For the past three days I have been mostly stuck in bed, first with a terrible sore throat, then with fevers, chills, and sneezing, and finally with chest pains and a cough. I have only seen the Star Wars trailer on my phone, and I will have to watch it again because I don’t recall any of it. Evidently there is a furor over a black man from Great Britain taking a lead roll. Seriously? I would rail against the idiocy there, especially since you know, James Earl Jones. But others have spoken much more eloquently on that point so I will talk about other things instead.
I also mostly missed Back to the Future Day, unless you count making it to the grocery store because we were out of fruit snacks and juice boxes for my kids lunch. The future certainly doesn’t look like I imagined it as a child. But then again, neither do I. We have some really cool things, like the laptop computer on which I write, and my phone that evidently reads my emails and automatically gives me maps to where I am going, updates my calendar, and gives me weather reports. Flying cars are probably better left to the imagination, especially given the way people drive around here. I really doubt we have the ability to navigate in three dimensions anyways, and it would mean a complete overhaul to google maps. “In three hundred feet, turn down.” How far down? Won’t I crash into the ground? I have enough trouble trying to figure out what she means by “slight right” when driving unfamiliar streets.
Most disappointing to me though, is the fact that I also had to miss my kids parent teacher conferences. I really did not want to get anyone else sick, especially their teachers, so despite my concerns I had to sit this round out. My wife was able to go and evidently we are doing this whole parenting thing right. At least according to the brave women who spend almost seven hours a day with them.
But are we really? I mean, sure, my kids might be doing great in school. They might be socializing alright, and participating, and picking up the concepts that they need to progress, but I still worry every day about how to raise happy and stable kids.
My son for one, is stubborn to the point that he freaks out and shuts down when things do not go his way. I don’t mean he does this when I tell him he cannot have ice cream for breakfast (not that he has ever asked, because actually, I would be fine with that), but at random times at seemingly little things he just explodes. Like when we are half way to school and he decides that he did not want to walk, and really wanted us to drive instead. Thankfully, these fits are few and far between, but they don’t seem to me like normal healthy 5 year old behavior. When they do happen, I feel like an absolute failure. I have to wonder what I have done to drive a child to this point. I try to reason, to calm him down, and have even attempted just holding him and hugging him till he stops. Eventually I just have to hand him off to those more skilled, and perhaps less invested. He eventually calms down and does fine.
More troubling than these infrequent outbursts though, is the fear both of my kids seem to have of telling the truth, especially when they think they have done something wrong. Where this comes from, I am not entirely sure. I have never once hit my kids in anger, though I have swatted both of them at points to get their attention in dangerous situations when they were not listening. I usually begin serious inquiries with the statement, “You are going to tell me the truth. Yes, you are going to be in trouble. But if you lie, and I find out later, you will be in WAY more trouble.” And they take me seriously and begrudgingly tell the truth.
But they seem to lie over the smallest, and mostly unimportant things. Or maybe they don’t outright lie, at least not for long. But they prefer to remain very noncommittal and feign memory loss. Yesterday, through my entirely stuffed up nose, I smelled an overwhelming floral scent. To put this in perspective, I cannot smell my decrepit old dog who seems to have lost control of her bowels and stinks all the time now, but I could smell this. So I ask my kids, “Who sprayed perfume?”
“Not me!” “I don’t know!”
They take turns with the lines, though my son’s favorite is also “I can’t remember.” This one I can sometime use to my advantage.
“Who spilled something?”
“I can’t remember.”
“Ok. But this towel is wet and stuffed in a drawer. So someone spilled something. What was it?”
“I can’t remember.”
“Look kid, I am sick. You are not in trouble. I just need to know if there is more of a mess for me to clean up.”
“I can’t remember. There maybe isn’t.”
“Was it water you spilled, or milk.?”
“Maybe it was water.”
“Do we put wet towels in drawers?”
“Ok, is there more of a mess to clean up?”
“I can’t remember.”
“Ugh! Fine. I am going back to bed. If there is more of a mess, use this towel, clean it up, and put it in the dirty clothes, not in a drawer, ok?”
“What were you doing anyway?”
“I needed blue paper.”
I don’t even ask.
Back to the perfume. It stinks.
“Somebody sprayed something. And it wasn’t me. I can smell it… Or is someone messing with candles.”
My daughter, “It was not a candle.”
“Ok. Then is it perfume, right?”
My son, “I can’t remember.”
My daughter, “You didn’t do it.”
My son, with evident glee, “Oh. Ok. It was her!”
“Did you spray Mommy’s perfume everywhere? She is not going to be happy.”
My daughter, “It was probably something of mine.”
“What was it, then?”
My daughter, “I don’t know.”
“If you are find a spray but you don’t know what it is, don’t spray it! It could be bug spray for all we know!”
My daughter, “It was probably body spray.”
“That is perfume!”
My daughter. “Oh.”
“So why did you spray perfume all over the place.”
My daughter, “I didn’t!”
We are in the car by now, driving to karate. “Look. I know you sprayed it, whatever you want to call it. And based on the fact that I can smell it, you sprayed it more than once. I don’t care it you like the smell, or want to spray it. That is fine! But only one spray. Don’t empty the whole bottle. It is not polite to those around you, and while you may think it smells good, I promise you that that much of ANY perfume actually stinks!”
So maybe they ARE doing fine in school. Great. That doesn’t mean that my work as a parent is done. I was a compulsive liar as a youth, and my kids are always surprised that I can see through their tricks. Granted, I turned my skill into an ability to tell entertaining stories and assume a wild persona. My daughter says she wants to be a spy… Hmmn. Maybe instead of being worried about the half truths and memory loss, I really need to teach her to be a better liar. I bet the school is going to love that one! So, this is my parenting conundrum. How do you teach a kid when and where to lie, and not have them use it on you? And the conclusion of my perfume tale…
My daughter, “It was probably only half the bottle.”
My son, “I can’t remember.”