Saturday, September 15, 2007

Teach Your Children Well!

Hey there y’all! This has been a great week. I have been officially moved to my new schedule at work so I am home by 10:00 pm instead of 2:30 am. I hardly know what to do with myself. Y’know, besides come home from a long day at work and get a four hour head start on cleaning the house. Really, things here are good. It finally rained today, which is a wonderful thing. It has been so dry here that walking in the yard gives you the impression of walking across spilled corn flakes. If you have never had a three year old in your house, this is probably not something you’re familiar with. Trust me.

Being on my new schedule has given me more time to spend with Jenda, which is both a good and a bad thing. Good, because she is the light of my life and I want to be with her as much as possible. Bad, because, as a parent, I do things to screw her up. It’s not just me. All parents mess up their kids. We don’t mean to, it just happens. If you’re not a parent, you’ve at least been a kid, so y’all know I’m right.

Jerry and I took Jenda to Wal-mart the other day. This in and of itself can screw people up, but I am referring to an exchange we witnessed this past weekend. Jenda and I were walking along and I spied a small child about Jenda’s age in the buggy being pushed along by his mom. I was pushing Jenda in our buggy and I smiled at the whole mother-child bond, at the experience of witnessing such an idyllic scene.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Apparently, Other Mom thought that her child had a dirty face. And maybe he did. He’s three…what are the odds. So Other Mom licked her thumb and WIPED HIS FACE!! My knees went weak, because I was transported back in time to the days when my own Mom (God rest her soul) felt that SPIT meant ALL PURPOSE CLEANER and did that shit to me!! ARRRGGHHH!! NNNOOOO! I must have swooned because Jenda grabbed my hand.

“You okay, Mommy?”

I couldn’t respond because my heart was going out of my body and over to the little boy in the buggy, who looked at Other Mom as though she had grown another head and needed to be put to sleep. Trust me, this kid is going to wind up in therapy, and years of psychoanalysis will not erase the memory of having your face cleaned with SOMEONE ELSE’S SPIT!! I looked at Jenda, all childlike concern and salivary innocence in the shopping cart. Someday, I thought, you’ll thank me. I know I’ll make other mistakes with you and I’ll wish I had done some things differently, but I will never hear the dreaded teen angst “YOU WASHED MY FACE WITH SPIT!!!”

I regained the ability to walk and assured Jenda that I was alright. Jerry joined us, adding things to the cart. We continued shopping and, still reeling from the spit episode, I vowed to be the better mommy and allowed Jenda only the junk food that she REALLY wanted.

Then Jerry saw a display and made a suggestion.

“It’ll be getting cold here soon. Do you suppose Jenda would eat oatmeal for breakfast?”

OMG, NNNOOOOO!! Not oatmeal! I had another flashback (yes, parts of my childhood are like a bad acid trip! I mean, I guess so, I never tried it. Acid or drugs, I mean. Score one for the parents!) Back in time to my early years, when my mother actually handled and prepared raw food for me and my brother on that thingy, um, the stove. (This before I discovered from Britney Spears just how nutritious the breakfasts at the McDonald’s drive-thru really are!) My mother would actually make oatmeal for us, which was okay in its bland way. Then she would announce, beaming, “This’ll stick to your ribs!”


Imagine being four years old in Mrs. Brady’s kindergarten class at Hartsfield Elementary. All of your little friends are playing with the Fischer Price Little People, finger painting, having a ball. But not you. NOOO! You’re too traumatized by the thought of huge globs of brown-grey oatmeal stuck to the bones of your ribcage. Even with the most basic, rudimentary knowledge of anatomy that a four year old can possess, well, you’re ruined for life. Trust me, y’all. I’m going to be 38 next week. I have not eaten oatmeal for at least the last three decades. It’s like the spit thing. I’m going to make mistakes, but spit and oatmeal aren’t on Jenda’s list.

