Mr. Blister Goes to School

30 04 2008

Today marks a major turning point in the life of the Blister family. Today is Mr. Blister’s last day at his job. Tomorrow will be his first day of unemployment in nearly eight years, and for the first time since the kids were born, he’ll be allowed to sleep as long as he wants, have beer for breakfast, and spend the afternoon shopping for the ultimate symbol of a man of leisure: a new set of golf clubs. And the day after that, he’ll be thrown into a grueling month long intensive education program preparing him for life as a househusband / stay-at-home-dad, during which, he will quickly realize that he can kiss sleep-ins, beer, and golf goodbye.

 Mr. Blister graduated with honours from the prestigious Hard Working Dad program, and has successfully completed pre-requisite courses in general housework, feeding and burping, and diapering 101, but he still has much to learn. The core curriculum of the new program includes Selecting Appropriate Clothing for Children; Being in Three Places at One Time; Recognizing the Sound of Trouble (for which he will need the text book ‘Don’t Let the Silence Fool You’); Teaching a Baby to Talk and Walk; Teaching School Aged Children to Shut up and Sit Down; and the ever-challenging practicum, Put Down the Newspaper, Get Used to Cold Coffee, and Learn to Braid My Little Pony Hair. He may or may not wish to participate in an academic research experiment, Lactation Induction for Dads. 

The instructor is a real hard-ass, a professional multi-tasking mother with no patience for rookie mistakes, and plenty of tricks in her rolled-up sleeves. She holds a Ph.d in Early Childhood Necessities (with a concentration in Cry Interpretation and Intervention), a Master’s degree in Distractions (her thesis – Silly Songs, Silly Voices, Silly Faces: What to Use When? – was brilliant, albeit a bit silly) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Housekeeping (in which her major was undeclared, but her minor was definitely Laundry.) I know all of this because the instructor is me. Mr. Blister is being taken to school, Domestic Blister style. And I am sort of freaking out.

We are about to undertake some huge changes, including moving our family half way across the country, and a significant role reversal where I become the breadwinner, and he becomes the sandwich maker. But for the next four weeks, we’ll both be home packing and preparing for what lies ahead as best we can. And I feel like there is so much I need to teach him. I want him to know the most effective and efficient ways of doing just about everything. He needs to know how to help Squiggles roll on to her tummy so that her arms don’t get stuck. He needs to know how to help Roo work on her fine motor skills. He needs to know how to determine when Neener needs a lecture and when she needs a hug. And it will all go a lot smoother if he can grow eyes in the back of his head, an extra set of arms and some breasts. Squiggles really likes breasts, they are the only thing that really calm her when she is upset. But I don’t think we have enough time for all that. So I’ll focus on the basics – teaching him that Squiggles “ahhhhh ahhhhh” cry means “Play with me” and her “uhhhhh uhhhhh” cry means “I pooped in my pants.” I’ll show him a dozen or so different craft projects to while away a rainy afternoon. I’ll demonstrate my secret recipe for mac and cheese. I’ll teach him how to read Dr. Seuss books the right way, because make no mistake, there is a right way and a wrong way to read them. I’ll stress the importance of washing all faces before venturing out in public. I’ll give him coaching sessions on how to manage all three kids by yourself in an unfamiliar environment. I’ll tell him how to make friends with other parents. And I’ll give him a refresher course in First Aid. Just in case. 

Half way through this last day of work, the Mister came home for lunch, lamenting the training of the new employee who will be taking his place. He spoke of all the information he was trying to download into the brain of the new guy, how his voice was hoarse from talking, and the new guy looked like his head was about to explode from information overload. Immediately, I could relate, knowing that the next month is my big chance to teach my husband everything there is to know about being a stay-at-home-parent. And I know it is going to be stressful for me and overwhelming for him, even before our switcheroo has officially begun. But then Mr. Blister said something interesting, as he shared an epiphany of his own.  

“So I just stopped telling the new guy stuff. I gave him the basics and a few helpful hints, and the rest he’ll figure out, the same way I did. It’ll take a while, but he’ll find his own way of doing things, and it’ll be fine.” 

