I have memories of visiting friends when we were kids. After a day of playing outside, the two families would gather in the rec room, and watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom together. Picture a group of about 10 people contentedly viewing educational programming about the exotic behavior of lions in Africa.
35 years later...
My daughter and I were visiting some friends earlier this week, and we all decided to chill in front of the television after a day of adventure.
Of course, these days there are a lot more programming choices than Wild Kingdom.
America’s Got Talent seemed mutually satisfactory to everyone. We arrived on the channel just in time for a comedian to start his act. About his sex life.
Despite the protests of the ten year old girls, we decided to look for a show that was a bit more “family-oriented.”
That’s how we ended up on the Discovery Channel.
Naked and Afraid was the name of the show.
I’m not sure why, but the title made me picture newborn hairless kittens trying to survive in an old barn.
Yeah. That’s not what it’s about.
The grownups in the room stared with our mouths agape at the large screen t.v. as a naked man and woman foraged in the forest.
If you have not yet experienced this viewing pleasure, picture Survivor, Fear Factor, the story of Adam and Eve from the Bible, and Anthony Weiner’s sexts all rolled into one.
Are you kidding me? Did someone at the network actually pitch this? And someone else said yes? AND THOUSANDS OF OTHER SOMEONE ELSES SAID, “LET’S WATCH THIS!” ?!!!!!!!!
Granted, the vulnerable parts are pixelated. But the dirty bottoms and the thighs of cellulite are perfectly defined. Not the kind of Wild Kingdom I really want to see.
After we cleaned our chins off the floor, we moved on to the next show.
Okay, this should be safe. Family Feud.
“What’s the most sensitive part of your body to get a tattoo?”
“Your foot!” I yell. That was #2.
“Your private parts!” the contestant yelled.
She was right. The #1 most sensitive spot to get a tattoo is your privates according to the survey of 100 people who probably never got a tattoo but could actually visualize people attempting this amazing feat. And just to let you know, “Boobs” was #9, so that further distinguishes which specific privates are being tattooed.
Or, if you want to use Family Feud’s scientific terminology, you can just call it, “Giggle Stick and Hoo-Hoo.”
We decided we didn’t really need to watch t.v.
Picture a group of 5 people – 3 adults stunned into silence while 2 ten year olds roll around on the floor laughing at all of the information they have acquired in the last ten minutes of channel surfing.
I learned a lot, too. America has no talent, no sense of shame or decorum, and plenty of people who can imagine getting tattoos on giggle sticks and hoo-hoos.
We may not be a kingdom, but I think the lions of Africa are a lot more civilized than the people of the United States.
What If I Was Competing in the International Extreme Ironing Tournament? Would That Have Made It Okay?
Quick pop quiz. Your 10-year old daughter qualifies for Nationals in her chosen sport, let’s say Chess Boxing. (Yes, that’s really a sport.) And she has to travel to another state to compete. Do you let her go?
Well, of course. She’s been preparing for this Chess Boxing tournament for three years. Duh.
Oh wait. Second question. Do you go with her, even though there will be four other adults accompanying the team of 6 girl, uh, Chess Boxers?
Are you her father or her mother?
This is important. Think carefully.
I don’t care what you answered. You’re wrong. Especially if you’re her mother. Because whatever mothers do, they are wrong. According to the experts – other mothers.
If you are her mother, for example, and you have an important professional conference to attend that you’ve been trying to get financing for the last 24 months and it happens to overlap the Chess Boxing Extravaganza and your husband volunteers to accompany your daughter so she does not have to travel on her own with 5 other girls and 4 adults, and you can then participate in the conference for which you paid a nonrefundable registration fee, then you are, apparently, someone “who hates kids.”
Now, if you are her father, and you opted to go with your potential Chess Boxing Champion, and are stuck on a trip with 6 girls between the ages of 10 and 12, and four women, for 5 very long days, then it takes you about 5 minutes into the trip to realize you are also very wrong. Fortunately, you are the only one who realizes this fact, and the rest of the population on this planet canonizes you and declares you the “Best, Most Patient Man to Walk the Earth Since Gandhi Passed.” When you get home, there is a ticker-tape parade in your honor and a National Holiday is named after you – “The Man Who Went With His Daughter to Her Competition Because Her Mother Was Too Selfish Day.”
Of course, you could have each made different decisions, resulting in the mother “doing her duty” and resenting that she will not have another opportunity to attend the conference for at least 4 more years, and the father going about his daily life while attempting to console your bulldog, Wonderbutt, for the five days of your absence.
