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….

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!

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

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!

Leprechauns- less likely than a tooth fairy?

Last week my son’s class had an activity which consisted in building a leprechaun trap.  Of course, the next day came and went with no catch whatsoever- only the telltale green sparkle that is apparently the hallmark of the leprechaun.  I can only imagine what a Dyson vacuum cleaner goes for in Tipperary.leprechaun

Of course, one of my sons’s peers (let’s call him “Sean”) felt the need to pull him aside and point out that this was all a sham put on by the teacher, and Sean was too damned smart to fall for such shenanigans.  Well, top o’ the mornin’ to ya!  Thanks for that bundle of confusion you sent my way, Sean!  I’d like to Blarney your stones….

The evening of the big reveal, my son told me about Sean’s pearls of wisdom and asked me teary-eyed if I believed in leprechauns.  I truthfully said that I believed that there were many mysterious and strange phenomena that I could not begin to understand, much less explain.  I was primarily thinking of the aurora borealis and Spanx.  Definitely Spanx.

I reminded him about the tooth fairy and Santa, and that just because the poor leprechaun was not well-heeled enough to leave a token, he should not be thought less of.  This seemed to have comforted him tremendously and we had our usual talk whenever confronted with doubt.  I explained yet again that “not believing” was not a sign of intelligence or maturity.  It was just plain stubbornness- and more importantly, it was sad for whatever was being rejected by the jaded unbeliever.  Poor little leprechaun and his humble green sparkle!  This tugged at his empathy strings and within minutes my little boy was smiling peacefully.

A child’s imagination is stoked and his heart is filled with joy when leprechaun traps are built.  And potential engineering careers are encouraged.  And all is well with the world.

Oh, but Sean is banned from all future play dates.  He can pogue mahone any time.  Éirinn go Brách!

Which Came First…?

Remember to always be alert and never let down your guard.  This morning our sweet son asked for a boiled egg for breakfast.   Seemed innocent enough!  Since he wantedegg to help with the cooking, he got the egg out of the refrigerator and jokingly said that if he dropped it, it would be “chicken murder.”

After we all had a good laugh- or not (the kid is seriously morbid)- I could see the little wheels turning in his head.  He was up to one of the most treacherous of juvenile activities: thinking.  Nothing more dangerous than a little information with no great smarts to back it up!

“Wait, is there a chick in the egg, Mommy?”

“No, son, of course not.  You have seen plenty of cracked eggs and you know that there is nothing there but yolk and egg white.”  I knew where this was going….

“So, why isn’t there a chick in the eggshell?”  Like I am about to explain fertilization to the kid.  You introduce sex into the infantile world and childhood is over.  I know.  We have already discussed this, but I feel the need to reiterate.  No more tooth fairy.  No more Easter Bunny.  No more Santa.  Would Santa do that to Mrs. Claus?  I don’t think so!

“Well, son, there are two kinds of eggs.  Some eggs become chicks and the others  become breakfast.  Two kinds, see?”

“Oh!  I get it!  How do the eggs know which kind they are, Mommy?”

“How do you know what you are, kid?”

“Hmm.  OK, but how do the eggs know?”  Push-back.  Expect it.  Go monotone and glassy eyed.

“Really, son, I am no expert in the chicken industry and my advice is not to look into it too much.  You’ll never eat fowl again.  That’s a homonym to remember.”

“Sounds boring.  Hey, I’m hungry.  Can we make the egg now?”  There we go.  Start sounding like a teacher and anyone will tune you out.  I know.  Because I am a teacher.

Kids don’t want the real answers to these sorts of questions.  No one does!  Plus, chicken sex- what’s that about?  Gives a whole new meaning to “gamecock.”  Not a visual I need any time soon.

Children are exploring the world at large and it is our responsibility to keep them safe.  It’s the same logic as why you would never let your kid cross a street alone just because he wants to go to the playground around the block.  You certainly don’t want them wandering around out there considering the insemination of chickens in tacky, poorly lit hen houses with some pimp farmer barking out orders to an oversexed rooster nicknamed “Max the Roto Rooter. ”  No, you really don’t.