Unlike other species in the wild, human parents don’t eat their young. Sometimes I wonder why.
For example, I remember the time I came downstairs after a five-minute shower and stepped in Vaseline. Lots of it. The entire kitchen floor looked unusually reflective, in fact.
I found the two-year-old twins, naked and shiny, covered in petroleum jelly – it was a big, big jar – learning the value of teamwork. One baby held down the cat while the other slathered a layer of Vaseline on gato’s coat. Ted the cat caught my eye and complained, “Meow.” I said, “No kidding.”
Then I saw toddler-sized footprints leading from the kitchen onto the carpet and noticed dark spots on the sofa. If that morning the twins hadn’t already gotten into a roll of toilet paper, a potted plant, the bookshelf, the tupperware, and my sock drawer, I might have taken the Vaseline disaster in stride.
Before I could erupt, I caught a glimpse of my bedraggled reflection in the cabinet mirror: bloodshot eyes, slumped posture, and demonic scowl. That made me want to sit down and cry, sticky floor notwithstanding. I might have muttered something inappropriate for young ears.
Then the babies saw me and cheered, babbling syllables in unison (their secret twin language), followed by “Mommy! Yay!”
It probably sounded like a rusty hinge, but my mouth turned up in a smile. I couldn’t help it; the babies looked cute. Dimpled toothy smiles, sparkling eyes, hair standing on end, and pudgy little hands clapping in delight.
Household cleaning agents are ineffectual against petroleum jelly, by the way. I called my mom, who told me what to do after she quit laughing. Dish soap – undiluted – and several hours on my hands and knees did the trick. Ted the cat was never quite the same afterward.
But I digress. Whether it’s a snotty teenager or a kindergartener who’s chimed “Mom! Mom? Mom…” for the past minute without taking a breath while poking your shoulder, parents – and teachers – put up with a lot of crap from kids. Even sleep-deprived and at wit’s end, we save the day and carry on, because nature designed our offspring to be irresistibly adorable as a defense mechanism.
Permanent marker on the upholstery? A wolf spider would gobble up the little sucker and be done with him. But you? No, you take one look at those puppy eyes, hear a sincere apology in a tiny voice, and you resist filial cannibalism.
Yes, kids are so cute, it’s scary. I don’t mean to frighten non-parents away from the institution. The opposite, in fact. The consolation prize for handling the weekly thirteen loads of laundry with finesse?
Entertainment. Constant, spontaneous amusement. Bloopers, quirks, quips – kids are full of ’em. I’m not out of the woods (meaning I haven’t done the teenager-thing yet), but with four kids aged 10, 9, 5 and 5, I do admit their adorableness outweighs the aggravation.
Both to celebrate and commiserate, I’ve decided to start a series of articles called “Weird Stuff Kids Say.” From time to time I’ll post a “Top 10” list of goofy goings-on from my kids or my students, and you can send me stories if you’d like to contribute. Who knows – maybe you’ll get some writing ideas for children characters.
Today’s list comes from a sort-of journal I’ve kept since 2005, a “Kids Log.” I’m too lazy to keep a real journal, but I’m glad I made this book about the kids, or else I might have forgotten about the time they decorated Dad’s face with Easter Bunny stickers while he was napping.
Because I’m providing the nitty-gritty, oh-so-embarrassing details of these stories, it seems only fair to the kids if I change their names.
1. Introducing “Drama Boy,” the eldest (10), with chocolate-brown eyes and a contagious giggly laugh. Ambidextrous and a veritable encyclopedia on the solar system, he also has the ability to quote entire episodes of Phineas and Ferb verbatim.
I told him to finish his chores before going outside to play ball. He stomped up the stairs and lamented, “You don’t care about my football career!”
I suggested he go into theater.
2. Meet “Flirty Boy” (9). Blond hair, big blue eyes, long eyelashes and an uncanny knack for making 3-point basketball shots over his shoulder, Flirty Boy has been melting female hearts since 9-months old, when he figured out how to wag his eyebrows.
A year later (around age 2), he woke from a nap and saw my piano student, a shy teenage girl with auburn hair – his favorite. He climbed into her lap, cupped her face with his little hand and asked, “Do you love me?”
3. Here’s “Panda Boy” (as in Kung Fu Panda), age 5. The kid is built like a barrel. It should be anatomically impossible for him to climb, but he’s been a staunch defier of gravity since age 2, beginning with kitchen appliances and pot shelves. Now the school principal has me on speed-dial; the little rascal climbs the flag pole.
The other day I found him shirtless, jogging in front of the mirror. I asked what he was doing. “Exercising,” he explained. “I’m working on my pecs.”
4. Twin girl (5) is “Baby Princess,” the youngest by ten minutes. I can summarize her character by quoting a friend: “Wow. Your daughter is like Bizarro You.” Pink, frills, ponies and rainbows – everything girly I thought I was allergic to. I fear she’ll grow up to be a professional cheerleader. (Nothing against cheerleaders, but I wonder where one would keep one’s sidearm in that uniform?)
While I was fixing her hair before school she said, “I have such pretty eyes, don’t I?”
Me: “Yes, of course, and you’re so humble.”
Baby Princess: “What’s humble? Is that pretty too?”
5. Enraptured with a cartoon episode of The Justice League, then 4-yr-old Flirty Boy watched the star-spangled-bustier-clad Wonder Woman lasso a villain. He exclaimed, “Whoa! Look…at her… BIG…” – I held my breath – “Hair! She has really big hair.”
6. Then 7-yr-old Drama Boy told me very somberly, “Mom, did you know only you can prevent forest fires?”
7. Panda Boy learned baby sign language at age 1. Instead of placing a curved hand to his mouth to sign for a drink, he came to me with a finger up his nostril asking, “Drink? Drink now?”
8. Flirty Boy, then 5 yrs old, engaged his uncle in a speculative discussion on which superhero could overpower another, and his uncle was playing along. After a while, Flirty Boy paused, seemingly concerned. “You do know they’re pretend, right?”
9. We let Drama Boy (then 4) break the news to Grandma that we were expecting twins. He blurted, “And there are two babies!”
Drama Boy: (sighs) “It’s called twins, Grandma.”
10. Flirty Boy grew up watching my music students at recitals. At his first success in potty training, I clapped and cheered. He hopped off the toilet and took a long, deep bow.
Now I want to hear your stories. Nieces and nephews, students, grandkids, neighbors – let’s hear about their crazy antics. I can’t guarantee they won’t star in my next novel…