I don’t get out much. I used to, but now most of the contact I have with the outside world happens within a simple loop from the elementary school to the grocery store to the cleaners. On any given day, the most exotic place I go is my backyard and the most interesting person I talk to is myself (but I’m pretty sure I make up most of the really interesting stuff I tell myself; once I told myself a very dramatic story about my time in Asia taming tigers and collecting rubies but I had to call bologna on myself because I know for a fact that I have never even been to Asia).
I don’t really remember when I stopped venturing out. When I was younger, I was always going places—I even used to go out at night (now, the mere of thought of going out after dark is quite unsettling, not so much because I’m afraid of the dark but because I would miss House Hunters). Before marriage and a child, I didn’t even get ready to go out until 9:00pm and my friends and I never left a club until closing time. These days, I’m pretty much useless after 7:30pm although last Christmas my family and I did go to a party that lasted until it was dark. I couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful the world looked when it was all lit up.
“Wow, look at that!” I said with my face pushed up against the car window to get a better look at the illuminated glory before me.
“That’s just McDonald’s, honey,” my husband said in the condescending way of a man who never leaves work until after dark and gets to see these amazing lights everyday.
“Yes, but have you ever seen those Golden Arches look more magnificent!” I said, my enthusiasm undaunted by his cavalier attitude.
I have been looking for opportunities to go out after dark ever since the McDonald’s sighting last Christmas and yesterday I received an invitation to one of those parties where a woman cooks some fabulous meal all while demonstrating the latest in esoteric kitchen gadgets. I was about to ink this little soirée onto my calendar because nobody appreciates the majesty of kitchen wizardry like me, when I saw what time the party started—8:00pm. Eight o’clock at night? My mind reeled. What are these women, vampires?
I sat down and tried to figure out the logistics of how I could get to this kitchen utensil extravaganza and still maintain my scheduled bedtime. I’ve been known to start dozing off around 8:15pm, but the excitement of fancy new measuring cups and slotted spoons might be enough to keep me coherent. Certainly the hostess won’t mind if I show up in my pajamas and I’m sure all the other party-goers will be bringing their toothbrushes as well.
The night of the party arrived. I was in my pajamas by 7:30pm and ready to go, but apparently I fell asleep. I woke up around 8:15pm and I could have still made it to the party in time for the bonanza of bowls demonstration, but House Hunters International was from Kathmandu and that’s really about as much excitement as I can take these days.
I went to Hallmark today in search of a very specific kind of card. I perused shelf after shelf of cards, but I just couldn’t find the sentiment I needed. Finally, a kindly sales lady came over.
“Can I help you find something, dear?” she said.
“Yes, I’m looking for a card for someone who has suffered recent weight-gain,” I told her.
“Oh! You’re looking for a congratulatory card for someone who is pregnant!” she said with delight in her eyes.
“No, not that kind of weight-gain; the kind that comes from a good, old-fashioned love of cheese and baked goods. You know, a card that says something like: Sorry you’re fat and your pants don’t fit anymore. Maybe one of those cards that plays music. Music makes everything better, and it might help to ease the blow of being told you’re fat.”
“That sounds like a pretty awful card; who are you planning on giving this to?” she asked with trepidation.
“It’s for me,” I explained. “I keep gaining and losing weight and I’m currently on the upswing, if you know what I mean. I need some motivation and some reassurance. And who is better at motivation and reassurance than Hallmark? I mean, Hallmark cards only contain truth. If I get a card that says Happy Mother’s Day, I know it’s Mother’s Day; if I get a card that says Merry Christmas, it’s Christmas; and if I send myself a card that says I’m fat, well then, I’ll know I’m fat.”
The sales lady gave me that all too familiar you-might-need-a-psychiatric-evaluation look but I saw a glimmer of sympathy in her eyes as well as she patted my shoulder and walked away.
Deep down I knew the answer I was looking for wasn’t at the Hallmark store, the same way I know the answer isn’t at the bottom of a half gallon of ice cream either. I guess what I am really looking for is balance. I want to be healthy and active and make choices that support those goals. I want to wear jeans with a size that has just one number. I want to wave to people and not have my arm jiggle. But I also want to relax and enjoy a glass of wine and a piece of pie every now and then. I don’t want to worry about every single bite of food I put in my mouth. But I do. Every single bite. Should I be eating this? I earned this! This is healthy and that means I’m a good person. Oh well, I already messed up this morning with that donut, so the whole day is messed up, might as well eat my body weight in Cheetos. It should be simple, but for me it’s always been a roller coaster.
