Cowed by the Dog Days of Summer

Ah, summer!  Pool time, board games, leisurely walks and family meals.  It’s all part of our wondrous academic calendar that allows us to slowly tease the pleasure out of each day, one by one, during the hottest season.

summer dinner

But nothing is as wonderful as eating around the table with your children.  Oh, to break bread with the fruit of your loin!  The bickering, the dissatisfaction with the chef-parent, the utter senselessness of trying to converse with people who don’t even listen to NPR… yes, the endlessness of that doggone meal!

Not to mention the withering stare from your vegetarian child as you enjoy a wee bit of meat.  A look so direct that it would shame an expert surveyor, as she delineates the area of shame beginning at my mouth,  back to the plate with its victim-burger, and then to the blasted marsupial pouch I can’t seem to unload.

“Nice cow lunch, Mom.”

My son looks startled all of a sudden.  “Wait, burgers do come from cows?  Mom, you said that burgers were like tofu or something!”

“Hey, settle down.  I must have misunderstood your question….  And you, remember!  You have chosen not to eat meat.  That is your choice.  Our choice is to be omnivores.  So, cool it with the mean looks.”

“Right.  Your choice, my choice but who cared about the COW’s choice, Mom?”

“Maybe it was a volunteer?  OK, listen, it’s not my fault most animals are cute and delicious!”

“There is no excuse in today’s society to continue harming animals just because humans are greedy pigs, Mom!  Why do you eat the poor things?!  How do you explain yourself?!”

I use an extended pause for effect.  “Funny how you use ‘pig’ as an insult… and I love your leather bracelet.”

She delivers an epic eye roll, averts her gaze entirely, and adopts the ‘I’m going to ignore you for the rest of the day” stance.  Success!

All right, so the lie about the cow meat ferreted its way out into the light, making me look like an idiot.  I was only trying to allow my son to enjoy his food guilt-free.  Good intentions all the way!   But when confronted by a kid who wants answers- especially incriminating ones- what to do?  Well, as a card carrying member of the Spanish-speaking tribe, I say “no way, José!”  Build that wall around the truth- it’s all the rage!

Vegetarian skeleton

 

 

 

When the Student Becomes the Master

Yep.  The day finally has come.  The one that tests your resolve and questions your life’s work as a parent.  Will you pass or fail?  Will you be fired?  If only!  Parenting is forever, people.  No Trump here to relieve you of your duties- although he may often make you relieve yourself….

No- I’m talking about middle school sex ed.  That course that “introduces” concepts that your sweet child should be spared until absolutely necessary.  Perhaps the wedding aisle, as I have suggested in a previous post?  Oh, back off, haters!

So, in a show of supreme courage and aplomb- which took me a few weeks to drum up- I approached my daughter about what she had learned.  It went something like this….

“So, ah, sex ed, huh?”

“As if you could handle it, Mom!”

“Easy there.  Give me some credit.  After all, I am willing to talk about it.”

“It was forever ago- and why do you look like you’re about to cry?  I don’t see what you are so upset about.  You got to get in vitro and never had to do It.”

“Hmm.  Too true, too true.  Well, I’m not actually interested in details.  I’m just curious how everyone handled it.  That poor nurse who had to teach it to you girls!  Egads!”

“Forget the nurse!  She’s fine but the rest of us are scarred for life!  Oh, Mommy, there was so much screaming!  Everyone was freaking out!  But there was one really savage girl who was so braSex edve she only flinched repeatedly without ever uttering a sound.”

“Wow- sounds like she was seizing.  Are you aware of her medical history?”

“What?  No… yikes- maybe.  I’ll ask her.  Anyway, that s-e-x stuff is gross.  I mean, ain’t nobody got time for that!”

“Ya nailed it!  Can you say that a little louder, though, sweetie?  Please?? Daddy’s in the other room and you have to speak up!”

“Huh?”

“Don’t worry- I’ll figure something out.  So, you’re good?  Need any- uh- ‘holes’ filled in?  Sorry- not the best metaphor.”

“No, Mom!  Ew!  Now you are freaking me out.  I mean, do you want the nurse to call you or email you her PowerPoint slides?  I gotta get out of this conversation!”