And then the light went on for me too. I don’t have to teach my husband how to be a stay-at-home-mother. I have to just let him be a stay-at-home-father. I can offer up some of my most sage advice, and let him get some practice over the next few weeks, but then it’s up to him to figure it out. He knows that he can pick my brain for information or ideas whenever he wants, and I know that he is a smart, competent man. He will do things differently, but that does not mean he’s doing them wrong. It will be an adjustment for all of us, and the learning curve will be sharp. There will be times when it’s great, and times when it’s a nightmare. Which is exactly the way it is now. Minus the boobs. But that is ok too. Squiggles will adjust to less boobage one way or another.  

So instead of spending the next four weeks schooling Mister Blister on how to look after the kids, I’ll enjoy the time we have together, this relative calm before the storm. And maybe I’ll work on finding the one thing that will make Mr. Blister’s life as a stay-at-home dad infinitely easier: a boob shaped baby pacifier for Baby Squiggles. It’ll make a perfect Father’s Day present.





Charge of the Tramp Brigade

27 04 2008

If anyone has a good recipe for stunting kids’ growth, I’d like to hear it. And don’t suggest feeding them Wonder Bread and Count Chocula for breakfast. Didn’t work. They still woke up a quarter inch taller than they were the night before. I’d be ok with finding something that also curtails their cognitive development, but what I’m really looking for is something to slow down the physical growth of Neener and Roo. Why, you wonder? Well, if you were to hazard a guess, you may come up with the easy answer: I want them to stay my babies forever. But that’s not true. I’m actually looking forward to the day when they are grown up enough to acknowledge my infinite wisdom. Or at least competently wipe their own bums. Then, there’s the more obvious reason: Growing kids are expensive kids. Reduce the growing, reduce the expense, plain and simple. And certainly, I am very aware that keeping my daughters decently clothed costs a pretty penny. Ok, more like a comfortable-but-cute penny in our case. But notice that I said decently clothed. See, there’s the catch. There’s the real reason I want my kids to stop growing, to stay little girls, to stay size 6X forever. In my last few forays into the fashionable worlds of Zellers, Winners and Valu-Village, I was struck by a disturbing reality: The trampy clothes start at size 7.

Yes, the trampy clothes. Stuff that would have been too trampy for me when I was 17 are now the staples of clothing for the under 12 set. There’s a slutty glut of micro-mini skirts (yeah, great for Roo, who has a hard enough time keeping her skirt down as it is), grossly revealing ultra-low rise pants (perfect for Neener’s chronic crack problem to which even high-rise jogging pants succumb) and the hoochiest little swimwear you ever did see ( I almost threw up when I saw the sparkly, size 7, Stuff by Hillary Duff bikini with the padded bra top. Thanks Hill, but I don’t let my five year olds Stuff.) But perhaps the most offensive, most pervasive of all are the T-shirts. It is damn near impossible to find a girl’s t-shirt that does not have some snotty or suggestive slogan splattered across the front. Those are the two flavours of Tee, snotty and suggestive. On the snotty rack, there’s stuff like ‘Nuthin’ but attitude’ and ‘Too cute to care‘ and ‘100% Princess…and don’t you forget it!’ Meanwhile, over on the suggestive rack, there’s ‘Hottie‘ and ‘Super Flirt’  and ‘Don’t even think about it!’ Or, quite possibly the worst, one with a picture of a coy looking Curious George (yes, even cartoon monkeys have come hither faces in the land of tight n’ trampy t-shirts) and the curly, coyly fonted phrase ‘Are You Curious?’ written across the chest. Are you curious? Are you serious? Is it just me with my paranoid mother mind in the gutter, thinking that these things amount to little more than billboards for perverts? Did using my reproductive organs for actual reproduction turn me into a big prude? And would anyone let their 5 year old son go around in a t-shirt that read ‘Boylicious?‘ I doubt it.

