No Sweet Tooth Here!

The tooth fairy is a beautiful and long held tradition in our country.  Frankly, it’s a fun way to gloss over the rather disgusting biological need to shed teeth.  It’s comforting to know that after that nasty experience, someone has your back.  Hurrah for the tooth fairy!  Another easy lie, courtesy of our Nordic friends!

But a caveat on the subject.  When comparing notes with other children, the tooth fairy appears somewhat unreliable.  I mean, what sort of inequitable system allows one kid to get ten smackers for a meaningless canine when your kid gets a measly fifty cents for a precious front tooth?!?! Tooth fairy

What is the elephant in the room?  Yes, the over-eager parent: a vile beastie at best!  It is precisely this brand of creature that has escalated the tooth fairy from a fun way to get your kids to finally rip out that tooth, to some sort of James Bond black jack game.  And trust me, the House always wins on this one- and you are never, ever the House.   So, now we all have to start forking out more dough or there is hell to pay.  Before you know it, the children’s under-pillows will have their own link to a Swiss bank account and they’ll all be trading Adderral for black market teeth at the school urinals.  It’s obscene!

Mercifully, if you never bring up money around your kids, they may not even notice the monumental injustice of the whole thing.  This has worked for me for a long time but oh, they are starting to catch on, the greedy little delinquents.  Clearly, fifty cents is not going to buy you much in this day and age, but after a couple of those, boy, does the dollar store look like a wonderland!  The more you give them the more they are going to spend, so keep it simple, people!  A $20 trip to the toy store today translates into a $100 Armani t-shirt in five to ten years.  Ouch!

Let them collect their money slowly in their piggy banks, like the rest of humanity does, and do not give in to their demands!  Stay strong, people, and do not join the tooth fairy junta!

Oh- I Was Looking for “Norman” Rockwell. My Mistake.

I am a big believer in keeping up with current events.  I listen to NPR, check out the headlines on the reliable interweb, and a couple of news emails make their way into my inbox every day.  And I cannot say enough about the Daily Mail UK- hilarious stuff.  I do all of this far, far away from my children to spare them from anything remotely questionable… and to offer all of us the occasional well-needed break from each other.

So, I really did not expect to be sabotaged when lying on the back porch settee with my children on a fine Sunday morning, listening to a local radio station’s “Songs from the Big Hair” 80’s music show.  There we were happily listening to Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me” and laughing at the singer’s level of paranoia.  I shall regale you with the brilliant lyrics that were repeated once the song was over, as an intro to the DJ’s thought-provoking commentary on the state of employment today- the statement that would throw my life into a tailspin after I suffered a mild form of whiplash looking up Bug-eyed-Pug-Turns-Around-Dramaticallyin horror at the treacherous speaker blurting out the inappropriate.  I failed us all at that moment as I couId not protect my children.  Why?  Because I do not have the core strength to chuck two children off me and leap up with the speed of a thousand Bruce Jenners circa 1976 (who could have accomplished this in heels with one well groomed hand tied behind his back) to race inside and turn off that damnable music box.  Here we go.  Hum along as you read!

“Who’s watching?
Tell me who’s watching
Who’s watching me?

I’m just an average man, with an average life
I work from nine to five; hey hell, I pay the price…”

DJ’s clever comment: “this is how that poor fool in Illinois feels who mistakenly sent naked selfies of himself to the HR Director.  I know, right?  We all know who’s watching you now, buddy, but you ain’t gonna be working nine to five anymore!  I have heard of cocking up an interview, but this seems a bit excessive….”

I hoped- as I screamed-ran-slipped across the porch, through the door, careening to the radio- that the kids would miss the DJ’s analysis of workplace etiquette, but alas, they heard it all.  All.

As I returned to the settee to the giggling children who were now discussing nudity in full detail, I suppressed the desire to weep.  I knew the jig was up.  No deflection was every going to erase what they had heard.  This, my dear readers, is another important strategy in the war against unsavory information.  When the battle is lost, bury your dead and prepare for the next skirmish.  Trying to fight further will only erode your credibility before your kids’ ever-critical eyes, and unnecessarily deplete you of ammo you could use later.