I know a lot of it is tied to my body image too. All it takes is a quick glance at the cover of Cosmo and I feel like I’m a failure. And now there are so many ad campaigns about “being real” that show women who don’t wear a size four but that just seems to beg the question: what is real and how can I be real? I want to be real and fit into my old jeans and eat cheesecake! Is that too much to ask?! But I can’t blame the media for my weight gain; I’m the one eating cheeseburgers like they might go extinct at any moment.
I guess the card I really need to send to myself should go something like this:
You’re beautiful no matter what your jean size. Don’t worry about anyone else but yourself. Eating a piece of cheesecake isn’t going to destroy your life, but neither will a good workout. Embrace the fact that you’re going to mess up, probably often, but kicking yourself when you’re down isn’t getting you anywhere.
I bet there’s a few of us out there who need this card.
I have been cursed with a bizarre kind of photographic memory. My memory is useless when it comes to things like the periodical table of elements, algebraic equations, and the Magna Carta, which is precisely why I wrote all those things on my hands during tests when I was in high school. But my memory is impeccable when it comes to lyrics from any song written in the 80s, dreams where my husband does something questionable, and ridiculously silly conversations I have with my daughter. The following is an exact transcript of the conversation I had with my daughter as we waited in the school drop-off line the week before school ended.
“We are here so early, the school isn’t even open yet,” I said.
“That’s good because you have been dropping me off late all year and I have always wanted to be early,” my daughter said.
“School doesn’t start until 9:00am; I drop you off at 8:45am,” I said with just a hint of exasperation.
“Exactly. It’s too late,” she said.
“What? You don’t even finish your breakfast until 8:35am,” I said and looked at my daughter.
“I think we both know whose fault that is,” my daughter said with a toothless smirk.
I started counting slowly to ten because I read somewhere that it calms you down; before I got to four, my daughter had already switched gears.
“I need a five dollar bill.”
“Why do you need a five dollar bill?” I asked.
“I just want to do something nice for my teacher,” she said with a smile.
“And a five dollar bill is the nicest gift you can think of? What about some flowers or drawing her a beautiful picture,” I said sagely.
“A picture is a good idea, Mommy,” she said happily.
“What are you going to draw for her?” I asked, glad the conversation was finally going in a positive direction.
“I’m going to draw her a five dollar bill!” she exclaimed. “I still need you to give me a five dollar bill so I can draw it.”
I craned my neck to the front of the drop-off line in a vain attempt to will the school doors open, but had no luck. Just then my daughter noticed the boy in the car behind us.
“Mommy, that’s the boy that sits next to me! The one who always lies!” she yelled like a crazy woman.
“What does he lie about?” I asked.
“He says he has a brother but I don’t think he does,” she said like she just uncovered a conspiracy theory that could rival JFK’s assassination.
“What makes you think he’s lying?”
“It’s his eyes, Mommy. Remember when I told you I climbed George Washington’s nose when you weren’t looking that time at Mount Rushmore? And you said you knew I was fibbing because of my eyes? That’s how I know he’s lying,” she said intensely.
“Well, your eyes weren’t the only clue on that one,” I said and smiled.
“And he also wears tank tops to school and when he raises his hand I can see his armpit,” she said with utter disgust.
“Yes, that clearly marks him as a miscreant,” I laughed.
“And now I can’t wear a tank top because then he will see my armpit when I raise my hand,” she said with such an impassioned tone I almost felt bad for her armpits.
“I never knew kindergarten was such a rough place,” I said with amusement.
“It is,” my daughter agreed. “Mommy, the doors are open now! I can go in!” she yelled excitedly.
“Give this to your teacher,” I said as I handed her a twenty dollar bill.
“Why?” she asked while tentatively taking the twenty.
“Your teacher has been in a classroom with you since August; hopefully she can find a nice happy hour after school today,” I said.