“Aw, no thanks.  I’m good.  Glad we had The Talk.”

“Yeah.  It was awesome.  Let’s never do this again!”  And off she stomped.

As I wiped away a tear, I knew I had done good.  Granted, she is unpolished, but her desire to avoid the truth, her natural instinct to spare me the horrid news, and her refusal to fully engage me despite my entreaties, filled me with pride.  She will make a fine parent someday.  The best gift I could ever receive on Mother’s Day!

So, to all you mothahs out there- have a happy, happy Hallmark holiday!  And keep up the lying!

When Children “Alternate Facts”

Yes, I have spent a lot of time encouraging us to lie responsibly to spare our children the many ugly truths out there.  And yet, I have not broached the topic of when they lie to us… and it’s never to protect poor maw and paw!  They’re out to save their own hides- every time.  And my demi-Hellenic children seem to be particularly crafty.  Such weavers of tales, they are truly descendants of the likes of Homer and Euripides!

Of course, some lyin’ in the old apple is likely the tree’s fault… but you cannot allow your kids to pull the wool over your eyes.  A ten year old who can successfully bamboozle his parents today, will at fifteen be cruising around in a Trojan horse while you sit there smiling like an idiot, thinking the Greeks should start an online gift registry.

So, take this innocent little fib one of my children tried to pull on me.

“Hey- what does homework look like for you tonight?”

“Oh… homework?” His hesitation is a dead give away.  The game is afoot.trojan-horse

“Yeah- you know, that exciting ritual we participate in every weeknight as a family?  Lots of screaming and tears involved-sometimes some learning?”

“Right, right!  Weird.  Don’t have any.” He shrugs innocently and continues to rub his thumbs all over his damnable smart machine, avoiding eye contact.

“Huh.  That’s weird because Mrs. Harpy always assigns homework.  The woman is relentless!  Ruins most happy hours around this place….”

“Mom, you know her name is ‘Harper!’ Sheesh!”

“Sure, whatever you say.  So let’s see that assignment pad.”

“That won’t help because I have already completed everything that’s on the list.”

“Show  it to me anyway, along with the ‘completed’ homework as evidence.” He shifts uncomfortably.

“Oh, thaaat homework!  Yeah, I’ll get it out.  I haven’t finished it yet.”

He hadn’t finished it yet.

You have to kick the Trojan horse’s tires a bit to see if it’s hollow.  Last thing you want is a houseful of Greeks.  And I oughta know.  My house is chock full o’nuts!

Happy, merry Noëlf!

Never is the desire to pop the Noël bubble stronger than at 3:32 a.m., when you awaken in a cold sweat because you have once again forgotten to move the bloody Xmas elf that your sweet son depends upon for his childhood’s survival.   Apparently, nothing is more devastating than waking up to that slovenly creature sitting in the same spot, unmoved, and unwilling to show signs of life.

My friends, it may seem like a quaint idea, but in truth, the elf turns December into a daily cat and mouse game in which your child runs down the stairs to see what new, inventive position the damnable homunculus will present… while you sweat it out at the top of the stairs hoping your spouse moved the slippery sprite because you sure as hell didn’t!  Will he be dangling from the chandelier in a jaunty stance?  Maybe the little coquette is peeking out from between the Christmas tree branches?  Oh, no, wait, he’s in the same flippin’ place as yesterday!  What was once cute and amusing a mere 24 hours before, now only serves to disappoint the expectant pixie-acolyte.

“Why didn’t he move, Mommy?”

“Because he’s a lazy, vindictive SOB, kid.”  OK, I have never said that, but I’ve wanted to.

“Mommy isn’t sure.” One remembers the drunken Saturday night haze with some level of remorse.  “Sometimes they are so tired from watching and reporting back telepathically to Santa that they lose the strength to move.  Plus he loves watching you at that angle, where he celf-2an see you all stretched out in your pajamas.  I guess?”  Gotta dial back the perv.

“Oh, well I love him watching me, too!”  The mind reels- hopefully not a sign of things to come.  “But if he doesn’t move again, do you think it means he’s lost his magic?”