I could go off on a rant about the sexualization of young girls, and our pop culture’s sick insistence on dressing grown women like little girls, and little girls like prostitutes, and one of these days, I probably will. But not today. Today I’ll spare you the tirade, and content myself with trying to figure out who to blame for this crap. Obviously, there’s Hillary Duff. Her name is on a kid’s bikini with built-in fake boobies, for Christ’s sake! But Hillary is squeaky clean compared to the even trampier strain of starlets – Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Brittney, before she had babies and went bonkers – who are successfully peddling the underwear-free tramp brigade lifestyle to young girls who don’t know any better, and to old men who do. We could also pin it on Bratz dolls, the dolls with ‘A Passion for Fashion!’ Or, more accurately, the dolls with a passion for thong underwear (which at least they wear – for now), hooker make-up, and getting G.I Joe thrown in jail for sexual interference with a minor. I’ve taken a solemn vow that if any Bratz merchandise ever comes into my daughters’ possession, I will do what any sensible, conscientious mother would do: Take it out back, soak it in hairspray and light it on fire while squealing “There Yasmin, now you’re, like, totally hot!”   And naturally, I’d love to blame it on Disney, but I’m not sure I can. At least, not on the Princesses. They may be vacuous, desperate, ninnies but they have not sunk into slutty. But Tinkerbell, on the other hand…hmmm…that pixie skirt of hers is awfully short.

But really, it doesn’t matter who’s to blame for this onslaught of slutty clothes aimed at young girls, this tramp brigade charging straight at my daughters. All that matters to me is how I’m going to deal with it. Right now, my plan is to stunt my daughters’ growth so we can delay wading into the dirty waters of girls’ size 7 and up clothing. I need something that will keep them little and innocent and in sass-and-skank-free t-shirts for just for a little while longer. So far, my best lead on such a substance is a guy on ebay selling viles of Gary Coleman’s blood. (Whatchu talkin’ ’bout, Blister?) And then, when Neener and Roo turn 17, if they want to go buy trampy t-shirts, or a sparkly bikini with built-in boobs, they can be my guests. After twelve years of eating Wonder Bread and Count Chocula laced with Gary Coleman’s blood, they’ll probably need all the padding they can get.  





Memorable Milestone: Baby’s First Trip to the ER

25 04 2008

Yesterday, the universe saw fit to remind me yet again of how things can change in the blink of an eye. One minute I’m sipping coffee, making birthday party invitations with Neener and Roo, and trying to decide which exercise dvd I’m going to torture myself with, and the next minute I’m en route to the ER with a frighteningly feverish baby and a doctor’s note containing words that would get us fast tracked in the triage line: Four month old baby, fever of 103, drowsy, irritable, stiff neck. Yeah, that’ll get you some quick attention, you would think.

But let’s take it from the beginning. Squiggles developed a fever on Wednesday. It hovered around 101, no cough, no runny nose, no Barfies, no pootastrophies. She was still pretty much acting like her happy-go-lucky self, save for the night time restlessness that was tamed by hourly boob feeds and Jingle-Bells-in-the-key-of-cat waltzes. Yesterday morning, she was warmer, and a bit crankier, but content enough to laugh hysterically at Neener’s reading of Green Eggs and Ham. ( Come to think of it, she may have been a bit delirious from the fever at that point. Green Eggs and Ham is just not that funny.) So, being the seasoned mother of three that I am, I gave her some baby Tylenol, put her to bed and did not panic. Until around 3 p.m when Squiggles woke from a very long nap, refused to eat, and oscillated between extreme irritability, and laying on my chest whimpering like a puppy. A sick, sleepy puppy. So I pulled out the trusty rectal thermometer (or bum-mometer as we call it) to get a quick read. 103. Yikes. A fever that high in a baby this young is not something I was willing to wait out. Time to see the doctor. Fortunately, our family doctor’s office is right next door. I got the Mister to come home from work to mind Neener and Roo, and I darted to the doctor. Having seen Squiggles with her previous fevers, he quickly recognized the same worrisome things that I had: High fever, irritable and lethargic, a reluctance to move her head around, and no obvious cause. He began a pre-amble about how all kids are different when they are sick, and the importance of playing it safe, but I cut to the chase. 

“Take her to the ER? Just to be sure it’s not something scary?” I asked.

“Yeah. I think that’s the best thing to do.” he replied gravely.

So, being the seasoned mother of three that I am, I panicked.  

