The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

A Concerned Parent

When Balthasar was eleven, his adored pet cat, Mitsou, ran away. He made forty ink drawings detailing his memories of the animal and his fruitless search for her. In the last, he stands alone, crying.

The New Yorker (Google search of ‘Balthus Mitsou’)



I want to go ahead and write down some thoughts I have about our son. If, at the end of this, I decide I have said some things that are worth your time to read – this paper will still be sitting on my desk.

I am worried about our dear Balthasar. He made it clear that he wanted a cat, and when I suggested a fish because it would be easier to keep he strongly objected. I maintained that a fish would be a good introduction to owning a pet, because, as I recall myself saying, “if they die it’s no big deal, and they can’t run away.” I am not saying this to point out that I was right, but just as a way for you to recognize that this letter has some credibility. As we discussed, I didn’t say some phrase like, “I was right.” I am just trying to establish my legitimacy as a source of sound thinking.

The point of this is not about me, but about our son. He really needs a hobby. Have you been in his room this week? It’s getting weird. He was at thirty-two drawings of, as he described it, “the world’s most desperate situation outside a Russian winter.” It’s poetic, which I like, but it’s also a tad melodramatic. How could we have such a child? I am an art historian and you are a painter … Our child, at a vibrant eleven years, should be the very picture of level-headed, honest, and plain-speaking grace.

Am I perhaps pushing him too hard? Could I be at fault in this? Maybe I should cut down on symbolic dinners. Two nights ago he told me he would not like any water with his dinner, but instead red wine, because he felt that the muddied colors represented his tortured soul. “Papa, water would represent an epiphany … But I am without the clarity necessary for such an event. I fear that life is confusing, and only by freezing it do I feel the delights of an epiphany. But, by freezing it I am only lying to myself, I am creating a false sense of enlightenment.” Of course, by saying this, he had actually ended up justifying the case for him having water with dinner. Because of the layers of confusion this was causing – clarity only in stating that he felt he had no clarity – I was forced to boil a shoe in red wine and feed that to him for dinner. Is this bad parenting?

No, I stand by that action. Self-doubt in an artist can be beautiful, representative of what people feel … Self-doubt in a parent is damaging. I must continue to stride forward with the same gusto as always.

And for you, my sentiments are the same. Our son, despite our best intentions, has taken on this flair for the sensational from who knows where.

One request though, would you ask your poet lover to mentor our son in poetry? I really do think he has a knack for it.


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