One of the many attributes that my daughter inherited from me was a love of reading. This can be good, but also has a bad side. We get addicted to books. We wallow in them. As a result, we both have the horrible habit of reading during meals. Since my husband is not a big reader, and it seems a bit rude to completely ignore him the few times a week he is able to join us for a meal, I established the “3-Person Rule.” When there are 3 or more people at the table, no one can be reading.
According to my daughter, this is the equivalent of being banished to Guantanomo. At least 3 times a week, it’s only the two of us at the table because I have to feed her before one of her extra-curricular events and my husband is not home, yet. So, she is happy. And I am happy. Because the book takes her mind off my bad cooking. And I get to read, too.
But when we have “family dinners”, she reads until I, the last one, finally sit down at the table, then glares at me, sighs dramatically, and pushes the book to the side.
That’s when it gets fun.
One of the many attributes that my daughter inherited from my husband was an aversion to small talk.
So, we sit in silence, the three of us, until my daughter says to me, “Don’t you have any stories to tell?” Not because she wants to hear them, but because she is bored. And she refuses to reveal anything about her personal life. And my husband just doesn’t really want to talk. So, it’s all on me – the woman forcing my family to socialize with each other.
And then I rack my brain for a story that I haven’t told a million times that’s appropriate to talk about at the dinner table.
My supply is being quickly depleted.
Today, I couldn’t think of anything. But, right when I ate my last bite (being a teacher who usually has 20 min. to eat, I’m always the first to finish), I remembered something. I regaled them with a true story from a book that I was reading. It involved someone who had been treated terribly as a child by his parents. Not exactly great table talk. But it was all I had.
“So, you see? You are so fortunate to have great parents like us!” I observed.
Without missing a beat, Dimples looked pointedly at my empty plate and said, in her best exasperated tone, “Who won’t leave the table even though they are done eating!”
Ah, the mistreatment that poor child has to endure.
Twenty years from now, she will show up for an appointment with some unsuspecting therapist who will be subjected to an hour of unrelenting anguished tales about the parents who abused her by forcing her to put down her book at the dinner table.
Oh, wait a second. No he won’t.
Because she’ll be too busy reading a book.
What does it mean if you promise yourself to blog regularly to hone your writing skills, and then you skip the writing part of the process? It means Wonderbutt kindly presented some blurry photos right when your week hit its busy peak…
Then Dimples tried to put a Halloween headband on him, and that was the end of Wonderbutt pretending to be helpful.
It became quite clear while we were on vacation that my child has led ten years of a very deprived life. Evidently, this is an ideal child-rearing strategy because it truly makes kids appreciate the simple things.
Chasing fireflies and a light-up frisbee in the dark, playing tetherball at the beach, and taking a satisfying nap in the rental car during a two-hour drive all completely delighted Dimples.
But nothing compared to the ultimate entertainment – the Whirlpool tub in the master bedroom of our condo.
Dimples is not deterred by the fact that this huge tub is in the master bathroom, which is connected to the master bedroom, which is not the bedroom in which she sleeps. Because she is not the master. This makes no difference to her because, by her estimation, these tubs are designed especially for her, and it is her intent to monopolize all use of the tub for the duration of our visit. Any plans that I may have of relaxing with a book and a glass of wine quickly take a back seat to Dimples’ tub schedule.
Just to give you an idea of her complete enjoyment of this amenity, here is a video I took on our last night there. I was standing outside the bathroom door as she reveled in her final bath. So, the video is of the door. So, really, it’s the audio that might be interesting. But there is a picture at the end. Because, despite all evidence to the contrary, I don’t believe in complete sensory deprivation.
My school year began and ended with a wooden spoon.
At our first faculty meeting, we each received a wooden spoon. We were directed to think of someone we admired, and a trait that person exhibited that we treasure. On the front of the spoon, we wrote the trait. On the back we dedicated it to the person. Then, we were told to secretly put the spoon in the box of a faculty member who also appeared to exemplify that special quality. The spoons were supposed to be passed on throughout the year.
