When I was a child, I believed my father was fluent in Spanish. His ability to count from one to ten without pause was all the evidence I needed. It wasn’t until middle school that I realized his romance language skills are basically nonexistent. By then, a number of other paternal fantasies had also been exposed. My father could not control traffic lights, as I thought when I was five (he was really looking at the lights to the side to cue the “magic words.”) He could not reliably estimate the temperature to the exact degree, as I thought when I was eight (he was cheating). And he did not know the stories behind every stellar constellation, as I thought when I was ten (he made them up). Perfect fluency in a foreign language was the last fantasy to fall. But something remained standing: I still thought my dad was a pretty great guy.
Now, with two kids of my own, I’m becoming increasingly aware of the superhuman abilities they think I possess. Last week at the YMCA, my son was flabbergasted by my ability to bounce a racquetball so hard that it almost hit the ceiling of the racquetball court, which, as you might know, is quite high. “Mom can bounce the ball better than anyone!” he announced that night to my husband. “She’s amazing!” We looked at each other and grinned. I am not often praised for my athletic skills.
With a four year-old and a two year-old, I realize now is my opportunity to indulge in some major myth-building. Will I feign competency as a gourmet cook? No. The “proof is in the pudding,” as the saying goes. But certainly other things are within my grasp. I can, at last, be effortlessly expert in whatever I choose and play to an adoring audience. And when I’m found out for the fraud that I am, my children will hopefully know something that is really true: I love them and I like having a good time with them. So, with that, I’ll just practice my own impeccable Spanish and say adios!