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.
Well, it’s sex education time again in the Firepants household. This year, our daughter, Dimples, gets to keep us involved by asking us questions each night for homework. I dutifully answered last night’s questions, so I assigned her dad, Cap’n Firepants this evening’s responses. They were fairly innocuous questions, (“What do you remember about the friends you had when you were my age?”) so I felt like it was a fair request. While Dimples was interviewing him, I took a peek at the ones for tomorrow night, knowing the responsibility would fall back onto my shoulders. The theme for tomorrow seems to have something to do with self-confidence, asking questions like, “How did you feel about yourself when you were my age?” I think I can handle that.
Then I saw the ones for Friday night. Haha, Cap’n Firepants. You’re in for a treat…
“What do you know about sexually transmitted diseases?” I asked Cap’n Firepants right about the time he was feeling like he’d dodged a bullet with tonight’s interrogation.
“Nothing,” he said quickly. The teacher in me was about to reprimand him for lack of elaboration. Then I thought about it. What, exactly, is the right way to answer that question when asked by your 10 year old daughter? Is it better to claim ignorance than to risk implying that we know a bit too much? If I pass the buck to Cap’n Firepants, is he going to shame our family forever by saying too little or way too much? NOBODY WARNED ME THAT I WOULD STILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS INFORMATION 30 YEARS AFTER I TOOK THE CLASS.
Can someone do me a solid and slip me the crib notes?
Among the many valuable skills that I have for which I cannot seem to find someone to pay me, I have the ability to create and maintain websites. One of the websites I update is for a local children’s sports team. Included in this site is an embedded Google calendar to which the various coaches can add information about practice from their own Google calendars.
I was double-checking the calendar’s upcoming events the other day to make sure I had put them all in, when I came across an unexpected entry. See if you can find it in the realistic reproduction I have posted below:
Friday, September 27, No practice
Monday, September 30, 7-9 15 & Up practice
Tuesday, October 1, 6:30-8:30 12-14 practice
Wednesday, October 2, Birth Control
Thursday, October 3, 7-9 15 & Up practice
Did you spot it? Fortunately I spotted it and quickly removed it – hopefully before anyone else noticed. Apparently, one of our coaches decided to share a bit too much on the team calendar.
Either that, or she was making a statement about how much she enjoys working with children…
“And don’t tell anyone I’m in the bathroom,” I told my ten year old daughter. This was part of the litany of admonishments about things to not do while she is texting, Facetiming, or (god-forbid) actually answering the ancient phone sitting on our kitchen counter.
“Just tell them I’m busy,” I reminded her. Even though everyone my age knows that’s a euphemism for “she’s in the bathroom,” I was determined to pass on that specific phrase since I had learned it the hard way when I answered the phone as a child and was a bit too honest about the whereabouts of my own mother.
Not that anyone she speaks to even cares what I am doing.
So, the phone rang yesterday. I was (shocker, I know) cooking, so Dimples ran to answer.
“Hello?” Pause. “Hello-o-o?” A bit more insistent this time.
Telemarketer, I thought.
“Speaking,” Dimples said, a bit forcefully.
Why would a telemarketer be calling her? Or was Dimples just pretending to be me?
She listened for a moment.
Then she hung up.
“Um. Did they ask for you?” I asked.
“Okay. Did they ask for me?”
“No. They didn’t say anything.”
“Then, why did you say, ‘Speaking’?”
“Well, that’s what I always hear you say,” she said, shrugging.
After I stopped laughing, I explained that I only said that when someone asked for me by name – not as some kind of angry rebuke to the person on the other end of the phone for not bothering to respond when I answered.
“This is going on your blog, isn’t it?” she asked, as I continued to smile at the thought of her listening to my end of the conversation all of the years, and assuming I had to deal with stubborn silence every time I answered the phone.
“Only if you say it’s okay,” I grinned.
And she did.
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.
I’ve often said that Wonderbutt is a literary dog. He tends to eat books rather than read them, however. Lately, though, he has shown great interest in attending my reading sessions in my daughter’s bedroom in the evening. This started while we were reading the James Herriot book, so I thought he just enjoyed animal stories. But, we’ve since moved on to an adventurous fantasy novel, and he continues to join us each time. (When I say, “join”, I mean that he leaps up out of a deep stupor whenever I head toward her room, and races me to the usual spot by the beanbag where he then collapses by my side as soon as I begin to read.) I would feel honored by his eagerness to participate – if he didn’t start snoring and passing gas in the middle of my orations.