You can read about the hilariously ironic spoons I received here. I’m new to the faculty this year, so it’s quite obvious that no one really knows me very well.
Yesterday, the end of our school year, we got back our original spoons. To be honest, I had completely forgotten what I had written on mine.
Aside from receiving a spoon, yesterday was also notable because my daughter finished elementary school. To celebrate this distinguished occasion, I gave her a book, signed by all of her teachers, called, Heroes for my Daughter.
Last night, I told her that each night that I read to her, I also wanted to read one of the chapters from the book.
“Choose which one you want for tonight,” I said.
She skimmed through the notable names: Eleanor Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Gandhi, Lincoln, etc…. She suddenly erupted into what I affectionately call her “Beavis and Butthead” laugh.
“Guess who I picked?” she said.
“Dolly Parton?” I asked, knowing that she was well aware that I’m not a huge fan of Dolly Parton and it would be perfectly in character for my daughter to choose my least favorite person on this list.
“Nope.” She displayed the chapter for me.
“The Three Stooges,” it was titled.
I laughed. Then I remembered my wooden spoon.
“Hold on,” I said. I came back with the spoon, and explained its origin.
“Guess who it’s dedicated to?” I asked.
“The Three Stooges?”
I showed her. “Dedicated to my daughter,” I had written.
“And guess what trait I admire?” I turned it over.
And so we read about the Three Stooges, and their use of humor to bring attention to the atrocities of Hitler in their film, “You Nazty Spy!” two years before the United States decided to get involved in World War II.
That’s how I ended my first and only year teaching at the school my daughter attended – a year fraught with my struggles with depression, but frequently illuminated by outbursts of laughter, particularly during the times I got to spend with Dimples, my 10 year old hacker with the “Purple Mustache” who thinks it’s perfectly logical to name a female chihuahua “Steve”.
My daughter will be going to middle school (6th-8th grades) for the first time next year. In our area, there are several options for middle schools. We could sell our kidneys, and send her to one of the private schools, or send her to one of three middle schools which are free. One of them is our “home” school, and the other two are magnet schools to which she would need to apply.
I’ve broached the topic of the magnet schools with Dimples several times. Her response has always been that she wants to go to the same school as her friends. When I point out that the magnet schools specialize in topics that interest her, and that she is always complaining that school is boring, she re-asserts the vital necessity of attending the same school as her friends. When I told her the heart-breaking story about a boy who begged his mother to send him to one of the private schools where he could have a more challenging curriculum, promising to give up Christmas gifts until he was 18… guess what? Yeah, blah blah blah friends.
I worried that maybe I had somehow instilled in Dimples too deep a value of friendship, that by my own comments over the years I had given it a higher priority than things like academic achievement – or doing what your mother says is good for you.
The other day, the magnet schools presented to Dimples’ 5th grade class. Later in the day, I talked to one of the 5th grade teachers, and confided Dimples’ deep desire to remain with her friends.
“Oh, you know what the magnet school guy said to the kids about that?” she said. “Ask your parents how many of their middle school friends they actually still keep in touch with.”
“Oh, that’s great!” I said. I don’t even keep up with my high school friends, so I could use that ploy again in 3 more years!
That afternoon, I prepared myself for the magnet school conversation, armed with Mr. Presenter’s clever rejoinder. I asked Dimples if she had enjoyed the presentation.
“Oh, it was great!” she said. “But I could never go there.”
“Why?” I innocently prodded, ready for my cue.
“Because they wear uniforms, Mom, and they are so not fashionable. They have to wear khaki pants with yellow shirts! Yellow and khaki, can you believe it?”
And, for that I had no answer. Because I certainly can’t torture my daughter by forcing her to wear unfashionable clothes.
At least now I know that she has her priorities straight.
If the four sisters in Little Women suddenly received a telegram announcing that they were really witches with secret powers, and their father needed their help fighting zombies in the Civil War, my daughter might have been a bit more interested when I proposed reading the book to her. As it was, though, she looked at me quite doubtfully when I told her that one of my favorite childhood classics is about “four sweet girls who lived a long time ago – before Facebook”.