“Impossible with your level of belief in him!  I mean our level of belief, ours!”

“OK, I just hope no one has touched him.  One wrong touch and it instantly makes him lose his magic.”  Yeah, I’ve had dates like that.  I get it, Elfie.

“No, certainly not!  He’ll move tonight.  I can feel it!”  Note to self….

Listen, I’m a Santa-and-all-things-enchanted advocate, but let me tell, you, that freakin’ elf blows.  He’s a high maintenance, all-take-and-no give sort of guy.  Avoid him like the plague!  Of course, if your kid asks for one, it’s tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet.  Plainly put: you’re screwed.  Off to the impromptu Christmas store set up in your local strip mall sometime in August to make sure you were good and sick and tired of the holidays by mid September.

Yes, it’s truly exhausting to come up with daily never-before-seen places and stances for this poorly articulated imp.  But we do it for the children!  We do it for love!  It adds to the mystery that is Christmas- or so I keep telling myself.  Anywho, I’m so well-versed at this point that I am currently writing a “kama sutra for dummies” on elf positions.  Relax, people, it’s clean!

Sheesh- and bah, humbug!

 

 

 

 

Stop Lame Ducking It!

Allow me to get realpolitik on you here: I hate talking politics.  That being said, I really hate talking politics- even with like-minded friends!  What could possibly be worse than having a disagreeable conversation with an adult?  Having said discussion with a child.  Let us adults please assert ourselves, and stop allowing the silent majority to make family meals into their own, private rubber chicken circuit.

Ah, the child with a political opinion is akin to a chimpanzee with a cigarette.*  Sure it’s kinda funny at first, but you just wait till that chimpanzee gets out of its depth with that tabackey and starts flinging excrement in a fit electoral-college-winner-button of nicotine-induced rage, and I tell you what!  Cute turns ugly right quick.

Nothing is more horrible than having to engage a child, who is not even aware of our tangled electoral college , blithering on and on about wall-building and leaked emails.  Those earnest wide-eyed ten year olds cannot put the “pun” in pundit for love nor money.   So, parents, please do not instruct your children in your cockamamie political ideas!  I don’t want to hear them from you, and especially not from your poorly informed, amygdala-happy spawn.   I had my kids convinced that if Trump won, we would have to climb over walls just to access our favorite Mexican restaurants.   People that gullible have no business discussing politics.  Mercifully they cannot vote!

baby-politicssSo, tonight, as the debate between Hilarity and Rump rages, keep your kids far from the idiot box.  Let them dream of sugarplums and baby bunnies, and not Benghazi and rampant misogyny .  There is no bleeding heart that will tolerate some child on the bully pulpit tomorrow filibustering the hell out of their morning.

I, for one, plan to avoid anyone under the age of 16 tomorrow to lower my chances of being trapped by some lunatic ‘tween on a whistle stop tour.  If I don’t, I  may have to go all ad hominem on someone’s @$$….

 

*I’m harkening back to my childhood memories in my beloved, suffering Venezuela.

Objects in the Mirror Are Smaller Than They Appear- Honest!

OK, let’s tell it like it is.  We mothers must not complain about our weight in front of our kids.  No matter how much the girdle smarts or the muffin top droops.  Nope, nope, nope.  We cannot lead them  down the path of (m)anorexia or thinking that a human being’s value is attached to his or her waistline- which it is, but let’s recall that this is a guide for “responsible lying” and not some cockamamie feel-good blog for those of us who wonder how many calories we burned by choosing the oatmeal over the chocolate chip cookie.

So, allow me to recall a recent event that took place with my daughter and how I handled the potential psychological damage she might have suffered had I cowardly told the truth.  I shall paint the scene.  We were all hanging out on the couch, bonding and enjoying family movie night.  After a couple of pieces of pizza and some wine, I rearranged my body mass into a reclining position, and in an effort to look sultry for my husband, pulled up my pants a bit and discretely tucked in an unruly roll under the agonizingly uncomfortable size 12 slim-fit stretch jeans with flattening front panel.  Now these pants deliver, people, but I am certain that the significant amount of fat they hide is lurking painfully somewhere in the neighborhood of my ascending colon.  woman in mirror

At any rate, we must remember that the little people are always on the watch, picking up on our bad habits and reading into everything we do disfavorably.  You know, prepping for puberty when they can give us the old one-two sucker punch to the heart.  So, as I was going mano a mano with said paunch, I heard a snort coming from my left where my daughter was unsuccessfully trying to repress her giggles.