“So, I guess you guys heard it all, huh?”  Gales of laughter.  “OK, well, just remember to thank that man from Illinois when you don’t get a cellphone.  Ever.  And mommy loves you.”   Nothing left to do but sit in silence.  Which is golden.  The Graduate end

I Would First Like to Thank the Academy and Dr. Edelstein….

Truly, too much has been made of talking to your children about s-e-x.  As you well know, I consider this a daunting task that should be avoided at all costs until you can no longer do so- say perhaps a quick warning in her ear as she heads up the altar.  It shows you care without having to go into too much detail.

But what happens when you are sabotaged by well-meaning parents who mistakenly tell their children “the truth” about, you know, “stuff?”  Well, my friends, I was recently in a ghastly situation that necessitated quick deflection and a dressing up of “facts” that would have landed my big fat lies on the red carpet.  Allow me to elucidate.

Several weeks ago my children were badly informed of the basic mechanics of The Act straight from a little friend they have known and loved since kindergarten.  Oh, the treachery!  After this playdate- during which my children’s interrogation skills successfully fulfilled several police academy requirements- my sweet, innocent spawn presented me with the extent of the aforementioned betrayal.  For a moment, I was frozen with fear.  I deftly cupped my chin, adopting an air of knowledge and self-control.

“Interesting, children.  Well, I have to say I am disappointed with this turn of events.  However, your information is full of mad inaccuracies that you are too young for me to clear up.  What do you think of the matter?”birdsandbees

My daughter piped up first.  “I wish I had never heard any of this.  I really thought I wanted to know but I was wrong.  No more information is just fine, Mommy.”

“Good thinking, hold on to that childhood a bit longer, dear.  Son?  What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I’m just disappointed in you because you went and did that.  Gross!”   The little wretch!

“How dare you, son?  Why would you ever say that to your poor mother?”

“Because she said that is how babies are born.”

“Oh, silly boy!  You two are in vitro babies!  Mommy and Daddy never had to do anything like That Thing to have you.  No, no, no!  You two rest assured that there was none of that in this house to have you!”  I cannot describe the look of relief on their little faces, the hugging, the kissing, the general merriment, the ice cream treats and the vodka shot I snuck while I pretended to hit the head!

While we were all happily holding hands, they ate their yummy ice cream and my daughter announced proudly, “all my kids are going to be in vitro, too.  No weird stuff for me!”

In total solidarity my son piped up that he would also go the in vitro route with his future wife.  “I mean, I would never marry a girl who does that!”

“No, of course not, dear.  Now enjoy your ice cream.”

And all was well with the world.

I Think, Therefore I Am- No Batteries or Sex Required

The great thinker, Rene Descartes himself, gave us the foundation upon which to deny s-e-x: thought alone- no base act- produces existence!  Granted, it takes some convincing for kids to accept this, but you have to stick to your guns.  Throughout my years as an educator and a parent, I have imagined people asking me “How should children learn about sex?”  My response never varies.  “Please, let them learn about sex the way the rest of us did- from our friends.”   If I had learned about sex from my parents, I might have never had sex or even gotten married… either time!  Sorting out the inaccuracies she hears about sex on the playground will help my daughter distinguish bad from good information later on- like when she is writing an English paper at the eleventh hour and is having to sift through and judge which internet sources are reliable.  Is sex really the way Lucy described it or was cooty-laden Ralph more accurate?  Lucy is a friend but has been known to buy that nonsense about garden gnomes coming to life after dark.  Ralph on the other hand, although unappealing, did explain with great accuracy how to burp the alphabet- a real guy-in-the-know, if you will.  Which source is trustworthy and which one is not?  Aha!  That is where the real analysis takes place.  Now she will be prepared for the future!  She will already have had the benefit of confronting a tough dilemma and seeing if her educated guess turned out to be right or not.  Think of it like this: just as Latin class helps with the SAT vocabulary section, sifting through erroneous information develops critical thinking skills.   So, don’t feel bad about this particular set of lies.  You’re actually helping your kid!  It’s called problem solving and resourcefulness.  It’s all the rage.  Really.  Look it up!