“What’s happy hour?” my daughter asked as she climbed out of the car.
“It’s where teachers go to relax after a long school year,” I said.
Maybe I’ll join her, I thought to myself.
The world is a funny place—literally. I love to laugh and I love making people laugh. Humor is cathartic for me and I try to find humor in most situations. I laugh at myself everyday, multiple times a day. So when I find something I can’t laugh at, I know there’s a problem.
The other day my daughter was playing with a friend in our backyard; I was sitting on the patio reading a book and enjoying the sunshine. I was just settling into a chapter when I noticed the tone of my daughter’s voice had changed so I looked up. My daughter’s friend was reprimanding my daughter the way a dysfunctional mother reprimands a child. Stunned, I listened intently.
“You didn’t let me throw your teddy bear into the mud; I’m the guest here and can do what I want. Do you think that is very nice of you? Do you?!” the girl said in the ugliest voice I have ever heard come from a child.
My daughter cowered and suddenly seemed a good three inches shorter than she had previously been as she shook her head sadly.
“No, it’s not nice! You better apologize to me, right now!” the girl demanded.
“I’m sorry,” my daughter was barely audible.
“For what?!” the girl roared at my daughter, a grin picking up the corners of her mouth as she watched my daughter’s shoulders slump and her head fall to her chest. My stomach turned as I realized this little girl was actually obtaining joy from being cruel.
“For whatever I did, I mean for not letting you put my teddy bear in the mud,” my daughter sputtered.
I froze; something deep within me shattered into a million tiny pieces; I’m pretty sure it was my heart. I knew I should step in and say something but while my heart was crumbling, my mind was busy transporting me back in time…
I was probably about seven-years-old, or maybe eight, but it doesn’t really matter because it was the same thing for most of my childhood. I grew up with a kid who took every opportunity to rob me of my self-confidence and self-respect. I endured years of being called horrific names that eventually became my identity. This kid hit me everyday of my life, so much that I developed the habit of flinching each time he passed by me; which only angered him more. But more than the hitting and name calling, was the fact that this kid derived pleasure from making my life miserable. Even as a kid, I could see that my anguish was making him happy. In my mind I was screaming, “Stop it!” but my voice was never strong enough to be heard so I was always left cowering. That kid took everything from me, until there was nothing left.
I believed the names he called me were true and I became unable to look people in the eyes, because I knew I wasn’t worthy. I ended up traveling down some dark paths to even darker places. Then one day when I was in college, a thought occurred to me, I have a neck for a reason and it’s to hold my head up; and I have a voice for a reason and it’s to be heard. I was suddenly able to lift my shoulders and raise my head; I left that class and looked everyone in the eyes as I passed by. I still have no idea why I became so aware right at that exact moment, but I was a new person that day. And no one has ever made me cower since.
I shook the cobwebs from that involuntary flashback and heard my daughter crying as her friend held her favorite teddy bear over a mud puddle and smiled with delight as she said, “I’m going to drop it right in the mud and it will be ruined!”
“No one is dropping anything,” I said without raising my voice. “Let’s go get your things because it’s time for you to leave,” I told the little girl.
After the girl’s mother picked her up, I sat down with my daughter and we had what I know is just the first in a long series of talks about people. I told her that she is a caring little girl and that I know she never likes to hurt anyone, but standing up for herself is not going to hurt anyone. I told her that she knows what is right and what is wrong; she told me she feels it in her heart and in her tummy. I told her that she must tell her friends, or anyone else, when she doesn’t like something. And then I taught her about finding her strong voice. A strong voice doesn’t have to be loud or mean, it simply needs to say, I am worth so much and no, you may not treat me this way.
I know there will be girls much worse than this one that my daughter will have to contend with in her lifetime. It makes me sad, but I also know it is simply part of life. I don’t want to live my daughter’s life for her nor do I think I can protect her from every hurt in this world, but I can arm her with knowledge and give her the tools she needs to navigate this world. I want her to always know her worth and understand that no one gets to take that away from her. I want her to know that her worth doesn’t suddenly diminish based on who she is friends with that day. Her worth is beyond measure, her worth is constant, her worth is not in someone else’s hands, her worth is not dependent upon someone’s else’s opinion, and her worth should never, ever be compromised.