“What are you laughing at, pray tell?”

“What are you trying to do with your belly?”  Now, I love my first-born with all my heart and soul, but at that moment, I was not so keen on her, if you know what I mean.

“I am getting comfortable.”

“But you were trying to hide your belly.”

“No, no, no!  You are quite mistaken!  I am not in the least ashamed of my body!  I am not trying to hide anything!  I am very comfortable in my own skin.”  I had hit the trifecta of lies.

“So why are you trying to put your belly away?” Never has a participle been more passive aggressive.

“Because these pants are super comfortable and they help regulate my digestion.”

“Really?  How?”

“By creating a compact environment that aligns my internal organs in such a way that they facilitate food traction and bile secretion that then further breaks down nutrients that are absorbed by my intestines, which then allows vitamins to enter the bloodstream and feed my muscles, bones and organs, preventing disease and promoting overall health.  It’s a thing.”

“Wow!” She exclaimed admiring my pants’ front panel.

“Yeah, wow!”chimed in my husband.

So, as you can see, I not only skirted the dangerous all too prevalent negative-body-image syndrome, I also encouraged an awareness, however inaccurate, of  physical well-being.  Granted all this at the expense of my husband getting a glimpse into the mysterious world of body shaping outerwear.   I wonder if he continues to believe my claims that I still am a size 6, which I have never been…?

Anatomy 1-oh!-1

As I have mentioned earlier, and for damned good reasons, I have a strong opposition to children’s rampant use of anatomical terminology, as encouraged by today’s tell-all-parent.  This is not only inappropriate; it is painfully awkward for anyone outside of the childrearing years of thirty-five to forty.  No one should have to experience the equivalent of Cindy Lou Hoo discussing nipples, penises, or God-forbid, her special “button.”  I mean, come on!  After all, The Color Purple was a tragic tale, people, not a glossary for preschoolers!FreshPaint-5-2016.05.02-06.00.23

So, how to combat this revolting trend?  How to appropriately reference anatomy, especially if it is itchy, hurt on the monkey bars, or simply hanging out of a pair of pants?  Unless you were raised in a commune by irresponsible hippie-freaks, driveling non-stop about Walt Whitman’s body electric, we have to go no further than our own childhoods, where our uptight parents inspected our offending body parts through the lens of a well-filled martini glass.  Like them, we should use generic, inoffensive terms like “your privates.”  This term not only conveniently blurs the line between male and female (no, there is no sex!), but it can also give you quite a chuckle upon arriving at an army post.

Sometimes anatomy is even baptized with cute family names, such as “your bott-bott” or “rumpey-pumpey.”  There is no need to get too cute, of course, but you see what I am getting at.  The bottom line (snort, chuckle- there is a pun there!) is that in no way should these terms be sexual or even universally identifiable in the event of an unfortunate incident at the store, or worse, church.  The Lord’s Prayer should never be marred with comments about the child’s vagina in the pew behind you.  On a side note, the touching of the anatomy can be a problem: steer clear of Michael Jackson videos and encourage frequent trips to the bathroom.

For your edification, below is a chart of terms that I have found quite useful.  You’re welcome!

Lying guide- Anatomical terms chart

Money Makes the World Go Around- or Bob Fossee Can Make Anything Dirty

So, when it finally happens to you- and in this harsh capitalist world it will, trust me- you must keep your cool and forge ahead.  I have been preparing for this day since I first spawned, and yet even I was somehow taken aback when the evil question was posed.  Some background appears to be necessary for those not aware of the “river house” syndrome that is quite strong along the Chesapeake Bay.  Anyone who can afford one- and many who cannot- has one of these lovely abodes where they while away the hours at the same time the rest of us poor suckers lurk miserably in our city mortgage boxes.   As you can gather, subtext: we cannot possibly afford such a delightful poultice for modern life.  And I’m not bitter about that.  Not the least bit.  Really.  I am perfectly happy funneling the majority of my paycheck into this wonderful stack of bricks that will someday get repainted, repointed and paid off.  Someday.  But I digress!  This is a guide about lying to your children, not about lying to yourself!!  Let us continue with the great betrayal.river house

I shall set the scene.  It’s a snowy day and we are all cozied up in front of our electric fireplace- which albeit a glorified space heater, its light bulb and blower system actually make it look like a coal burning fireplace.  Really.  OK, back to lying to kids….