What happened next a bit of a blur. I know I called our sweet Super Sitter to come to the rescue. I know Mr. Blister flagged down a cab, handed me a wad of cash and a cell phone, and kissed us goodbye with the promise that he’d meet us at the hospital as soon as he could. I know Squiggles didn’t make a peep in the cab. I know the taxi driver sensed my urgency and took the less busy side streets to get us there quicker. And I know I tipped him 10 bucks. But my ability to think, to take in my surroundings, to breathe, and to be the un-panicked rock I needed to be did not re-surface until we were safely in the doors of the ER. There, we were met by the security guy, who asked if I was here for me or my kid, then told me to take a seat. One entire wall of the ER was lined with old people on stretchers, each accompanied by 2 paramedics. In the triage system, they take anyone who arrived by ambulance first, so the paramedics can get back to work quicker. I watched as 85 year old Martha got registered and admitted for swallowing too many unidentified pills. I watched as 70-some year old Mr. Robins got taken in to pee in a cup. I watched as a hefty, odiferous woman sat down in a triage station and began describing the kink in her neck and asking about painkillers. I watched and waited for about 15 minutes, not sure of where I was in the crowded que. No one had really asked me anything, or even acknowledged that I was in there with a small baby among the junkies and geriatrics. So I figured it was time to draw some attention to myself. I went to the security guy and asked if I should be in any particular part of the line. He said that depended on what was wrong.

“Well, I’ve got a 4 month old baby and my doctor sent us here to make sure she doesn’t have meningitis.”

“Oh. Ok. Have a seat.” I watched as security guy got up and pointed me out to the nurse dealing with pain-in-the-neck woman. Then I watched as he went back and sat down behind his desk.

 I felt a tap on my shoulder. A middle aged gentleman with a sprain had overheard my conversation with security guy, and offered me his place at the available triage station. I choked out a ‘thank you’ as he helped me carry the car seat. Then I spotted the hospital’s head of pediatrics, who just so happens to be our pediatrician. We had a quick chat, and within minutes, we were in a room to see a doctor and get some tests started. Blood work, chest x-ray, urine culture, and if none of those tests gave us enough information, we’d start talking spinal tap. 

Just before all that got started, my husband arrived. I was so relieved to have his company and the extra pair of hands. Two nurses then showed up to take some blood from Squiggle’s chubby little arm, while I hovered over her face patting her head and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. One nurse commented that I was handling it pretty well, seeing my baby so upset by the whole procedure. I explained that I was a veteran at singing my kids through assorted tests, that my other daughter had been through much worse. I was in medical mommy mode, with no brain space left to dwell on what any of us were going through. My job was to stay calm, and keep Squiggles calm as best I could. For a moment, I felt a little callous for not getting really upset at the sight of my baby scared and in pain. Then I reminded myself that it would not help anyone to have me bawling in the corner, or running from the room when my child needed me most. So I helped the nurses hold her down and when it was over, I picked Squiggles up, rocked her a bit, and she promptly fell asleep.

But even medical mommy was not quite prepared for the chest x-ray. In order to get pictures of her lungs, my baby had to be stripped off and placed on a small bicycle seat on a post, attached to a table. Then, as I held her arms up over her head, the tech clamped a big see-through plastic cylinder around her entire body, her legs dangling out the bottom, her arms sticking straight up through the top, and her little face jutting out from a hole cut in the side. Remember, this is the baby who hated her sling with a mad apssion because she detests any manner of confinement. Then, a big black board was pushed in front of her face while the tech took the x-rays. Squiggles couldn’t look at me for comfort, so I just started meowing Jingle Bells over her heartbreaking cries. I did not know what else to do. It was certainly not what I had in mind when I’d imagined her first professional photographs being taken. But, it all went as well as could be expected, and soon we were off to have poor Squiggles prodded with a catheter. Twice, because the first nurse couldn’t seem to get it right. As we sat in he room waiting for word on the tests, I quietly prayed to any and all random deities who could possibly be eavesdropping. Please no spinal tap. Please no spinal tap.  

Finally, we got some information. Her bloodwork showed some infection, her lungs were clear, and we’d have to wait on the urine cultures. In the mean time, our pediatrician came to examine her before making the call on the spinal tap. It was then that Squiggles displayed her impeccable timing, and I saw again how everything can change in the blink of an eye. As soon as the doctor started checking her out, Squiggles perked up. She opened her eyes. She started moving and looking around. She started cooing at him. She started doing all the things she had not done for hours. And that put his mind at ease. He said he’d follow up on the test results, that we did the right thing coming in, but that we could breathe a sigh of relief that we didn’t need a spinal tap, and that we could go home. We thanked him profusely, packed up our still feverish but now smiling and alert baby, and headed home. 