If there is one thing I have learned from being a parent, it’s that I don’t know anything.
Before our daughter was born, my husband and I decided that our baby would never use a pacifier. Pacifiers were a crutch for weak parents who didn’t know how to properly comfort their children, I said with all the infinite wisdom of a woman who had never even changed a diaper.
My husband and I had no experience with children or pacifiers so our decision was based solely on an air of superiority that can only come from two people who have no idea what the heck they are talking about. But we had skimmed the better part of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” so we felt pretty secure in our first parenting decision.
Two days after we brought our daughter home from the hospital, she started crying and wouldn’t stop. We fed her, we changed her, we rocked her, we burped her. But she just kept crying. In a final desperate move, my husband said, “Don’t we have a pacifier somewhere?” We dug a pacifier out of a gift basket in the closet and read the instructions. We boiled it for five minutes, let it cool, then popped it into our daughter’s mouth. Magic happened. She began sucking on it and immediately calmed down and fell asleep.
The next day, I went and purchased every Nuk pacifier I could find. We kept them in the car and in our pockets. We had found the answer and there was no way we were going to be caught without one.
As it turned out, the pacifier wasn’t the only thing we were wrong about. My husband and I always shook our heads at people who put TVs in their children’s rooms. “That’s horrible parenting; our child won’t have a TV in her room until she’s 25, at least.” That’s what we thought until we discovered we had a child who never slept.
I’ve heard parents talk about children not sleeping through the night until they were six or seven months old and I have to laugh. Our daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was two-and-a-half years old. My husband and I were shells of our pre-child selves. I spent over a year with wet hair thrown into a ponytail because I never could quite remember to blow dry my hair before I left the house. My husband fell asleep daily on the train to work, missing his stop on more than one occasion. We discovered that Red Bull and Mountain Dew could render a sleep-deprived person semi-functional and began subsisting on mass quantities of caffeine.
Then we discovered that our daughter would sleep if the TV was on. The only TV we had was in the living room so we began letting our daughter fall asleep on the couch. We would then try to move her to her crib, but she would wake up and scream. Thus began our life of shame: we let our daughter sleep on the couch. We did this for about three months until we agreed that we couldn’t continue to let our two-year-old sleep in the living room. So we bought a TV and put it in our daughter’s room. It worked. She fell asleep in her room and slept all night. My husband and I started sleeping through the night as well and the fog finally cleared from our brains. It was a miracle. Still, we felt like horrible parents and hid the TV in the closet each day so no one would now how unfit we were.
Now our daughter is almost seven and we have finally learned not to judge other parents. Parenting is an art, not a science and everyone paints their masterpiece a little differently. It can’t be learned from a book—it’s something you fumble your way through daily, making decisions based on desperation and a total lack of sleep. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if a child has a pacifier or watches TV or eats McNuggets four times a week, as long as that child is loved.
But just in case I’m wrong, I have started a fund to pay for any counseling our daughter may require for all the mistakes we’ve made along the way.
Sometimes I just like to find a comfy chair, settle in, and ponder life’s mysteries. I think about ranch dressing and why the person who invented it hasn’t been given a major award; I wonder why my favorite song only comes on the radio as I pull into my driveway; and I also wonder if the people on House Hunters International know how bad they make Americans look when they move to Paris with a $800 budget and get indignant because what’s in their price range doesn’t come with crown moulding and acreage.
Today a new question popped into my head as I sat in my comfy chair: am I cool? Ah yes, coolness, that indefinable, abstract, yet so desirable Fonzie quality so many people spend their lives trying to obtain. I decide to start at the beginning to track any indication that I was ever cool.
I know I wasn’t cool in elementary school; my mom cut my bangs straight across my forehead and I wore Sesame Street shirts up until fourth grade. I also spent the better part of fifth grade pretending I was the owner of twelve tiny horses that lived in the pockets of my jeans. No, cool is definitely not the right word to describe that kid.
In junior high I discovered blue eyeliner and Sun-In hair lightener. To be clear, I didn’t just use these products, I overused them, then I used a bit more. I looked like a scarecrow with two black eyes. Add to this equation the fact that I secretly still played with my Cabbage Patch Doll and I can safely say I was not cool in junior high.