One of my children asks if they can have a playdate with little So-and-So.  I text the parents, and get the dreaded “oh, sorry we are at our river house!” response.  No matter, we will ask after another child.  Nope, also at their river house.  And then strike three- again with the river house!  My ungrateful children look at me with pleading eyes and utter the question I knew would come one day: “why don’t we have a river house?”  Do I explain how norms of allocation affect the distribution of rights, privileges and social power, as well as access to river houses?  Good God, no!   This is how it went.

“We don’t have a river house because mommy and dadda don’t want one.  They are a ton of work.  And you’ve seen the state of this house.  Mommy couldn’t possibly maintain two houses.”

“We can help.”

“You mean the way you walk the dogs and water the plants in this house?”

“But if we had a river house we could walk to our friends’ river houses and play!”

“Note the term ‘river’ house, children!  There is only swimming or boating to other people’s houses.  Remember that horrid summer when you tried being on the swim team?  I don’t know about you, but I’m still scarred by that nightmare!”  Both children visibly shudder.  “And remember that boating experience when Uncle Patrick went so fast and turned the boat so hard that you both thought you would land in the Potomac?”  Their little faces grimace.

“So it’s for our own good that we don’t have a river house?”  The female one is a quick study.

“I’m glad you said it dear, and not I.”  I pat their little faces.  “And snakes like rivers, by the by.” One final nail in the coffin, and voilà, problem solved!

The bottom line is that every child will encounter the sudden revelation of unequal social aCabaretnd economic status.  Maybe in your community it is living in a particular neighborhood, or owning a Mercedes, or wondering what that “Target” store all the peasants are talking about sells.  You, the parent, will have to explain it in such a way that the children are so thoroughly turned off they will never, ever irritate you again by broaching the damned subject.  One look at Joel Grey and Liza Minelli in Cabaret and you know that money is a dirty, dirty business.

That’s why I prefer to make very little of it….

A Very Merry Christmas, Indeed!

Among the many things we as parents enforce, the magical mirage that is Santa Claus may be the most beautiful.  We must perpetuate this belief as long as possible for a variety of reasons- not the least of which is the pure, uncomplicated joy that resides in a child’s faith in the unseen.  But how do we do this in a world where dangerous information is relentlessly shoved at our children?  Well, here is my father’s delightful explanation to our children when they were feeling confused about the whole Santa thing.  To help you visualize, my father has a luxurious white beard and mustache, and quite the twinkle in his eyes… hint, hint.Santa

“Grandfather?  How is the man at the store the real Santa because wasn’t he just in the Macy’s Parade on the television?”  Damned Macy’s.  My father could have easily explained that the parade had been previously filmed, but no, not my dad.  He has a subtler method of attack.  Take note!

“Well, children, it goes like this.  Santa is at his busiest time right now, overseeing the elves as they make toys, getting the reindeer geared up for the long trip, tweaking his sled.  You know how complicated international travel can be.”

“Oh, no!  So, all Santases are fake?”

“No, no, no!  Santa has officially designated representatives whom he has handpicked to go all over the world, talk to children, and then report back to him.”

“So, the Santases are real?”

“They are the real spirit of Santa.  Sort of like the Holy Trinity.”

“The Holy Rinitry?”

“Yes, the Holy Rinitry.  Just like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the real Santa is in all the Santas you see.  And the real Santa hears through all their ears and he knows what you want for Christmas, right after you tell me, of course.  That way I can put it in a letter.  Just in case.  That’s why I have this beard after all!”

“So, the Santases are real!”