So, there’s no neat and tidy conclusion here yet. Squiggles still has a fever, and we don’t know what’s causing it. But we have a pretty good idea of what is not causing it, and that’s important. She’s not 100% back to herself, but she does seem to be on the mend. And I can say that at the very least, she’s no longer deliriously feverish. I just read her Green Eggs and Ham, and she barely cracked a smile.





Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

24 04 2008

Neener has a promising future as either an advertising executive, a sign maker, or a perennially unemployed drifter who makes money for smokes by taping Lost Cat and Yard Sale signs to poles. Every room in our home has been plastered with Neener’s handmade signs. The hallway is festooned with ‘ads’ for her shoe store, Fiona’s Shoes. The bedroom she shares with Roo is riddled with stern labels indicating who owns what: My bed. Don’t touch. My shelf. Don’t touch. My wall. Don’t touch. Apparently she who makes the most signs rules the bedroom. And the living room is a mess of conflicting information, saying on one wall ‘Welcome to Costa Rica’ and on the other, the cryptic and confusing ‘Closed due to enimies[sic]’ and ‘Open due to my friends.’ There is even a sign in the bathroom. It went up at Christmas time when my bachelor-esque brother was visiting, reminding him to ‘Please put the toilet seat down.’ It was so effective that we considered sending it home with him to put on the back of his own toilet, potentially saving his girlfriend from a few late-night dips in the flush. But, like all Neener’s other signs, I just could not bear to take it down. Our home looks a little ridiculous, with all these pieces of kid-scrawled paper taped on the walls, but I don’t care. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of my funny kid, and that makes me smile much more than any neat and tastefully decorated room ever could. I know this is just a phase. I know someday the signs will come down, and I know I’ll miss them. I know this too shall pass. So I’m going to take pictures. I’ve already begun doing just that, by taking this one that she drew on her Magna-doodle while playing a game called Baby Land, in which she created a dream theme park for Baby Squiggles and a truckload of dolls:

 

Raising a child for 5 years: $20 000

Buying a Magna-doodle: $20

Having a 5 year old create signs that make you laugh til you pee your pants: priceless.





The Best-Laid Plans of Domestic Blister Often Go Awry

23 04 2008

I woke up at 6 a.m. to some serious spring rain. A sheet of gigantic plopping drops. The kind that doesn’t so much bring May flowers as it does pound those brave bunches of early flora to the ground. Normally, I like this kind of rain. It’s the kind I like to dance in, especially now that I am the proud owner of a pair of grown-up giggle galoshes. (A grown woman in floral print rubber boots doing a jig in a mud puddle is always good for a laugh.) But not today. Today I had plans. And my plans did not include rain or mud puddle jigs. I had planned to pack up Squiggles in our brand new super spiffy Ergo baby carrier and go to a workshop at the parent-child centre to learn how to make my own baby food, before sauntering down the street to pick Neener and Roo up at school. But by the looks of it, I’d have to take the loathed stroller instead of the awesome carrier because at least the loathed stroller has a rain cover. 

I am used to this, the phenomenon of wrenches being thrown into my plans. I’ve learned not to put too much stock into how I think things are going to pan out. I’ve learned that the best-laid plans can change in an instant. Sometimes it’s little things, like rain on a day when I planned on sun. Sometimes it’s big things, like planning to have a baby, and winding up with a two for one deal. That fateful moment when the ultra sound technician informed us we were having twins really threw me and my ‘midwife assisted water birth in the living room, organic cloth diapers, nothin’ but breast, finish my great Canadian novel while my baby sleeps in a funky sling‘ plan for a loop. Instead, I had to revise my expectations to fit the ‘hospital birth with a small army of doctors staring at my hoo ha, preemies in the NICU, too many diapers, not enough milk, forget writing and try to grow another set of arms to rock two screaming babies‘ plan. Even with baby Squiggles, there were things I planned on doing that just didn’t go the way I figured they would. She was born with a partial paralysis of her bottom lip, and couldn’t suck hard enough to be exclusively breast feed, so that plan had to change. And much to my surprise, having another baby did not magically make me better at doing laundry, so for the sake of my sanity and Squiggle’s bottom, we ditched the cloth diaper plan again. And a peaceful baby nestled next to me in a cozy sling? Not Squiggles. She responds to the coziness of the sling by trying to gnaw her own leg off in hopes of escaping. This, in between the deafening howls. So that sling sits in a drawer unused and replaced by a less restrictive baby carrier. A reminder of plans gone awry due to circumstances beyond my control.