But I guarantee that no one will crown the mom to be “Best, Most Patient Woman to Walk the Earth Since Mother Teresa.”
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is:
A.) Don’t get your daughter involved in Chess Boxing; Giant Pumpkin Kayaking is much safer
2.) I swear I don’t hate kids,
8.) I love my husband, and
5.) Congratulations to the Same-Sex Marriage Proponents in the USA on today’s victories, maybe now we can
D.) Work on Same Expectations for Parents No Matter What Your Gender and
III.) Cutting Moms Some Slack. Or slacks. But don’t make her iron them.
When our daughter, Dimples, was about three, she inexplicably started saying, “the guy” at random moments. Sometimes she would point at her dad, sometimes at baseball caps. We could not figure out what she was trying to tell us.
Then we took her back to SeaWorld for the second time. We sat down at the “Viva” show, which had mesmerized her the first time we went. The show was filled with leaping dolphins, graceful beluga whales, and amazing feats of gymnastics and diving. Despite all of that, it stunned me that she didn’t fidget the entire program. She never clapped or smiled, just watched with wide-eyed wonder.
Determined to repeat that experience, we brought her again about 3 weeks later, carefully arriving about 15 minutes before the beginning of the show so we could be sure to have the same seats as the first time. When you find something that works well with a toddler, you don’t mess with perfection.
We sat down, and suddenly Dimples started saying, “The Guy! The Guy! The Guy!” with great excitement.
And then I saw who she meant. Before the show started, a man entertained the crowd with goofy antics in the audience, pretending to try to “fix” a leak, and splashing water everywhere. He wore a cap. And last time, I had pointed him out to Dimples by saying, “See the guy over there? See what the guy is doing? Isn’t the guy funny?”
From then on, whenever we went to SeaWorld, it was required for us to attend the Viva show to see The Guy.
And if there was a substitute Guy? Dimples was not happy.
This week, Dimples and I went back to the show. It’s been 7 years since “The Guy” appeared in her life. Since then, the show has morphed into a new one, “Azul”, but it’s always had pretty much the same theme.
And it still has “The Guy.” And he still fills a baseball cap with water and puts it on the head of a very surprised member of the audience.
“But it’s a different guy,” Dimples noted with disappointment this week. I felt myself preparing for her inevitable announcement of a Day Ruined. But it didn’t come.
Because now we go to the show to see someone else. Now, Dimples is a synchronized swimmer, and her coach is performing in the Viva show. Now, Dimples is on her way to the Nationals, and her mind is on holding her breath, standing during her lift, and pointing her toes. Now, she is noticing technique and stamina, not the silly man who does pratfalls into the water.
Will I sit in that stadium seven more years from now and be watching Dimples performing with the dolphins?
I don’t know. But I will always associate that open-air theater with a little girl watching her idol with bright eyes of adoration.
And my frantic mental telepathic warnings to The Guy that he Better. Not Come. Anywhere Near Me. With that Cap Full of Water.
Yesterday I had to fend off a wild beast with an artificial vagina.
Okay, the beast was not so wild. But she was extremely forward. Apparently, the father of my daughter’s swim coach feeds her from his hand, so she expects the same treatment from anyone else who visits the back yard. Her name is Rhonda.
Oh, and, as you probably suspected, I did not use an artificial vagina. I used my cell phone. And I didn’t really beat her with it. She backed off when she realized it wasn’t food.
These are the kinds of adventures I have in suburban San Antonio.
They aren’t very newsworthy, I’m afraid.
James Herriot, on the other hand, the British country vet who wrote a series of books about his life, really did, apparently, get to repel an angry bull by beating it on the face with an artificial vagina. The bull, not surprisingly, was a bit upset at this man who kept interfering with things each time he tried to “service” a cow.
Comedy gold. This kind of thing never happens to me.
Instead, I find myself in the enviable position of reading the chapter about it out loud to my 10 year old daughter, and explaining the concept of artificial insemination to her. Because I:
a.) have absolutely no memory of reading that particular chapter when I read the book at her age – or even when I read it again a few years ago
2.) am too lazy to read ahead to see if this might be a chapter best skipped
III.) have not enough imagination to “wing it” and make something completely different up when encountered with the sentence, “All you did was wait till the bull started to mount, then you directed the protruded penis into the A.V.”
Quatro.) was so relieved that this chapter did not include the death of any animals that I figured I might as well keep on going.