By the time I got to high school, I was already addicted to Aqua Net hairspray and books by S.E. Hinton. I spent half of my time in the library reading by myself and the other half of my time avoiding eye contact with people. I went to one party in high school where I drank two wine coolers then threw up in front of the local Del Taco as my friends (as well as the other Del Taco patrons) looked on in horror. Ok, so I was undoubtedly not cool in high school either.
My cool little trip down memory lane takes me on to college then into my twenties and thirties, but still no detectable sign of that illusive coolness anywhere. I decide to take this issue to the one person I know is the utmost authority on all things cool, my six-year-old daughter.
“Hey kiddo, do you think Mommy is cool?” I ask with solemnity.
She looked up from her coloring book and gazed at me thoughtfully then she answered with absolute authority, “No.” She kept staring at me for just a minute longer, a smile growing on her face, then she returned to coloring.
I knew the answer to that question a long time ago, but something in the way my daughter looked at me let me know that maybe I am something better than cool.
And that’s fine with me.
I love people. Well, to be entirely accurate, I love watching people. Not in a creepy I-looked-in-your-window-last-night-and-watched-you-brush-your-teeth kind of way, but in a sit-on-a-bench-at-the-mall-and-take-in-all-the-madness kind of way. I find that all people are fascinating and hysterical and strange; our weirdness is what defines us as a species and I can never get enough of that weirdness.
When I can’t get to the mall to get my people watching fix, I click on a reality TV show. I love reality TV. Not the shows where people are looking for a husband and definitely not the ones where women who profess to be “real” housewives throw wine on overly-Botoxed friends. Not that those women aren’t entertaining, but all that hair-pulling and wine-throwing makes me overly excited and then I have a hard time sleeping, like I just drank a Red Bull and chased it with a Mountain Dew (oddly enough, the same thing happens when I ride elevators; it’s just too much excitement for me). No, I usually prefer to watch stuff that mimics my own boring life, like shows about cooking and home buying.
My newest reality TV obsession is anything about Alaska. For years I had simply dismissed Alaska as the place where ice comes from, but all the time it was this incredibly wild and untamed frontier. To be clear, I have no desire to go to Alaska; any place winter lasts nine months out of the year, is a place I don’t need to visit. (When the temperature dips into single digits where I live I launch an intense letter writing campaign to my congressman because I’m a taxpayer and I shouldn’t have to be burdened with temperatures with only one number in them. So far, there has been no legislation regarding single-digit weather, but I did get a little magnetic notepad with the congressman’s face on it, so I feel I’ve made some progress.) No, it’s just much too cold in Alaska for my taste, but I am completely captivated by the people who brave those Alaskan winters.
Luckily for me there are approximately three dozen shows on TV about Alaska so I can do all the people watching I want from the comfort of my couch. And the people of Alaska are fascinating. A lot of these people live off the grid—no running water, no electricity; they hunt and fish and grow vegetables; they barter for goods and they make what they need with their own hands. These people are everything I’m not and I decided I wanted to become more like them.
I told my husband about my plan be more like an Alaskan.
“I want us to live off the grid,” I announced.
“You want to haul water in buckets and use an outdoor bathroom?” he asked incredulously.
“Ok, I’m going to amend my previous announcement: let’s stay on the grid but live more like hunter/gatherers. Hunter/gatherers who have indoor plumbing,” I said, because I’ve always been fond of hot water and toilets that flush.
“You’re going to hunt and gather?” he asked with amusement.
“Yes, I want to forage and hunt and fish,” I said, now consumed with the primal urge to supply my family with food without stopping at the conveniently located grocery store down the street.
“Where are you going to hunt?” he asked.
“There’s that farm on the other side of town with all those cows. I’m sure I could sneak up and get the jump on one of them. That lady on the Alaska show killed a grizzly with her bare hands, surely I can get the better of an old dairy cow,” I said.
“Honey, I once saw a package of all-beef hotdogs get the better of you,” he said.
“That package was hermitically-sealed; no one could have gotten those hotdogs out,” I said defensively. “Anyway, I already started foraging today. Look, fresh kale!” I said holding up the prize of my forging labors.
“You didn’t forage for that, you took it from the organic neighbors garden,” my husband surmised.