I was sharing this with Markie. Y’all remember Markie….Dr. McDreamy? I have started speaking to her again (at first, only out of necessity and then just because she really is pretty cool.) She shared something with me that she did to mess with her kids.

“I used to tell them that their socks were on the wrong feet!” (Think about this one for a minute, y’all!)

But it doesn’t matter. I mean….WHOA!! That’s way harsh!

“Yeah, but it was hysterical to see their faces! BWUHHAHAHAHA!”

That was a new one for me. I guess my parents were too busy with spit and Quaker Oats to come up with that one. I mentally filed it away and thought about some of the other things we do as parents to mess up our little tykes.

For example, my husband Jerry is something of a handyman genius. He can fix pretty much anything and he does all kinds of manly home improvement stuff. And he’s good at it, too. Apparently he learned all of this from helping his Dad. My own Dad never asked me to help him with man-shit, so I guess I missed out somehow. Well, no, now that I think about it. Anyway, since we only have Jenda, Jerry is trying to train her to do all of the handyman stuff that Mommy refuses to do. Like cook. Anyway, he shared this little tidbit with Jenda while teaching her about screwdrivers. I know a lot about screwdrivers. They’re made with Absolut and orange juice. No, what I mean to say is that there are two different kinds. Really. There’s what I call the regular kind and then there’s also the nubbly headed kind. Yeah, better for him to teach all this stuff to Jenda.

So Jerry tells Jenda, “Don’t put the screwdriver in your belly button. (Smart!) If you unscrew your belly button, your butt will fall off!”

Jenda was transfixed, as I assume Jerry was at that age when his Dad told him that. She was probably thinking, “If my butt is going to be anything like Mommy’s, I damn sure BETTER unscrew it. Good Lord!”

Okay, so we’re doing the right thing by telling her not to put screwdrivers in her navel. Of course, it’s too late about beads in the nose. But without meaning to, we still mess things up. For example, Jenda and I were at the store one day and she saw a Barbie doll. Of course, she wanted one. No big deal. I mean, I had Barbie dolls as a kid. I picked up Barbie and gave her a once over. Then I did a double take. WTF happened to Barbie?! When I was a kid, Barbie was cute. Her nose was retroussee, her eyes were wide and in spite of her sexy, big-boobed Barbie-ness, she was rather tame and wholesome. Fast forward to 2007 and her boobs are bigger, her nose is different and she doesn’t have very much clothes on!!! So I told Jenda in my adult, in-control, wholesome Mommy way, HELL NO!! Barbie’s a skank!

Right. I hear you. I should not have taught Jenda the word SKANK. It slipped out. Like the time that I kept asking Jerry to hang the new light fixture in the bathroom and he kept putting it off. Then finally, Jenda had show and tell at Daycare and I gave her one of the light fixture pieces to take in to show and tell the other kids that MOMMY’S NEEDS ARE NOT IMPORTANT AND THIS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!!

No, wait, where was I? Oh, skank. So we were at yet ANOTHER store and Jerry was getting Jenda out of the car seat. This woman came out of the convenience store dressed like a trailer tramp. Jenda waited until she was right next to our car and then announced, “That’s kinda skank!”

I ducked down into the floor of the front seat under the glove compartment, figuring that she would see Jerry first and kick his ass. Jerry was torn between trying to get a good look at the skank and giving me the evil eye for teaching Jenda such a word. I was so proud that she used it, while not exactly in a complete sentence, at least in its proper context. Go Girl!

Odds are I probably let Jenda watch too many cartoons. I grumble sometimes about things that her dad has said or done, and I know I give in too easily in the toy department. Yes, all my mistakes. Still, I try to teach Jenda about accountability, kindness, and not being a skank. And I have discovered that when I need a quiet moment, I can tell Jenda that her socks are on the wrong feet. It buys me about an hour of bewilderment, peace, and quiet.

I have SO got to put Markie back on my Christmas card list!