For her part, my daughter seemed to take the entire thing completely in stride as she folded her clothes while I was reading – although we both lost it completely when the bull slipped during his millionth attempt to mount the cow and avoid the vet trying to grab his penis, and “slid clean under the cow.”
I thought that I had no use for an artificial vagina. Actually, I never thought about an artificial vagina, period. But now that I have seen its potential, I am thinking of looking for one on eBay.
I think it could come in useful as a conversation starter. Plus, our houseguests could use it to fight off our bulldog, Wonderbutt, when he tries to hump their legs.
I’m going to get a story out of this somehow.
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”.
You know how you try to save yourself money on a gift, but you tell yourself that it would be more meaningful to make something than buy something and then you proceed to spend more money than you ever would have spent on a store-bought gift as you attempt to make something that turns out crappy and you try to fix it and it turns out crappier and then you think, “Who needs friends who are going to criticize your gifts anway? I’m just going to sit at home and watch The Big Bang Theory by myself for the rest of my life,” and you can’t even find a garbage bag big enough to fit the Giant Pinterest-Inspired Disaster that cost you $200?
So, it’s the end of the school year. Teacher gift time. Only this year is my daughter’s last year in elementary school, so she has decided to bestow 9 gifts upon the various people who have enriched her life. And, reeling from a Pinterest induced stupor, I suggested a project.
I spent my entire Sunday trying to find the supplies for this project, which included chalkboard contact paper.
There was no chalkboard contact paper to be found. I went to 5 stores.
I would like to take this opportunity to give Home Depot, Walmart, Michael’s, and Target the following advice – if you stocked your stores based on Pinterest boards you would make so much more money. And your employees would not look at me like I’m on crack when I ask for chalkboard contact paper.
The only reason I didn’t go to 6 stores is because Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays. So, I improvised. It turns out that my craft improvisations are just as successful as my recipe ad-libs.
I directed my daughter to use her chalk on the black shelf paper I had purchased. It looked great. Only problem? It smeared like crazy.
“Oh, I know what to do about this,” I said, and went to the bathroom.
To get hairspray.
I sprayed the hairspray on a swathe of chalk designs. They faded into black.
I tried 3 different hairsprays. My daughter was getting a bit panicked as I systematically set about destroying her nine masterpieces.
“Okay, that’s not working.”
The next day, I borrowed some super fancy spray for chalk drawings from the art teacher.
“You’re not going to spray that in the house?” Cap’n Firepants asked.
“I’m just checking to see if it works,” I said as I asphyxiated the two of us.
I told the art teacher, who then recommended chalk markers, which will apparently not smear, but can be removed easily with water. ( I didn’t really pay attention to the water removal option, as I figured, why would anyone want to remove my daughter’s beautiful artwork?)
“Where can I find this miraculous product?”
“Oh, Hobby Lobby should have it.”
So, Dimples and I trekked to Hobby Lobby. Which was open. Because it was not Sunday. We found the chalk markers. Right next to the chalkboard contact paper.
Dimples did not want to re-cover every notebook with chalkboard contact paper, so we opted for the markers. But I bought the paper anyway. For the inevitable next time I will need it. I also threw in some chalkboard paint. You can never have too many chalkboarding options.
She redecorated every notebook using the markers.
She put them on the floor to dry.
I think you can see from the pictures what happened next.
Poor Wonderbutt had no idea why I blew a gasket when all he was doing was chewing on his ball.
But I don’t blame Wonderbutt. I blame Hobby Lobby. FOR NOT BEING OPEN ON A SUNDAY WHICH IS THE ONLY DAY THAT I HAVE TIME TO DO PROJECTS THAT I FOUND AT THE LAST MINUTE ON PINTEREST.
I’m going to buy gift cards tomorrow.
And they won’t be for Hobby Lobby.
Your Summer Challenge: To Figure Out How to Inflict Mind-Numbing Boredom Without Getting Caught in the Cross-Fire
My latest project has been to try and figure out how to make my daughter’s summer miserable. You have to do this, you know, so it makes life easier in the fall when it’s time to go back to school. If you’ve planned the summer right, your child will be begging you to take her shopping for school supplies by the end of June. In July, she will spontaneously volunteer to write a report on every country in the world, alphabetically. And when the postcard announcing “Meet the Teacher Night” arrives in the mail in August, she will exclaim, “Finally! Thank God! If you don’t drive me there right now, I’m going to start walking.”