So, continue to deny any knowledge of sex.  For us visual learners, here is a handy-dandy flow chart to tackle the potential, pesky ramifications for children ranging from “easy to please” to the tenacious.   The chart shows how a child can escalate the situation by rejecting a perfectly good deflection.  Remember: you have to stay ahead of them and be able to predict their next move.  Let us not forget that children are like terriers; they are cunning and do not use their intelligence for good.  They want their curious minds satisfied but they are not prepared for the awful truth.  These series of parental responses are very helpful.  You can fill in the blank for the child’s question- it can come in many forms.  That is not important- just focus on the parent’s ability to squeeze through some pretty narrow spaces!

Subliminal Messages- and how to [follow this blog!] protect your kids from the truth

We have discussed deflection and how to use it.  Now let’s take this a step further and introduce the concept of subliminal messaging.  Subliminal tactics can be used during deflection- or if deflection really has not done the trick.  Those savvy children can sometimes latch on to a concept and not want to let go for love nor money.

Let’s start with something fairly simple.  For the sake of argument, imagine that your spouse is also a fairly distant cousin of yours.  This is perfectly legal, mind you, but is potentially embarrassing scoop.  You want to prepare your children for this information, but they are not ready for it now.  I mean, why would it not be legal to marry your cousin?  Seems perfectly normal.  You already are family and love each other- plus there would no longer really be any in-laws!  Be careful, though, making too many excuses may force you to explain why cousins don’t marry, leading you to the whole sex thing.  Not in this blog, you don’t!  Instead, focus on things like royal families early on.  I am a big fan of European royalty, which is downright packed with conjugal cousins. Paper dolls of royal families are readily available as well as exciting knight tales for the more adventure inclined.  Soon you can start showing your kids some royal family trees- oops, not a lot of forks on those!  Never mind- you’re already paving the way!

Fine, that’s easy enough, but what if you have a less easily admitted secret?   How about if you were once a stripper?  Ouch!  That’s a tough one!  You want to go with a scenario that allows you to explain the error of your ways without any trickle down of the “sins-of-the-fathers” effect.  Well, here is an example of how you could start planning early for the Big Reveal.  Do this often.  Think: wash, rinse and repeat.

“Mommy, I love my tap dance class!”

“I’m so happy sweetie.  Mommy loved dancing, too.  She also loved bikinis. That was a long time ago.  You don’t want to see mommy in a bikini now, huh?  Ha!”

“Not really, but I think you’re pretty!”

“Thanks, baby!  I used to be really pretty… in a bikini.  But you won’t be mad if mommy used to wear a bikini?”

“Of course not, mommy!  Silly.  I love my butterfly bikini!”

“Me, too!  You know you can dance or you can wear a bikini.  You don’t really want to do both at the same time.  But college is so expensive, and all those darned student loans aren’t going to pay themselves!  Poor Mommy!  So, no dancing in bikinis, OK?”

“OK, only dance in a one-piece.”

“That’s a start.  We’re getting there!  Mommy loves baby!”

When the time comes for your sweet child to learn the truth through supposed friends’ Throwback Thursday pictures of you performing an air dance while observing the two feet rule, you will have already successfully planted the seeds of understanding.  As you can see, eventually little Tiffany may be a bit shocked by your previous money making endeavors, but she will accept you and forgive your former 20 year-old self for having to make the necessary sacrifices to be a self-sufficient, educated woman.  Roar!

“Little Ears are Listening”- and other potential horror movie titles…

I firmly believe that we parents establish what is and what is not important for our children.  I don’t mean that we teach them, I am referring to what they pick up eavesdropping on our private conversations.  Don’t be fooled by the earnest look of concentration once they have conned you into playing some game on your iPhone- which is the principal reason I don’t own one (flip phones rule!).  Trust me, they are listening!  So, make sure you pepper any conversation with your spouse with an adequate number of platitudes every couple of minutes.  Keep the kids off the scent- they are like hound dogs after incriminating evidence.  Take for example a conversation I had with my husband in which our unfortunate biases could have been picked up by our children, except for the brilliance of truism deflection!

“So, honey, did you remember to pay the pool dues?”