But, by the time I finished bitching about the rain, about my plans being foiled, about having to take the hateful contraption we call a stroller out, the rain had stopped. So on went the carrier, in went Squiggles, and off we went down the puddle studded street to the parent-child centre. I noticed along the way that the flowers had not been too badly flattened by the rain at all. They were already starting to perk up, proving themselves more resilient than I’d given them credit for. There were still a few clouds hovering overhead, but I elected to take my chances. It’s not like Squiggles or I would melt if we got caught in a little bit of rain. And besides, I know all too well that plans can change in an instant, and that has helped me develop a motto that holds true for mothers and boy scouts alike. Always be prepared. And I am. I packed a rain jacket and my giggle galoshes in the diaper bag just in case it started to piss pour rain again. Or just in case I felt like doing a little jig in a mud puddle on the way home.

 

 





Revenge of the Barfies

21 04 2008

I should have seen this coming. And I probably would have, if I’d taken a moment to mentally run through the most likely scenarios of what could go wrong, and the most inconvenient (and therefore most likely) times for it to happen. But I just didn’t have time, so I’ll just do it now.

Scenario: Neener and Roo come down with the barfies, and Squiggles decides that sleep-ins and naps are luxuries she (and therefore I) can not afford.

Timing: The three day window I have to pull together a complex writing assignment with a strict deadline, in preparation for a super-intense telephone interview for the job of my dreams, followed immediately by another tough deadlined writing task.

Yep, dealing with sick children while I’m under that kind of pressure would be very exhausting and nerve wracking . So naturally, that’s what’s happening.

It has been over two months since anyone in our house has been hit with a stomach bug, so we were due. Around the Blisterdome, we call it The Barfies, and it happens every two or three months. Yet every time, it catches me off guard. In the lull between bouts, I manage to forget that the end of one Barfies cycle is really just the beginning of another. And by now, I should be able to predict precisely when The Barfies will strike again by asking one simple question: When is the next important / exciting / stressful event in our lives? There’s my answer, no tarot cards required. Neener and Roo have managed to get The Barfies just in time for mommy and daddy’s Valentine’s Day “date”, as well as their birthday (last year, we called it their barfday), Halloween and Christmas. They get The Barfies when we have far-away family come for a visit. They get The Barfies when I am already sleep-deprived and stressed to the gills. They get The Barfies if I try to party like it’s 1999 and drink a whole bottle of wine in one night. Then again, so do I.

But c’mon, is it normal for kids to be such barf bags? Wait. Let me qualify that with some more information: Is it normal for kids who chew their finger nails, drink from other people’s cups, eat a bit of dirt, and lick their sneakers from time to time to be such barf bags? Yeah, I guess it is. So what can I do? Just wait it out, and know that this too shall pass. Keep multiple Barfie Bowls strategically located around the house. Feed them dry toast and water. Sleep with one ear open for that telltale 3 a.m cough that signals impending puke. And pat myself on the back for getting over the first of the three hurdles required for the dream job interview I’ll be facing bright and early tomorrow morning, in spite of The Barfie God’s apparent conspiracy against me. I’m desperately hoping that by keeping Neener and Roo home from school today, they’ll be good to go tomorrow so I’ll have a few less distractions as I try to talk my way into gainful employment. But if it doesn’t work out that way, I’ll manage. I always do. However, I will be convinced that the timing of this bout of The Barfies is karmic revenge for past illness-related transgressions: For sending the kids to school with colds a few weeks back; for the Christmas we triggered a complete and total multi-city Barf-o-rama by sending our traveling family and friends off puking on planes and in airports coast to coast; for drinking a whole bottle of wine at their barfday birthday party this year. Ok, so that one has not happened yet, but I’m willing to pay for it upfront. 

I am also crossing my fingers that I don’t wind up with The Barfies this time around, at least not in the next 36 hours. Doing a telephone job interview after tending to sick kids all weekend is one thing. Doing a telephone job interview while taking call-waiting on the porcelain telephone yourself is a whole other deal. But even if that happens, again, I’ll manage. I’ll Pepto-Bismal myself into functionality and show The Barfies what’s what. My sneaker-licking kids might be easy targets, but Mama here ain’t goin’ down without a fight, especially when my future career is on the line. If I know anything about myself, I know that I like a good fight, and that I work well under pressure. What does not make me barf will only make me stronger.

