I have a great sense of humor, really I do. And truly, its greatest strength lies in my strong grasp of the absurd. A grasp that utterly and totally fails me when I deal with my kids, and their jokes and experiments.
Again, the fact that this is part of the Western Curse (may you one day have children just like you) that I always called a Blessing doesn't help. Although, both you and I might think it would.
You know what I think is the problem here? I make a fabulous grown-up and was a terrible child. Even when I was a child I thought other children weren't nearly as amusing as they thought they were, and boy, messy, and dirty, and loud. The rest of you think this is growing old. But me? I never had to put away my childish things because truthfully, even as a child I barely had any interest in childish things.
So why oh why do I expect my own children to want to play with kids' toys?
The mountain of toys in the playroom holds no interest for these kids.
Oh no, they want to play with the Real Toys: cell phones, remote controls, scissors, glue, medicine, and furniture (a list that is, mind you, including but not limited to, of course).
I don't include toilets because those aren't a game for my kids; they are a future career. In science, plumbing, or terrorism. I'm not sure which.
Right now my husband and I are not paying enough attention to the kids. I know this by the level of our annoyance and by the constant naughtiness of the children. We are all here, together, but he and I have Big Important Grownup Things To Do, which means the usual order of the universe (all things revolve around the children) is out of balance.
Hence, they seem to think that this means (a) they need to act naughty to get their rightful due or attention and (b) they can do whatever they want, including Get Into Things that are Verboten.
"HEY MOM!" shouts the elder.
"WANNA SEE A JOKE?"
See? A Joke? My bowels tighten in fear.
"Umm sure...where are you?"
"I'M IN THE BATHROOM!" Much laughter. Elder and Younger giggling.
My heart freezes in my chest. Giggling children = Very Bad Stuff.
I run to the bathroom. The two children---described by all as cherubic and beautiful---grin proudly at me as they stand beside the open-lid toilet.
"We couldn't fit into the potty, Mom, but the princess could. Wanna see a joke?" My elder points into the toilet where a small, Barbie-princess (who can keep them straight? This one has long blonde hair, oh wait, that's not helping, well she came with a pink throne chair---stop, no porcelain throne jokes---and a white cat), okay the small barbie princess floats in a gentle circle in the filling bowl. Her pink polyester dress weights her down a bit.
The elder signals the younger who pulls the lever and flushes the toilet. The barbie princess swishes, swirls and attempts to go down the drain. The children shriek with laughter, totally delighted. The younger even claps her hands and shouts something like, "A den! A den!" and pulls the lever again.
The elder says, "It's a science essperiment, Mom! What will happen when you flush a barbie in the potty! And it's a joke cuz it's SO FUNNY!" More shrieking laughter.
My hand is somewhere over my eyes as my brain endeavors to process What Is Happening Here.
The children get quiet. Uh oh. No laughing mom. They wait, will Screaming Banshee mom emerge, or the scarier version: Very Quietly Furious Mom?
Quietly Furious Mom emerges. The truth is, this is Incident #12 of the day. Mom has no more energy for mad.
"You," I say, pointing to the elder, "Will fish out the barbie and drop her quickly in this cup," I hand her a play cup from the bathtub.
"You," I say, pointing to the younger, "Will Step. Away. From. The. Potty. Now."
The younger wrinkles her brow, giggles uncertainly and reaches again for the toilet lever. What happened? It was all so fun a second ago. Let's flush and have fun again, I can see her decide.
"NO! NO! NO, BORNIE!" The elder screams, "Don't do it! STOP!"
The younger decides crying is the only response, so she lets out a few glass-shattering shrieks of anger and then settles into tantrummy crying. The elder decides this is a good moment to escape.
"Freeze!" I say, fiercely. "Get the barbie out of the toilet. Now."
"Buuuuttt Mooooooommmm, that DISGUSTING! I can't put my hand in the potty. It's too hard for me," she puffs out her lower lip, and tries to shrink a little smaller, look vulnerable, incapable.
"You got it in, you got it out," I say, using logic-defying parental logic.
With squeamishness scrunching up her entire face, she slowly edges two fingers towards the barbie. A few "iiicccckkkk!" screech aborted attempts later, she manages to make contact. The fingers snap shut and in a startling contrast to the slow edging, she rapidly drags the barbie out and throws her into the cup with a yell that is a funny combination of triumph and disgust.
"ACK! ACK! ACK!" she hollers, hopping around, waving her fingers in the air.
"To the sink, wash with soap, sing the ABC song and don't stop washing until you hit the ME part," I tell her.
The younger is still making a tremendous amount of noise, but now in jealousy that the elder gets to play with the water. She attempts to scramble up the stepping stool to the sink. I run to the side, only to catch her as she falls with a scream after the elder shouts, "NO! NO BORNIE! Not up here," and shoves.
I mumble, "I love my children, I love my children, I love my children..."
We complete the clean-up process and now I really wonder what last week's plumbing visit might have unearthed as the clog in my toilet had he pulled instead of pushed.
I bring the children back into the room where their father---doing a fantastic imitation of a totally deaf parent---is sorting books. "Gee, sorry I couldn't help, sorting these books," he says, in a great Jack Handy imitation. I smirk back at him.
"Here," I tell the children, "Sit here." I hand them each two pieces of paper and four crayons. "You color here, at this table, on this paper, with these crayons. Do not deviate from these instructions. No coloring on the wall, yourselves, the floors, the furniture or ANYTHING other than the paper. Crayons are only for coloring with, NO EATING CRAYONS. Now, can I ask for five minutes of Good Choices?"
They nod slightly, looking a tad repentant.
And when I glance back over, thirty seconds later, they are gone. And somewhere in the house I hear children giggling.
By Julie Pippert
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