“God, why do we have to belong to a private pool?!?!”

“I take it that’s a ‘no.’  May I remind you of the tattoo-enhanced deviants at the community pool we went to that summer?  You know, the ones that kept having ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ after consuming large amounts of unspeakable frozen drinks?  What a bunch of….”  Sly look our way.  “I mean, why would you ever get a tattoo when real beauty is on the inside?  The inside is what counts!”

“Right, the inside.”

“Beauty is only skin deep, you know.”

“Especially if you’re covered in tattoos….”  Snort.

“Deviating, deviating….”

“Beauty is as beauty does.”

“Just pay the darned bill, will ya?  Mommy loves daddy!”

“And daddy loves mommy because her beauty is only on the inside.”

“Easy, pal.”

image from

See?  How simple was that?  And it’s a fun way to engage your partner in an amusing game of platitude chicken!  Let’s be honest with each other here: by the time you have been married for almost two decades and have children, you are desperate for any form of reciprocal entertainment, no matter how base!

Ultimately, you don’t want your kids to think that belonging to a certain institution, or wearing certain clothes makes them better or worse than anyone else.  But you also have to consider that seeing a tattooed grandma in a bikini perched on the edge of a pool, balancing her two-year old grandchild in one arm, with a 64 ounce “slurpee” in the other, all while momentarily placing her lit cigarette between rolls of fat for safekeeping, is probably not an appropriate life lesson either.    Although her multitasking was pretty impressive….

And nothing is wrong with tattoos- some of my best friends have permanent body paint!  That’s all I’m saying on the matter.

Deflection- or the First Step in the Art of Lying Responsibly

I have mentioned deflection several times to you, and modeled some of it in my previous posts.  Now it is time to explain this important methodology. This tactic is a basic distraction move that allows you to steer your child away from a potentially harmful subject.  After all, children want you to deflect not inform.  Depending on a child’s age, intelligence and ability to focus (oh, we lucky ADD parents!) this can be a quick and easy fix.  A dangerous question posed by the child can easily be counteracted with a simple ploy that reroutes their attention to something more appropriate. Your success in this area rests on how genuine your interest in the distracting subject appears, and the amount of titillating information you can sound off about after the initial digression.  Examples are provided below on how to react after such questions, based on your location.

  • At home: you could ask in an urgent voice “did something just fly by the window?” followed by a rush to said pane, creating a teachable moment about regional birds. It does not matter if there is a bird anywhere in sight.  It’s called having an imagination!  Wax poetic about pink flamingoes (who cares?) just get them off the topic of Uncle Tony’s divorce and subsequent sightings with an exotic dancer!  For Christ’s sake, where do they get their intel?!?!
  • In the car: you can excitedly point out something that might interest your child (a car, a fire station, a flower in bloom – the possibilities are endless!) and then start yammering on and on about them. Who knows?  You may plant a seed for a future interest that will allow you to brag about how your kid is a botanist at the Smithsonian who on weekends rescues cats as a volunteer fireman.  How do you think the Chinese produce so many damned gymnasts?  “What did you say about the Chairman?!  How dare you?  Now leap about the house for a few  hours- no one questions the communist party!”
  • At a play date: this is tricky, as you may have to save face if the question is posed in front of another parent- or worse yet, in front of one of those “progressive” lunatics who wants to explain everything down to the last grotesque detail, especially if it has to do with body fluids (because their mommy and daddy never told them “the truth”). This deflection must be clever, believable and self-serving.  Nothing is more credible than a parent’s need to brag about their kids.  So, a “where do girls pee from if they have no boy parts?” can be followed with an “anatomy is such a fascinating subject for Tommy.  The interconnectivity of it all, cause and effect.  Just drives him wild!  Have you heard him sing Dem Bones yet?!?  He’s so culturally curious, too.  I believe it was originally an African American slave tune referring to the Second Coming.  Come on Tommy, regale us with your version of Dem Bones!”  Jumping up and down while clapping helps rile the kids up and the other parent looks like an envious jerk if he or she doesn’t beg for the song, too.  Easy-peasy, but you have to think fast!  Oh, and be fairly shameless.
  • On the playground: this is where pratfalls come in pretty darned handy, especially if, again, other parents are present. I always am sure to be lurking near a bench to cushion a well-timed fall, but they really have great layers of spongy mulch in most playgrounds nowadays; so, there is really no excuse to flub this one.  For the particularly nervous, a simple misplaced step while approaching the overly curious child, followed by a quick regaining of balance, can be hammed up with a holler and some avid hand fanning afterwards.  Another no-brainer!