Or, so I’ve heard. So far, I have never been able to achieve this Summer Nirvana. As an adult. As a child, I hit these milestones annually. So, I’ve been racking my brain to figure out what my mother did right and I’m doing wrong.
I remember the one summer that she decided I was going to summarize every book I read on little index cards and put them in a file. I don’t remember the purpose she expressed for this assignment, but in my head I heard, “Since you like to read so much, I thought I would completely stifle your love of books by requiring you to write something every time you finish one.” Maybe she was trying to make sure I was eager for school to start again – or maybe she was tired of filling her trunk with books every time we went to the library. Most likely, she was tired of looking for the books that we had filled the trunk with 2 weeks before whenever it was time to return to the library.
By the end of the summer, I hadn’t completed any books – just started 103 and read until the 2nd to last chapter. In my spare time, I participated in a weekly scavenger hunt for lost books, and started my own school in the basement for stuffed animals. One of the subjects I taught my extremely well-behaved class was Handwriting, which obligated me to pretend to write in 15 various styles every day so I could “grade” their writing. The irony is not lost on me that I filled about 1500 pages with the writing of my stuffed animals while simultaneously avoiding to set a pen down to the index cards that remained blank for 2.5 months.
Now that I’m a mom, I’ve tried to carry on the tradition of mind-numbingly boring summers for my own daughter, but I seem to be failing in this area. I call our summers, “Mom Camp”, and the provided activities have consisted of: Closet Cleaning, Drawer Depuration, Find Something to Do Besides Playing on your iPod or Watching T.V., and For God’s Sake, Run Around in the Backyard with the Dog Because You’re Both Driving Me Crazy (I Don’t Care if It’s a Hundred Degrees and There are Giant Mosquitoes Out There).
But every August, my daughter becomes increasingly depressed as the first day of school approaches.
Obviously, I need to change the program of “Mom Camp”. The challenge is to do this without ruining my summer. I mean, I think we can all predict the response to me saying, “Here’s some index cards. Every time you play an app during the next 8 weeks, you need to summarize it in complete sentences. Oh, and teach your Build-a-Bear how to write, for crying out loud. That thank-you card he sent me for the blue tropical swim trunks looks like chicken scratch.”
Of course, making her increasingly question my sanity could be my new strategy…
I was reading the Sunday paper and came across this quote in an article about the recent spate of parenting books written by inept moms, “There wasn’t this acceptance about being this sort of less-than-perfect mother, but all of a sudden it feels like that is becoming the norm, rather than the exception.” This was spoken by Jill Smokler of scarymommy.com.
Well, that explains what I’ve been doing wrong. I need to stop talking about what I’m doing wrong, and start talking about what I’m doing right because there are far too many other people who are talking about what they are doing wrong, and they are doing it far better than I am. The wrong, I mean. Well, and the talking.
So, from now on I pledge to stand out from the pack and tell you all of the things that I am doing right as a mom. Starting today.
1.) My daughter has eaten hamburgers three days in a row.
Why is this right? Well, I am so glad you asked. Even though I would think it should be obvious. It’s right because my daughter has eaten three days in a row. Duh. Plus, she loves lettuce and cheese on her hamburger. So, there you have it – all 10 food groups in one meal. Three times. Two more and I will have Food Bingo.
2.) I bought my daughter a dress for her 5th grade graduation while we were shopping for clothes for me on Mother’s Day.
Why is this right? This is another no-brainer. We made one trip to the mall, and now I don’t have to make another trip to the mall until August. Possibly even September if I can find a post on Pinterest on how to transform a yellow lacy dress into a backpack.
3.) Oh. My. God. That is the best idea. Ever. I am going to quit my job and support my daughter by making Graduation Dress Backpacks.
Why is this right? Because my daughter will see how important it is to pursue your passion in life instead of saving up for retirement.
And then, she will be happy to support me in my twilight years (although I may have to explain that this is a different kind of “Twilight”) as she pursues her lifelong passion to teach bulldogs synchronized swimming.
And then we will bond even more.
I discovered today that I apparently missed my calling as an interrogator.
I had a bit of a mystery in my classroom as someone had played around with the settings on one of our laptop computers. Considering I teach 6 grade levels a week, two other classes had borrowed the laptops in the past few days, and I host the Robotics Club in my room, I was pretty certain I was not going to discover the culprit out of a pool of over 100 suspects. So, I figured I would just lecture everyone, beginning with today’s 5th graders.
“So, apparently someone changed the name of one of the desktop icons, which one of my 4th graders discovered yesterday.”
The students started looking around at each other.