As I pointed out, however, she had chosen the last couple of bedtime books, and it was my turn. “Just give it a try,” I said. “If you don’t like it after the first three chapters, we can pick something else.”
So, she settled in, and listened to this completely unbelievable tale of girls who endlessly lose or soil the gloves that they must wear to parties, and who think of pickled limes as the ultimate luxury.
As I read, I began to yearn, as I always do, for simpler times – times when receiving a pair of slippers at Christmas as one’s only gift was cause for great exuberance, and youngsters spent afternoons innocently picnicking and playing games like “Authors” instead of sexting each other or congregating at the shopping mall.
Last night, we read the chapter in Little Women called “Castles in the Air”, wherein each of the characters describes her dreams for the future. At the end, I closed the book, and asked Dimples about her castle in the air. As is usually the case when I ask such illogically sentimental questions of my 9-going-on-10 daughter, she just shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
“What do you think mine is?” I asked, wondering if she was perceptive enough to realize that, like Jo, I have always wanted to be a published author, and probably wouldn’t mind being rich and famous to boot – with a castle on the beach instead of in the clouds.
“Here.” She waved around the room. “With me.”
In an instant, a wave swallowed my beach castle, and I said, “You’re right! As long as I’m with you, I am in my castle.”
“And you’ll always be in mine,” she replied, giving me an unexpected hug and nearly reducing me to tears.
“Christopher Columbus!” I thought, still in Jo March mode. “This book is actually rubbing off on her!”
Of course, once we get to the part where sweet little Beth dies, she’s going to kick me out of the castle and never let me choose a book again, so I guess I better draw this out as long as I can.
Dimples may be somewhat unsentimental, but she only tolerates novels in which the villains meet untimely deaths.
Me: Hey, do you mind when I come over and say hi to you when I see you at school? I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends, or anything. I mean, I know you’re in 5th grade and the whole friend thing is important.
Dimples: I don’t mind. I kind of like showing you off.
Well, that kind of made my day. Being brand new to this whole “teaching at my daughter’s school” thing has made me a bit wary of violating her space – particularly when she races ahead of me into the school in the mornings instead of walking by my side. Her excuse, “My tennis shoes are so light that I just have to run.” My interpretation, “I can’t be seen hanging around my mommy.”
She doubled the whammy by informing me the next day with a proud grin on her face, “My teacher says that I look like you.”
That almost erased the comment from a Kindergartner I’d received earlier that day when he looked at my photo badge. “You were younger when you took that picture, weren’t you?” And his next question, after examining it more carefully, “How much younger?”
I tried to console myself that everyone is younger in their pictures – even if they were just taken 5 seconds ago – but it took the ego boosts from Dimples to turn my day back around.
Before the next Kindergartner slays me with another brutally honest comment (thank goodness none of them witnessed my wardrobe malfunction on the first day), I’ve decided it’s time to do another roundup of Awards-Recently-Added-to-My-Awards-Shelf just to let everyone know that some people seem to appreciate the not-so-young Mrs. Cap’n Firepants.
Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award from She Can’t Be Serious
Reader’s Appreciation Award (hand-drawn!!!!) from Miranda Gargasz at Scattering Moments
Strong Person Award from Aja at Writing and Recovering
I Loves my Bloggie Furriends Award from Chancy and Mumsy
The Sensual Blogger Award from Anon Con at Consciously Anonymous
The only ones that I still need to pass on are the Sensual Blogger Award and the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Since I am passive aggressive, in addition to all of my other admirable traits, and never really follow the rules of Blog Awards, and there are too many female bloggers that I LOVE to choose from, I’ve decided to pass these both on to A MAN!!!!!! Yes, Guapola, you’ve been tapped as a Sensual Member of the Sisterhood. Here is your award, and I hope you do a little dance and Show ’em Off!!!!!
I’ve come to the conclusion that being the Best Parent in the World is all a matter of timing – and media coverage.
Sure, these parents who built a roller coaster for their kids in the backyard are being touted as the epitome of great parents. But when this PVC pipe construction one day collapses just as the kid reaches the peak and the poor child comes crashing down, whose door do you think Child Protective Services will be knocking on?
