Reptile Rage-O-Rama

28 02 2009

The vivid red, yellow and black bands of a Coral snake warn predators that this serpent means business. Deadly, venomous, fuck-with-me-and-I’ll-pump-you-full-of-neurotoxin-and-paralyze-your-lungs type business. I know this because of the little write-ups on the tags that came with the not one, but two,  Coral snakes we now own. The creatively named Venom and Coral. Venom and Coral came all the way from some cheap plastic crap factory in China, to the merchandise table at the moderately priced family fun-o-rama known as Little Ray’s Traveling Reptile Show. Which just happened to be traveling near us this weekend. So, after a week’s worth of dangling the flyer for Little Ray’s Reptile Show in front of Neener and Roo whenever it was time to clear the table, or get ready for school, or stop a “You’re a Boy!/No I’m not! Yes you are! No I’m not!” argument , Mr and I made good on our promise this morning. Because apparently, we are sadists.

I could write about how we showed up right at nine o’clock because Neener and Roo were desperate to get the as-advertised “Free Chomper Toy for the first 100 kids.” Then I could write about how Neener and Roo had absolutely no idea what a Chomper Toy actually was, and how that didn’t matter because it had the words Free and Chomper and Toy in bold print on the flyer.  And how within minutes of receiving the Free Chomper Toys, the novelty wore off, and the Free Chomper Toys became More Stuff for Mom and Dad to Carry. I could also write about Mr.’s unsung act of heroism. How he saved the crowd of drenched parents and screaming children from spending even longer in the howling wind and driving icy rain, by insisting that the khaki-clad kids collecting the cash let the frozen families line up inside the building instead of out. And how the crowd repaid Mr.’s use of his common sense for their common good by butting in front of us, to make sure that their two-year olds got a chance to not care about seeing an alligator. I could write about Neener darting around the big, busy room like a hummingbird that fed from a can of Red Bull, and how she used her Chomper toy to collect wood chips from the tortoise display. Or Roo’s desperate attempts to get her hands on the long, carrot coloured braided hair of the Iguana handler, and her fascination with the Taiwan Beauty snake. Or Squiggle’s mysterious conversation with the Great Horned Owl. Or how Mr. and I experienced the surrealism of eight feathery tarantula toes dancing across our hands. But those are the pleasant little details that, while cute and amusing, would make me yawn after a while if that was all I had to write about. Me, I’m all about the drama. And God knows that the Blister family can not set foot in a place like Little Ray’s Traveling Reptile Show without some sort of drama.february09-141

Which brings us back to the Coral snakes. Venom and Coral. Fifty-one minutes and twenty-three bucks later, we were all more than ready to get the hell out of Little Ray’s Reptile Fun-O-Rama. The crowd had doubled in volume, tripled in pushiness, and our collective patience had been slashed in half and divided by five. And that’s when Neener and Roo discovered the merchandise table, crawling with stuffed frogs and iguana puppets and toy tarantulas and rubber snakes. So I cut a deal with them: I would loan them the money to buy something but they’d have to pay me back from their piggy banks when they got home.  Sure, they said, no problem. Roo, having already thoroughly mauled every item on the table, settled on a Coral snake. And when Roo decides  she wants something, that’s it. That snake will be her best friend until some other carefully chosen object is deemed worthy of her long meandering narratives. Neener, on the other hand, is more subject to impulse. To making decisions without thinking them through. To wanting for the sake of getting. To doing things that she regrets moments later. And so was the case with her Coral snake.

As Mr. went to get the van, the girls and I waited inside. It was then that Neener decide that she did not want the Coral snake after all. That it was boring. That this would be a good time to have an all out meltdown. All the way into the van and out of the parking lot, she screamed, she stomped, she yelled. We tried speaking to her in calm controlled voices. We tried speaking to her in not-so-calm, not-so-controlled voices. We distracted, we threatened, we guilted, we reasoned. Nothing could bring Neener back to rational. So, we did something that goes against all logic in such a situation. We stopped at Tim Hortons. And we did what is known in the behaviour management business as “Precipitating a Crisis.” Coffees for Mr and I , and a powdered jelly donut for Roo. And nothing for Neener. Which resulted in a sharp escalation of screaming and yelling, and the almost-amusing addition of  Neener whacking herself in the forehead, and snarling, gnashing, and clawing at the air like a very, very pissed off tiger. Which continued more or less unabated until we got home, at which point she was sent directly to her room, where she could be heard wailing ” But I’m gonna starve to death!” and “Nobody cares about me!” and “Everybody in the whole world gets all the treats and I don’t get anything except bossed around and told to go to your rooooooom!” And once the screaming died down to sobbing, I went upstairs with a banana and a glass of water to seize this teachable moment. We talked about everything Neener could have done differently at many points, from thinking more carefully about what she wanted to buy, to positive self-talk, to ways of calming down after freaking out, to the futility of whacking one’s self in the head. And when I say we talked, I mean that we talked. Not that I talked and she listened. That approach doesn’t work now that Neener knows what the word lecture means, and is not afraid to point out when a lecture is in progress. And I think that by going the non-lecture route, and by going downstairs and writing down some of the things we figured out, she might get it. She might be able to put the experience to use in her often tumultuous daily life. If not, I’ll have to consider precipitating the crisis even further next time something similar happens. And instead of hiding in my office to eat the donut we got for her just in case she pulled herself together enough to deserve it, maybe I’ll eat it right in front of her. The vivid powdered sugar and lemon jelly bands around Mommy’s donut-filled mouth tell fit-throwing children that their mother means business. Serious, dragon mama, throw-a-fit-at-me-and-I’ll-eat-your-donut-and-lecture-you-until-your-ears-fall-off-like-lizard-tails type business.

Now, Venom and Coral and the Free Chomper Toys have been lovingly pitched into the junk pile in the basement. Neener’s freak-out is as good as forgiven and forgotten, but I’d like to think a lesson will stick with her beyond today. We have some cool pictures of our morning at Little Ray’s Reptile Racket. And I have a new appreciation for this morning’s little details: tarantula feet, rubber Coral snakes, donuts-as-a-crisis-precipitation tool, and the improvisational parenting of my never-boring children.

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One response

4 03 2009
Darlene

You are a very good mommy. I think you were great. They will remember for a little while. But all turned out well. Until the next time. Love your stories. They perk me up when I read them.Hope you enjoyed the donut.lol

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