“Hey, they’re the ones who planted a garden in their front yard; if they wanted to protect their crops from renegade gatherers such as myself, they would have put it in the safety of their backyard,” I said smugly.
“You would have just climbed the fence,” he said while shaking his head.
“I don’t have time for this, I need to learn how to field dress a cow before I go hunting tomorrow,” I said as I started Googling hunting tips.
Three gruesome hunting websites later, I found myself at the grocery store purchasing a pre-hunted and pre-packaged cow for dinner (aka steak).
I love technology. I can’t say that I understand half of all the technology out there, but the stuff I have managed to figure out is very cool. But I am also spoiled by technology. Like when I want to know about the mating habits of the platypus, I don’t want to wait thirty to forty-five seconds for buffering. Who has that kind of time these days? Sadly, I have become a slave to technology, never wandering too far from my phone or computer, lest I miss out on something fabulous happening somewhere in the stratosphere. I have also found that technology is slowly encroaching on my marriage.
The other night my husband and I were sitting on the couch, enjoying the quiet that comes once our daughter is in bed; he was reading mindless drivel on his iPad and I was scrolling though nonsense on my iPhone. I sent him a text.
Remember when we actually had to look at each other to talk? I sent.
Yeah, I’m glad those days are gon. He texted back.
It really helps keep our conversations to a minimum. We can totally save our energy and get to the essence of conversation quickly and efficiently. And, you do know that there is an ‘e’ at the end of ‘gone,’ right? I texted.
That was a lot of words for someone who is saving her energy. And I left the ‘e’ off on purpose. He texted.
What kind of madman just leaves letters off of words? I sent.
The kind of man who knows you love correcting him. I just gave you something to do. Your welcome. He texted.
It’s ‘you’re’ and thanks for keeping me fulfilled with your lack of grammatical prowess. I texted back.
Are we done now? He texted.
Not quite. I was thinking we need to spice things up between us. I sent.
You have my full attention. He sent back.
I want us to start using hashtags. I texted.
Hashtags? He sent while letting out a disappointed sigh.
Yes, apparently you just type a number sign by some words and it automatically makes whatever you just typed like eight times cooler. I sent.
My life’s goal has always been to be eight times cooler than my current state. He texted, the sarcasm almost palpable.
Ok, text something with a hashtag. I sent.
Why are we doing this #. He sent.
Come on, you’re not even trying. We need to try new things even if it defies all logic. We tried Red Bull during the whole energy drink craze, right? #redbull #gavemediarrhea #foraweek #letsneverdothatagain. I texted.
#gotaheadachereadingthat. He sent.
#atleastitwasntdiarrhea. I sent.
Ok, we tried it. Can we stop now? And the next time you suggest we try something new, can it be something a little more risqué? He sent.
The days left in the school year are dwindling fast and the weather is getting warmer and warmer. That can only mean one thing: summer is on it’s way. Summer, a season I once celebrated by sleeping in until noon everyday, then covering myself in coconut-scented oil and basking in the glorious rays of the sun. Oh, how times change. Now if I manage to sleep until seven I feel like half the day has been wasted and I don’t venture into the sun without SPF 55 and a hat. It is as I have suspected for quite a long time now—I am an adult.
Let’s face it, summer is for kids. No school, staying up late, perfect weather for being outside all day everyday, ice cream melting all over little hands—this season was made for kids. I used to look forward to summer, but that was before I was a mommy. Now, I dread it.
The three months of the year that all kids look forward to with eager anticipation are the same three months that make me cringe. For three long months I won’t be able to enjoy solo grocery shopping free from the constant sound of, “Mommy, can I have this?” For three months I won’t be able to run errands quickly and efficiently; I will now be encumbered with migraine-inducing whining while dragging an errand-resistant child everywhere I go. I’ve done the math, a complaining child adds a minimum of thirty minutes to the average chore. It also takes four months off the average mother’s life span.
I was just about to shake my fist at the sky and curse my fate, when I saw it—a colorful array of chalk drawings covering the driveway. There’s nothing that makes me wish it would never rain again like a driveway full of chalk art. And suddenly it’s like a big chalk smile is covering my face and I can see summer for everything it truly is.