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.
If you ever wonder what I do when I’m not blogging, this is my secret – I am wasting my valuable time arguing with my 10-year-old daughter.
“You need to get a flu shot this year.”
“Because you got the flu last year.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did! I can’t believe you don’t remember that. You missed school for almost a week.”
She got the flu shot. Only because I made her father do it, too. He didn’t remember having the flu last year, either.
One month later:
“I think we can skip the electives fair tomorrow since you already know what you want to take.”
“Awww. But I want to go.”
“But it’s a waste of time.”
“No it’s not.”
She got sick that day, and couldn’t go anyway.
“You have your scoliosis screening tomorrow, so don’t forget to wear a halter.”
“No, I don’t. It was today.” (when she was home sick)
“No. It says on my calendar it’s tomorrow.”
“No. I’m positive it was today.”
I find the website for her school’s calendar.
“See. It says it’s tomorrow.”
“Well they told us today.”
She was sick for the scoliosis screening.
It turned out it was the flu. She missed school the rest of the week.
Thursday night, still sick, she came into the living room at 10:15 p.m., where I was watching The Daily Show with Wonderbutt. (I mean that I was watching the show with our bulldog, Wonderbutt, not a show called The Daily Show with Wonderbutt, though that might be a good title for a show. And, I don’t mean that Wonderbutt was actually watching the show. He was just snoring and passing gas on my lap while I tried to make out the screen through his toxic haze.)
“What’s up?” I ask.
Mumble, mumble, mumble.
“I can’t hear you,” I say.
Mumble, mumble, mumble.
I mute the T.V.
“I still didn’t hear you. What do you need?”
Mumble, mumble, mumble.
I get up, and approach her.
“Oh, never mind!!!!!” She turns to leave.
“No, what? What did you want?”
“Um, what kind of cards?”
“Geez, just cards!!!!”
“Like thank you cards?”
At this point, I realized that she must be asleep.
“I think you should go back to bed,” I said.
She whirled around and ran back to her bed. I followed her back, and she was curled up and asleep before I even entered her room.
The next day, of course, she remembered nothing about the incident.
“What did I say?” she asked.
“”You said, ‘I need to buy a card that says my mother is always right and I should never argue with her again.'”
I have now calculated that all of the time that I spent on arguing with her about the flu shot and the events of this week adds up to the number of years that she has been alive. Years that I could have used to invent a time machine that would take me back to the day she was born and told my idealistic self that it is absolutely pointless to ever quarrel with your 10-year-old daughter.
Of course, I probably would have argued with myself about that.
When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not. ~ Mark Twain
It’s picture day tomorrow. Dimples is 10. This is her last year in elementary school. Her last class picture with less than 200 people in it. I get it. I should buy the picture. However, she brought home four order forms.
“For clubs. We have to do a separate order form for each club.”
There are four clubs taking pictures. Dimples is in three of them, in case you have not done the math.
Each picture costs approximately $500.
Just kidding. But, they are relatively expensive. Especially for someone who just had to pay to recover data from her not-dead-yet hard drive.
“So, I’m just wondering. Do you know where last year’s class picture is?” I asked.
“Oh, we didn’t get one last year,” she quickly responded.
“Yes, we did. What about the one for the year before that?”
“Oh, we haven’t bought any for the last couple of years.”
“Yes, we have. I’ve bought one every year.”
“Well, where are they?”
“That’s what I asked you. But since you obviously don’t know, I will tell you. They are in a file drawer.”
“Well, why are they there?”
“Because every year, you toss them at me, and I stick them in the drawer. And you never think about it again.”
“But we should hang them up!”
“Really? This is what we should display on our walls? Photos in which 5 years from now we will be able to identify 1/28th of the people represented?”
“Well, we should put them somewhere.”
“I’m not hanging them in the hallway, and I’m not paying for 4 more pictures to stick in my drawer.” Even though I just lost your whole lifetime of pictures when my hard drive bit the dust. But let’s not dwell on the past. Or the complete absence of it.
Later on, she informed me that she was willing to deal. One club picture and the class picture.
I think there’s enough room in the drawer for them.