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WHEN YOUR CHILD IS A SMUDGE

by Dustan Hlady on Sunday, November 6, 2016

I’ve begun to read plays. I love going to plays, but Moose Jaw’s theater is usually so family friendly it’s no longer art and the Globe in Regina isn’t something I can afford a pass to.  I’ve found that it’s a lot cheaper and (if you have a good imagination) just as enjoyable if you read the play yourself.  I recently read a play I just needed to write an article about. Smudge.

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Smudge is one of a few plays written by TV writer, Rachel Axler. She’s written for most of my favourite TV shows; Parks and Recreation, Bored To Death and The Daily Show, so I thought I’d give her a shot. I wasn’t disappointed.

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Smudge is Colby and Nicholas’ story of being first time parents. There is a twist though. Their child is a smudge. The play doesn’t go into too much detail about what their little smudge looks like. We know it’s a she. We know that from the smudge emerges a leg that has been mistaken for a penis and a beautiful blue eye. Incidentally what do you say about an ugly person when you are forced to talk about their appearance?

 

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So much is left to the imagination. If you saw this as a play, you’d never see the smudge you’d only see  adults react to the smudge, which is much more terrifying. It seems for a time that this play is going to turn into a psycho baby horror film, which would have been amazing. If some draft like that exists I think I would pay a cat thief to steal it so I could read it.

But really that’s not what the story is about. This is a story about how parents cope with disappointment. Disappointment in children is a topic rarely written about. This is mainly because how unfair it is to a child to have disappointed parents. Nicholas and Colby both approach their disappointment differently.  Nicholas is in denial. He admires his daughter’s beautiful eye and pretends that she isn’t a smudge. But he also won’t let his mother see his daughter and he won’t take any pictures of her. So he doesn’t really fully buy into his own denial. Colby is not in denial she is liberal with the truth and amplifies it to an unbearable level. She calls her daughter “it” for most of the play. If she’s not ignoring the smudge she’s yelling at her. Both Nicholas’ denial and Colby’s wallowing in the truth have negative effects on their mental state.

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As time passes Colby warms up to the smudge and Nicholas comes out of his denial. They agree on what their situation is. They both meet in the middle away from their extremes There is a scene in the play where Nicholas and Colby break off into a fantasy world. In this world, their daughter has two legs, two arms, two eyes, she goes to school, has friends, grows up, goes to college, etc. I think the scene is in there because they are mourning the life they will never have but also I see it myself, that they are naming their enemy. The greatest enemy they will ever have, as parents of a smudge is the idea that there is a “normal” life that they are continuously missing out on.

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In our modern world there are so many ways your children can not fit into the “normal” archetype. If your kids have cerebral palsy, are mentally handicapped, have ADHD, ODD, anxiety, lack of empathy,  or Asperger’s. I imagine that every parent has to go through some aspect of mourning for a perceived normal life that they wanted for their child. But I think that there are some parents that are more equipped to have these “not-normal” children. In my opinion Post-Modernists will fare better than Modernists if their child is a smudge.

There have been a million books written about Modernism and Post-Modernism. Many of those books struggle to define what the differences between the two are.

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There has been no definition for PM or any explanation of the difference between M and PM that has been even near agreed upon. That being said, what I see as the main differences between someone who looks at the world through a M or PM lens is that

  1. Modernists believe that there is a way things SHOULD be. Every specific thing (a newborn child perhaps) fits into that SHOULD BE way of seeing the world. Everyone on thing is part of a greater thing.
  2. Post-Modernists believe that there is NO ONE WAY things SHOULD be. Every specific thing (a newborn child perhaps) is its own thing, defined or interpreted by itself, not by any system or thing outside of it.

I know this is a very simple lacking definition. For more information on Modernism/Post Modernism you could take a University class, buy some big expensive book or go on YouTube. I suggest Unboring Learning and The Unemployed Philosopher.

That being said, I don’t think that Carrie and I are  raising “normal” children, maybe nobody is. It feels like we’re raising Woody Allen and Sacha Baron Cohen.

My Woody Allen has anxiety issues, sometimes he can’t sleep and at 6 years old is already very aware of his mortality. He asks me questions like

“Where was I before I was in Mommy’s Belly?”

“Will we get to be old men together?”

“How come we get to be alive and all the people from before are dead?”

My Sacha Baron Cohen loves to push buttons. He’s a total shit disturber. For instance when he found out his brother was afraid of Pete The Cat he started sneaking the Pete The Cat stuffed animal into his brother’s bed.

So, my sons do not fit into the how children SHOULD BE archetype. Maybe one day a school councilor or family physician will try to convince me to put my kids on pills or go through some sort of program to make them more “normal”. And I hope on that day I’ll remember that there is no way they SHOULD be. I hope I’ll be able to enjoy their uniqueness as much as I do now.

Dustan Hlady
dustan j. hlady is the founder of Middle of Nowhere music and sings and writes songs for his band, Friend Friend. www.middleofnowheremusic.com