“It was Evan!” two of the kids said in stereo before I could say one more word. I couldn’t believe how quickly I had gotten them to rat someone out.
“What?” Evan is in Robotics club.
“Yeah, a few weeks ago he messed with the desktop but we changed it back.”
“Well, that’s not it, then. But I will definitely be talking to him. This was something that happened recently because it was noticed yesterday.”
“It was Harry!” someone yelled. Three other people nodded and murmured, “Yeah, I saw him do it.”
I looked at Harry, who seemed completely bewildered by this sudden onslaught of accusations.
“No, he changed the names of some files, but I changed it back,” another student defended (?) him.
“Harry, you and I are going to talk in a minute,” I said sternly. “Now, back to what happened yesterday. Someone changed the Internet Explorer icon to say something different. I’m sure you were just being silly, but you guys could get me in a lot of trouble by doing things like that. If people don’t think I’m supervising you enough they could take away the technology, and wouldn’t that be sad?” Encouraged by the seeming willingness on the part of my class to throw people under the bus, I laid it on thick.
They all nodded that this would, indeed, be sad.
“What did they change it to?” someone asked.
I shifted uncomfortably.
“Purple Mustache,” I said, and waited for the laughter.
Slowly, a hand came up. A quiet voice said, “I did it.”
It was my daughter.
“You did?!!!” I said – along with 15 other people. My daughter has gotten one conduct mark during her 5 years of elementary school. The only one I suspected less of changing the icon to “Purple Mustache” is my dog, Wonderbutt. And that’s only because he didn’t have access to the computer.
Crap, I thought.
“Well, you and I are going to have a serious talk at home tonight, young lady,” I said. Even though I wasn’t sure about what.
I had no idea that I had this kind of confessional power. Apparently I somehow mastered the technique of the Guilt Trip without even knowing it.
Now, if I could just master the technique of the Don’t Even Think About It Trip, maybe her teen years won’t be so bad after all.
There is nothing like a weekend spent out of town with my 10-year-old daughter at a synchronized swimming tournament to re-affirm my complete ineptitude as a mother.
Once again, I was faced with the fact that I am unable to do the following: brush my daughter’s hair, put it in a ponytail, make a bun, mix Knox gelatin with warm water to the right consistency, paint the Knox gelatin on my daughter’s hair without burning her scalp, attach a headpiece to the plasticized hair without skewering her with a bobby pin, apply garish eye makeup, make the judges give her first place in everything, be the cool mom that lets her stay up late with her friends the night before she has to be at the pool at 7 a.m., bring her parka to keep her warm despite the fact that she told me in no uncertain terms that she would not need it, take pictures that don’t look like I was having an epileptic seizure that lasted the entire 48 hours.
I am not Swim Mom. I am Teach Her How to Program a Robot Mom. I am Sure, I’ll Ice Skate with you Since Your Friends Won’t Leave the Wall Mom. I am Let’s Ride the Roller Coaster and Get Scared Out of Our Wits Again Mom. I am Thank God You’re Finally Old Enough to go Ziplining with Me Mom.
And I thought that was enough. But a weekend spent confronting my own shortcomings in the Swim Mom department was a bit defeating. Particularly as I listened to my daughter’s pained yelps every time I attempted to do anything that might involve her scalp.
By the time we returned to school on Monday, I was feeling like one of the most incompetent mothers in history, rivaled only by the leathery mom who gave her daughter a sunburn in the tanning bed.
I halfheartedly invited Dimples to assist me in a “practice eye dissection” after school, and she agreed, “because then I don’t have to go to after-school care.” She hates after-school care. Another failing on my part.
When I pulled the sheep eyeballs out of the jar, the other adult assisting me had to “take a moment” before we started cutting in. But Dimples surprisingly seemed untroubled by holding a detached organ in her gloved hands. She approached the task of slicing the eye with great gusto that, quite frankly, had me a bit concerned about her own detachment.
Her favorite part was the inside section called “the vitreous humor”, and she plopped it up and down zealously, fascinated with the consistency. I had a vague impression that I had seen this substance before, and finally realized where – it looked exactly like the unflavored, dissolved Knox gelatin that had been painted on her hair all weekend.
“Gross, Mom,” she groaned when I pointed this out. But she grinned.
And I thought, “How many other daughters get to hang out with their own mother dissecting a sheep eyeball?”
You may bond with your daughter by teaching her the art of the perfect ponytail, but my daughter and I will always have our successful hunt for the optic nerve that brought us closer together.