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!

In Defense of Lying

As you read through this blog for strategies on helping perpetuate your child’s happiness, note how each post presents authentic, real life issues that families deal with every day across this great nation.  These posts include sound suggestions on how to handle each tough situation- from the dreaded topic of sex to parental conflict.  The solutions are gleaned from tried and true experiences that I have both lived through and witnessed.  Now, this may seem like a purely anecdotal collection of advice, but there is real science behind it all.  Take for example, the chart below.  First of all, it is a chart.  Secondly, it indicates precisely that lying- be it through omission or not- is the unspoken secret to a happy family.  The data below was collected by NIPLL (National Independent Parental Lying League), an organization that I have had a bear of a time launching beyond our weekly cocktail hour set.  Sure, perhaps my friends are all drunk at the time, but even the childfree ones fully back the importance of shielding children from awful truths.  Or maybe just shielding themselves from children- I can’t help but notice their disappointed looks when the little ones go rogue during a dinner party and come downstairs for a Family von Trapp meet and greet.  At any rate, I trust that this blog will help garner support for NIPLL, a most dignified and highly relevant organization.

NIPPL chart

As you can see, the foundation for lying is logical.  Children need to remain children and ultimately do not want to know the truth.  They do not want life demystified.  They want enchantment and delight- and information on condoms, for example, singlehandedly negates both of those.  So, when confronted by inappropriate curiosity, do anything in your power not to answer truthfully.  The truth will not set you free.  I will go as far as to say that the truth will chain you to a series of disappointing (for all parties) conversations that will forever haunt you and your child.

In conclusion, there is a direct correlation between withholding developmentally inappropriate material from children and the length and happiness of their childhood.  There is no reason children should know anything, frankly, other than readin’, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.  Ignorance is bliss, after all!  So, read on and you will find not only a surprising array of familiar and treacherous situations, but also multiple, scientifically-based defense methods!

My kids know that without a doubt, mommy will be there to make sure that they can frolic in a safe, magical land called “childhood,” uninhabited by weird, distasteful fact ogres.  And remember- that truth obsessed freak, Immanuel Kant, never had children!

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!
Chart

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 favim.com

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.