“Yep, they’re real alright.  So, what was that list again?”

The man is a genius!  Such finesse, such a mastery of deflection- and what exquisite lies!  The kids’ Christmas spirit was saved in an instant.  More importantly, how can we possibly enforce good manners and behavior throughout the Christmas season (which according to most retail stores, now begins in September) without the threat of Santa hanging over their little heads?  It can’t all be visions of sugar plums, after all.  I myself am partial to the Dutch Santa who knocks the stuffing out of naughty children with a bunch of twigs, but with social services essentially on most children’s iPhone speed dial, that’s sadly yet another tradition lost…..

So, in this wonderful season of Advent, I wish you all faith in the unseen and love- much love!

Death- Avoid at All Costs….

Death is a barbed topic.  My advice is to attack this tricky subject by focusing on the joys of the afterlife.  And no, I do not mean a discussion grounded in truth or fact!  Seriously, how much do we really know about death and the beyond?   Regardless of your background, join a church, synagogue, whatever immediately!  If you’re  already a member of one, then start going more regularly.  No need to get carried away, though….

Also, make sure you choose the right spiritual construct for you and your family.  Take Buddhism for example.  It has its appeal but the prospect of coming back as an animal may be rather disturbing to my city kids who equate rats, feral cats  and crows with the entirety of the animal kingdom.

Reincarnation

Returning as any of those creatures feels like a real downgrade, if you know what I mean.

 

All of that aside, populate the afterlife with grandparents, pets and roadside kill.  It won’t hurt anyone and will allow your children to ease into this angst-ridden topic as they mature.  It is especially important that your “heaven” be a real paradise.   Feel free to be authentic in your descriptions of your nirvana.  As for me, I’m sure there will be a beautiful, shiny mahogany bar.  Jesus was a carpenter, after all, and let us not forget that first miracle.  Water into wine- what a guy!  Where was He at my second wedding when I went thousands of dollars in debt due to an open bar for 40 drunks?

So, capitalize on every time one of your friends’ animals die, especially cats.  No one cares about cats, really, and it’s a less painful way to exercise the topic.  Make sure that the end result is always the same: the cat is in heaven- maybe not right there, downtown, but certainly skirting the edges, tying one on in fields of catnip. It is heaven, right?

The death of a dog is a horrible thing, and hopefully all your friends’ dogs will give up the ghost prior to yours so your kids can be prepared to handle the inevitable death of your own pooch.  Check out the conversation below, which I had with my own children when their cousins’ puppy- a puppy, for God’s sake!- died.

“Puppy is dead?!?”  But he’s a doggy baby!”

“Yes, he is now in heaven looking down on us.”

“He’s with other doggies?”

“Of course!  The older ones are showing him where all the fun dog parks and treats are.”

“I like to think of them up there running around and chasing butterflies!”

“Ha!  And cats!  I bet they get to chase cats, too, huh, kid?”  This is a perfect example of how you can get overzealous and step in it.

“Why would they chase poor little baby cats?  Why does that have to happen in heaven?!?”

“No, no, no!  Mommy got confused, sweetie, I forgot that in heaven everyone loves each other.  The doggies are probably giving cats piggyback rides and stuff!”  Unlikely.  Dead or alive our Jack Russell would never pass up a chance to give a cat what for.

“Piggyback rides- funny!”

“Oooh!  Let’s go draw that!”

“Can I have piggyback ride, though?”

“Absolutely, and we can pretend to be puppies carrying kitties!”

“Yippee, mommy is the best!”

“Yes, she is!”

As you can see, it’s important to really play up the paradise angle of heaven, putting in all the stuff we enjoy heartily here on earth.  I wouldn’t go the way of Hieronymus Bosch’s vision of earthly delights- not sure how a flower or a flute up your bum is a good thing, but hey, clearly someone thought it was fun.  Hieronymus Bosch must have been a total perv….Bosch Earthly Delights

Finally, when confronted with questions about the nature of God, why bad things happen- especially to good people- try to find a children’s illustrated book of Job*.

Barring that, I got nothin’.  What?  I’m a philosopher now?!?

*not William Blake’s, not William Blake’s!