Summer is freedom from the constraints of the clock because if the sun is still up, then certainly there is still time to play.
Summer is when all the Legos and doll houses and stuffed animals are replaced with the coolest toys ever, the ones made my nature: sticks, leaves, and flowers.
Summer is when the pending arrival of the ice cream man feels a lot like waiting for Christmas only better because the ice cream man comes everyday.
Summer is about scraped knees covered in bright-patterned bandaids.
Summer is about taking a break from everything just to lie down in the grass and decide what those clouds up there in the sky really look like. It’s an elephant! An elephant with a guitar!
Of course when you spend all day outside, it’s not long before the housework piles up inside. And I will inevitably start worrying about things like laundry, vacuuming, and cooking. But I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that a messy house is sometimes a great souvenir from a day spent outside, away from the television and video games, a day spent in the fresh air and sunshine, filled with laughter.
Right now I’m not worried about all the work that needs to be done because right now there are big, fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky and a little girl who truly believes her house is a magical castle, no matter how much dust is on the coffee table, just waiting for me to come outside and play.
There is a great amount of respect and awe that is owed to the school bus driver. How they ever manage to get kids safely to and from school while enduring the high-pitched squeals and screeches is a mystery akin to how Santa Claus gets down all those chimneys in one night; it has to be magic. I know this because I recently accompanied my daughter’s class on a field trip to the zoo and rode on a bus with over sixty kindergarteners. If I had been driving, I would have been reduced to screaming phrases like, “Why don’t we all have a quiet contest?” and “I will turn this bus around right now, mister!” But that bus driver never even flinched. Like I said, it’s magic.
There was really no indication that going on a field trip with a bunch of kindergarteners would be such a drain on my central nervous system; there should have been a warning, such as:
Hello Kindergarten Parents!
We are looking for chaperones for our field trip to the zoo. Please be advised that kindergarten field trips are known to cause one or more of the following: nausea, vomiting, bleeding from the ears, diarrhea, laughing uncontrollably at words like diarrhea, lethargy, muttering philosophical questions like, “Why me?” incessantly, a nervous twitch triggered by the sight of a school bus, and most unfortunately, the complete avoidance of any and all sexual activity for fear of further procreation. If you are interested, please obtain a background check and a prescription for the sedative of your choice before the date of the field trip.
The Kindergarten Teachers
Like a good mom, I showed up for the field trip with a smile on my face and sunscreen in my eyes. I learned that chaperone must be French for pack mule because part of my duties for the day included lugging lunches around for the four children in my group. I plan on extending my personal gratitude to the mom who sent her kid to school with two oversized Lunchables, two quarts of Gatorade, and a bottle of water. Clearly little Flynn’s mom got the zoo confused with the Sahara but I’m sure I will be able to walk upright again in due time.
I should have known it was going to be a rough day when my own daughter didn’t want to sit next to me on the bus. I had just come to terms that I would be sitting alone, when a little girl with huge blue eyes asked if she could sit with me.
“What’s your favorite book?” I asked because this was a nonstop trip to the zoo and I wasn’t getting stuck with someone with no literary taste.
“Pete the Cat,” she said with a smile that went all the way to her eyes. I smiled too because I’m a big fan of Pete myself.
“You’re good. Have a seat, kid.”
I spent the next half hour answering twenty different variations of are we there yet? and whether or not there would be dinosaurs at the zoo. But we did share a brief moment of human connectedness when we agreed that vanilla is the best flavor of ice cream and that mint chocolate chip should have never been invented.
The best part of the day was watching the most ill-behaved child I have ever seen push the perimeters of good sense while his mother did nothing to stop it. He made one continuous fart noise with his mouth for the entire thirty minute bus trip, he screamed profanity at the penguins (completely unprovoked I might add), and in a move that really supports the idea of mandatory birth control, attempted to climb into the hippo enclosure during feeding time. All while his mother alternated laughing awkwardly and texting someone pictures of her feet.
I smiled at her and said, “Well, if he can’t make it as a composer of fart music, he certainly has a future accosting animals.”
Her smile changed quickly from pride to confusion as we all boarded the bus. There’s another birthday party my daughter won’t get invited to, but that’s what I secretly refer to as a win-win situation.