives of my sons nearly as much as I have. Also, by naming his only daughter Polly Jane Rocket Adams, he gave me license to name one of my sons Avery Danger Suhay, for that and many other parenting lessons I celebrate Mr. Adams today.
Adams not only wrote some of my very favorite books, creating characters who made me laugh and gave me stock lines I have passed on to my boys, but if looked at in a certain light – perhaps using a chartreuse bulb – he’s the definitive guide to parenting.
If Adams had ever written a guide to being a parent it would have the words “DON’T PANIC” written in large friendly letters on the cover.
Inside would be Adams’ words, intended for wit, but surprisingly accurate to the parenting situation.
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so,” according to Adams. If that’s not a teenager I’m a paranoid android.
By the way, as a mom who drives kids everywhere, I am often moved to repeat the stock phrase of Marvin the paranoid android from Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they tell me to take you up to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction? 'Cause I don't.”
As Mom’s Taxi service, I follow the Adams' maxium, “I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” This is also true of choosing to be an at-home mom because as a parent our plans are often zapped by the laser of life as we follow the parenting path to some really cool places.
When anyone suggests that my choice of working from home and being with the kids isn’t a job or of value I quote Adams saying, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
He accurately described every parenting plan I have ever read in a book and tried to emulate in my home by saying, “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
Adams also, unintentionally, described what it’s like to tell a teenager to do a chore, “For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”
Some parents may resort to trying to feed away a problem with a child with a treat or mistakenly think that the act of having everyone at the table for dinner automatically makes it “family time.” I’ve learned that family meals require some serious effort in order for there to be actual conversation beyond the sound of “Nom, nom, nom” with four sons. Adams tells us, "It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”
When we lived aboard our sailboat I fell into the habit of reading Adams books aloud as entertainment and that hasn’t stopped. As a result, my son Zoltan, 19, informed me he intends to take sky diving lessons, and when I incoherently burbled my terror at him he coolly responded, “Mom, don’t worry. All I need to do is throw myself at the ground and miss.” That came from the Adams quote “Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”
Ian, 17, is brilliant but has terrible grades because nothing is ever turned in on time. His stock answer comes from Adams as well, and it’s my own fault for repeating it aloud so often, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Avery Danger Suhay (whom I dearly hope will someday adopt the pen name A. Danger Suhay) often writes “DON’T PANIC” in large friendly letters on the white board on the kitchen when I look as stressed as Arthur Dent with a Vogon fleet overhead.
Quin, 9, with Asperger Syndrome is a kid who can repeat things he’s read and heard verbatim. So when things get loopy – and particularly after a tornado warning here, which we get more than you’d expect for Norfolk, Va – he, too, quotes Adams: “We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem.”
Adams gave me the most valuable, lasting and essential parenting tool, humor. Using that, we have built a love of reading, laughing and flights of fancy into our family.