Wednesday, May 23, 2012

#epicfail and Other Parenting Moments

Running unprotected by water and stones.

Have you ever noticed how some people cough *other parents* cough just love to kill the buzz?

Okay let's take other parents.

Say you're somewhere, like the playground, and you and the other parents are gabbing, and you maybe know some, don't know some, you know how it is. And you're being yourself, which in this case happens to a person with a very dry wit who often speaks rather facetiously. And you're all talking about your kids. And then you're all whipping out the iPhones to show kid photos.

Even though the kids are all right there on the playground, for real.

But you all just have to share this funny or magical moment caught by the phone camera to illustrate some parenting triumph.

So you get your turn and you show this photo of your kid, maybe riding a bike, maybe a two-wheeler without training wheels, for the very first time.

All the parents are oohing and ahhing and you feel it coming, the other stories about that moment you first let go of the bike and the kid takes off and then everyone will bask in the warm fuzzy glow of the metaphor.

Except that's not what happens.

One parent says, "You let your kid on a bike without a helmet?"

"Oh," you say, "Well normally they wear helmets but this one time, ha ha, you know, just that time...she wasn't going very fast, you know and we were right there..."

"I know this one kid," that parent continues, "Who was brain dead after falling off a stationary bike...a bike that was not even moving..."

You stare.

"Brain dead," that parent reiterates as if you didn't catch it the first time, "One time."

You sort of stutter a bit, because umm that is so not the point of this entire conversation. This is a metaphor, it's iconographic, this photo. We are supposed to be basking in warm fuzzy glows. Not struggling for a response that is both appropriately explanatory and defensive while simultaneously steering us back to the right spot, which is not this speechless horror and let's be honest, this sort of atavistic Neanderthal rage that makes you want to rip off the other parent's face.

And, okay, that's really from the shame you feel at being called out as a craptastic parent who wants their kid brain dead, and also you are thinking this other parent is a real better not use that word as it has now firmly entered your five year old's vocabulary after that incident where the red truck cut you off on the freeway.

And while your brain veers further off course, your mouth opens up and says, "A stationary bike? Like the kind that just sits there, and doesn't move? An exercise bike?"

The other parents sort of lean back because they take this as a challenge. Now it's going to get interesting. You have managed to steer the conversation straight in a new direction, all right.

Now you are the flaky craptastic parent who wants their kid brain dead, and who issues a challenge when you have no ground to stand on.

Speaking slowly like one would to a truly flaky person, that parent says, "Nooooooo, a stationary bike as in a bike that was not moving."

Now you are really determined to get to the bottom of this, "So a stationary bike orrrrrrr," you drag out a syllable because two can do this, "A bike that was not moving?"

"A bike! A bike that was not moving!" the other parent says.

"So not a stationary bike," you say, "A regular bike, but just not moving at that moment."

"Yes! Yes!"

"Riiiiight," you say, "I see. That's so tragic! The poor kid, the poor family. How are they doing now?"

"I don't know," the other parent says, "Sad, I guess."

"Because their kid who was not wearing a helmet fell off a bike that was not moving," I say, starting to feel suspicious there was never this kid, or that it was The Poor Tragic Kid in one of those urban legend emails probably started by a bike helmet company to get free viral marketing and a mad rush by parents to buy helmets.

"Wellll, actually," that parent says, "The kid was wearing a helmet. But it fell off."

You can't really say how long the silence stretched on but it did for at least 200 hundred years while the prince tried to find his way through the brambles to those of us who slept under an evil spell in the castle. That's exactly how long it stretched on.

"That's really awful," you say, feeling the burden--since in some way you did get us to this point--to be the prince rather than the sleeping beauty, especially since all of the other parents have decided to vie silently for that role, "Really really awful. I think we've all learned a valuable lesson here," you say, clicking your photo album shut and slipping your iPhone back into your pocket.

The other parent nods, but without the smugness he expected to feel, it's clear.