Deflection, as you can see, is a basic tool of the trade that can easily be extrapolated into all sorts of situations at work and at home.  You can even try it out on your spouse!  I hate having to explain the credit card bill.

The V-Word and its Perils

It is at times like these that I must throw up my hands in disgust and ask the ever burning question: “why in hell’s bells must parents teach their children the unappealing names for our anatomical parts?!?”  I never, ever want to hear the word “vagina”- not even from my gynecologist, much less from a child!  It was bad enough that our son learned the word “penis” in kindergarten.  At least I had him going with “bladder pouches” for testicles till the first grade…..

I will elucidate.  Several years ago, I was on a lunch “play date” (since it involved no wine, it doesn’t really merit the designation) with a couple of mothers and our kindergarten daughters.  As our meals arrived, one of the sweet little blondes at the table announced quite loudly- as if discussing the weather- that her “vagina itched.”  Had I been fortunate enough to have alcohol in my mouth, I would have almost spit it out.  Her mother seemed remarkably unmoved and proceeded to make several unmentionable suggestions to resolve the matter.  In her place, I would have sunk under the table till the meal was over.

Once I gathered myself, and wiped the diet coke off my shirt, I looked around sheepishly.  And that is when it hit me: “vagina” was a routine word nowadays.  No one at the table seemed even remotely phased, including my daughter.  Since she had never heard the word, it mercifully did not register.  She probably assumed it was a highfalutin word for “elbow.”  Let’s hope she never takes it for a spin….  At any rate, being a good decade or so older than the other mothers, I realized that this new generation of truth-telling, hippie-freedom-lovin’, mother-turned-friend was the norm.Human-anatomy-for-children

Why am I mentioning this today?  Because, now, years later, my son whipped out the v-word in the middle of an otherwise pleasant conversation to announce that he had finally learned the word for the “girl penis.”   And why is this of particular danger?  Ah, good question!  Because if there is no vagina, there is no sex. Simple!  Now, thanks to the son of an over-eager, all-revealing parent, I have a mildly well-informed son who may soon figure out how the “puzzle pieces” fit together.  The fabric of his childhood is coming apart in front of my very eyes!

Nothing a quick trip to the pool followed by ice cream didn’t take care of- deflect, deflect, deflect!  However, I may have to start a new national movement to create a more appropriate nomenclature for body parts.  I’ll start with referring to the vagina as the “never regions.”   And I’m bringing back the bladder pouch!

The Origin of the Species- or how not to take natural selection personally

A parent should be prepared at all times to deflect their children away from inappropriate information.  When asked “where do babies come from,” for example, I am keen to point out that you should not end a sentence with a preposition.  Explaining grammatical rules is an effective salve to almost any situation.  That usually gets the child completely off topic and the parent happily out of the awkward dance around the s-e-x question.  It may even plant the seed for a future English major.  God knows that a couple of literature degrees have done my career a world of good.  High school teachers make bank!

Now, as a high school teacher, I get a lot of practice deflecting people from the s-e-x topic.  The boys are constantly thinking about it, and I must shepherd them away from such thoughts and into a more academic mindset. However, sometimes the older set should have the right to think about s-e-x.

Case in point: many years ago when I was pregnant with my second child, thanks to Dr. Edelstein and the wonders of in vitro, a student sweetly asked if I would ever explain to my children that they were conceived in what is apparently a really weird way.  Here is how that conversation went.

“Madame, are you due soon?  You’re lookin’ big?”

“Thanks, Johnny, for pointing that out.  I love your honesty.  I have about a month to go.”

“Oh.  That explains it.  But, I mean, how much do you like my honesty?  Like, I don’t know, on a scale from 1 to 10?”