Even more likely, how long will this kid be enamored with his new toy before he demands something bigger and better? How many times will it take before he develops a tolerance for that roller coaster rush, and the whole experience becomes a yawning bore?
Who will he cite during his adult therapy sessions for his insatiable quest to get involved in an endless number of life-threatening activities, causing his wife to leave him for the boring, but stable accountant that lives next door?
Best Parent in the World is a temporary title that lasts as long as a kid is happy. And no kid is happy forever. In fact, they are rarely happy for longer than 47 minutes, according to my experienced calculations.
The good news is that it works the other way too. When my daughter tells me that I’m the Worst Parent in the World. Ever. Since Time Began – well, she hasn’t actually called me that out loud, just glowered it pretty effectively, like today when I said that I was not buying her any more tops for school and she decided to abandon her locked iPad (yes, thanks to the former Best Parent in the World, she has my old iPad) in the room I was in, loudly playing Justin Bieber as punishment – I console myself that someone else will earn that honor fairly soon. And, more than likely, their shame will be posted on YouTube.
My Best Parent in the World moments will never be filmed, and may never even be appropriately acknowledged by Dimples. But all I have to do is flip through some reality T.V. on the remote, and I am quite happy to leave the fame and fortune to the moms on Toddlers and Tiaras or to Kris and Bruce on The Kardashians.
I’m fine with not being the Best Parent in the World. My greatest wish is that some day my daughter will build a roller coaster for me in the backyard.
Actually, I’d be fine if she just comes around to sit in my backyard with me every once in awhile.
And, if she doesn’t marry Justin Bieber.
So, what was on your school supply list when you were a kid? Pencils, notebooks, the usual, right? Yeah, me too.
I went to Catholic school, so getting clothes was a minor stage of the whole Back-to-School Shopping Blitz. Because we had uniforms, the school supplies were where we could really show our personalities off. But, the nuns got wise to this pretty quickly. Our list of things we could NOT buy for school soon surpassed the quantity of things we were required to buy.
Erasermate Pens were one such item. We weren’t allowed to write in pen. But that was because you couldn’t erase it. So, what was the rationale, I wonder, for banning the brand new invention of pens with erasable ink? I’m pretty sure the Sistahs are the reason that remarkable innovation isn’t in the drawers of every office desk today.
Another way to get yourself detention at my school was to walk in with a Trapper Keeper. Those amazing organizational tools were the bane of every teaching nun’s existence. The Party Line was that the bulk of the darn things pretty much made it impossible for them to co-exist in the same desk as our massive textbooks. But I think that Sister Mary Quite Contrary was more fearful of the far too many sinfully secular designs that appeared on the covers and each interchangeable piece.
It killed me not to get a Trapper Keeper. Every year, I would wistfully pull one out of the display case, showing my mother The Dukes of Hazzard or the less controversial horse racing through a green field, and begging her to buy me one – pretending to be completely oblivious to the Trapper Keeper Commandment.
Now, it’s 2012. My daughter is 9. She goes to public school. We have spent 3 exhausting days looking for clothes and mandatory school supplies. And even though she has a lot more freedom to make a statement with both her fashion and her various notebooks and writing utensils, she does not feel that is enough.
We have gone to three different stores looking for the perfect nail polish color for the first day of school. Yesterday, I spent an hour in Sephora as she painted each nail on her hands a different color. Oh, she knew which one she wanted by the fourth, but she needed to finish up the job once started, apparently.
Erasermate should invent some erasable nail polish pens. Now, there’s a bestseller.
God, I wish there had been a Sephora around when I was a kid. Those nuns would have had a lot less time to worry about Trapper Keepers…
Anyway, why, you may ask, did I allow my child to spend an hour decorating her digits, and to buy a $10 bottle of nail polish when that is not on any school supply list and she is not starring on a reality show?
Because, even now, 35 years later, I still have a little bit of Catholic School rebel in me.
And, even now, 35 years later, you still can’t bring Trapper Keepers to school.