 





Don’t Take Your Guns to School, Boys. Leave Your Guns at Home.

17 04 2008

Unfortunately, Neener and Roo are learning things at school. That’s right, unfortunately. I was actually hoping that they would not learn much there at all. Let me explain: Neener and Roo are almost five, and can already read. And I don’t mean read as in ‘cat, bat,hat.’ I don’t even mean ‘See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot run very fast.’ It’s more like ‘ Observe Spot. Take note of Spot physically exerting himself. It is grossly apparent that Spot is approaching the point of exhaustion.’ And they would be able to pronounce and understand that. When I am writing these posts, I have to be keenly aware of little eyeballs peering over my shoulder. We have to hide the newspapers when there are grisly headlines. I have to constantly divert their attention when we are on public transit if we’ve accidently plunked ourselves directly across from one of those lovely Men’s clinic ads with the words ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION written nice ‘n big ‘n bold. They can read, they can understand, and what they don’t understand, they have no qualms about questioning. Loudly. And they can print. And draw. And colour. And add and subtract, and I am pretending that they do not know how to do simple multiplication because frankly, it freaks me out. I can barely do simple multiplication. Sometimes I just curl up in the cozy arms of denial, and ignore the fact that my children are alarmingly smart on some levels. Thank god that they’re socially dumb as rocks. 

So when they started school, I told the teacher it was ok to not really teach them anything. I figure Neener and Roo could use a brain break for a few years, to let their peers catch up, and to let some of their overachieving neural networks wither and die. I told the teacher I would be happy if she could give them just enough academic stimulation to keep them from driving her crazy, and if they could spend more time connecting with and learning from their peers. Ohh, but be careful what you wish for…

It seems that Neener and Roo’s class is chock full of junior NRA enthusiasts. There are only a handful of girls in the class, and they are all Disney Princesses-in-training (see here for my feelings on that) so, the boys dominate the kindergarten social landscape. And that social landscape looks like a scene from Charlton Heston’s wildest, giddiest, most gun-toting dream. Little boys racing around, turning anything they can get their hands on into guns. Blocks. Play-doh. Disney Princess paraphernalia. (Cinderella’s Slipper! Now with more killing power!) For Neener and Roo, this is a whole new world. Before they started school, they didn’t know anything about boys. Or about weapons. But now, they are not only aware of guns and swords and what they are for, they’ve realized that boys think they are cool. And if they want to play with the boys, they’d better bone up on their weapon talk. Here’s a sample of a conversation I had with Neener the other day while she was drawing a picture:

Me: What’s that a picture of?

Neener: A rattlesnake attacking a hummingbird.

Me: Oh. And what’s that?

Neener: A gun coming out of the sky to shoot the rattlesnake in the head so it will be too dead to attack the hummingbird anymore.

And then there was this chat with Roo, while she was drawing:

Me: Whatcha drawing?

Roo: Me. With a sword. And a gun. And another gun. And another sword. And a princess dress.

 

Thank you, school kids. Now, I know most of these boys. They live in the neighbourhood. They are nice. Their parents are nice. I don’t think they are destined to be school shooters or gangsta thugs. They are just going through a gun phase. Or they are clearly reflecting the nonchalant attitude toward weapons that is so pervasive in the pop-culture entertainment offerings for young boys. Or they are all just getting a jump on constructing their phallic-symbol-centered masculine identities. But do they have to teach my daughters about it? Can’t they form some secret gun club for boys, and act out their little wars in somebody’s backyard, out of earshot of my already anxious, sensitive, too-smart-for-their-own-good daughters?  I guess not.

So I have to play the glad game. At least Neener and Roo are learning something. At least they are socializing. At least they are choosing to explore this world of boys and guns and violence instead of ignoring it, or worse, being terrified and intimidated by it. And you never know, this knowledge may come in handy some day. Afterall, my husband is facing his future as the father of three tall, beautiful, too-smart-for-their-own-good, socially-dumb-as-rocks daughters. He’s probably going to want a gun someday, to scare the living shit out of the throngs of boys who will inevitably come knocking on our door. Maybe Neener and Roo will learn enough in school to help Daddy decide which gun he should buy.