“Stop beating around the bush and say what you’re going to say, pal.”

“Can you go back behind the podium, please?  Your cankles are freaking me out, man!”

baby“Of course, of course.  My mistake.  I mean, after all the hard work with this in vitro stuff, and being pregnant in this heat, I’m not sure how I could lose sight of my grotesque body getting in the way of your learning.  Allow me.  Is this better?”

“Yeah, thanks!  That’s much better.  I mean, the guys and I have been talking about it.”

“Super.  Anything else I can do for you all?”

“Well, now I’m wondering… are you going to ever tell your kids about them being in vitro babies?  I mean, aren’t they going to be, like, traumatized because they’re, I don’t know, science experiments?”

“Are you suggesting that I went to Dr. Frankenstein to create my spawn?”

“I mean, not that bad,” he said naively to the woman in control of his grade,” but yeah, it’s pretty crazy stuff.”

“I’ll tell you some pretty crazy stuff.”

“OK, like what?”

“Your parents had sex to have you.”

“OMG, Madame, that is messed up!  Hot pokers to my eyes, man!  That’s sick!”

“Checkmate, my “man,” checkmate!”

So, a couple of takeaways: first,  the fact that I needed to resort to science for reproduction, is nothing to take personally.  Screw you, Darwin- I scoff at natural selection!  Fertility issues are not our fault- in the same way we can’t control if we are pear shaped or like Georgia O’Keefe (that is, however, admittedly pretty questionable).

But most importantly, gotta stop sharing with the students.  No more talk of in vitro- never, ever, man!  And as I mentioned before- sometimes the little rats should be exposed to s-e-x.  That’ll learn ’em!

Running in the Aisles….

Shopping with children has long been a unique form of torture.  “I want that, I’m tired, I have to pee, why can’t we go home…” and the list goes on and on.   As if that weren’t bad enough, once children learn how to read, you really have to pick your aisles carefully.  Danger lurks everywhere: feminine hygiene, hemorrhoid creams, lubricants, and let us not forget, the ever present condom- so many fun family topics!supermarket

Oh, my friends, beware the condom aisle.  My advice?  If you suddenly find yourself there, run and run fast!  If you cannot run fast enough, think even faster.  Take a recent experience I had with my own spawn.  (Note: the name of the guilty condom has been changed in order to avoid a lawsuit, but the experience is depicted accurately.)

We were in a particular pharmacy for the first time and I did not know the lay of the land.  All I wanted was to purchase sunscreen when we mistakenly walked by a section of condoms.  I ushered my children through as quickly as possible but one of the boxes caught my son’s eye and he started repeatedly asking “what’s that?  what’s that?” as I dragged him down the aisle.

“Nothing, dear, nothing at all!” I sang as we made it out of the danger zone.

“But it said ‘surprise’ on it.  I want to be surprised….”  Damned advanced kindergarten class!  And no, son, no you don’t want to be ‘Sir-prized!’  Trust mommy.

I clearly had no choice but to face his repeated questions head-on.  “Well, you know how we always have piñatas at your birthday parties, full of goodies?”

“Yippee, I love my Spongebob piñata!  But we had to tape him back together because cousin Iain beat him really hard.  Almost killed poor Spongey!”

“Yes, I remember, dear.  OK, sometimes adults have a party that requires a kind of piñata.  So, that ‘Sir-prize!’ is for adults when they beat their-um- ‘piñata.’”

“Oh- so that’s an adult goodie that goes inside your piñata?”

“Don’t go messing with metaphors, kid.  Let’s just focus on the fact that it’s not for you to worry about; it’s for adults- adults!”

“Cool!  But do you ever have a piñata party?”

“No, mommy normally has a headache.”

“Poor mommy!”

“Yep, poor, poor mommy!”  See how easy that was?  It’s very important to create an understanding in your kids’ minds that there is an adult world that they have no business in, and that we as parents are protecting them from this world.  Once they can wrap their pretty little heads around that fact, you can easily push them away from an unpleasant topic.   Remember, items such as condoms are gateway drugs to all sorts of peril.

And by the by, the only thing that should  be ribbed is your sweater.