Monthly Archives: July 2005

Cone of Silence

It used to be that, when asked what kind of Superpower I would most like to possess I would say invisibility. (In this I think I am fairly typical: in national surveys, most women choose invisibility; men, on the other hand, pick flying. Sociologists would probably say something about this being because men tend to be more interested in strength than stealth, but I think that the explanation is even more simplistic than that: what woman wouldn’t, given the choice, never have to look at her own waistline again?)

Lately, however, I have decided that I would gladly give up both the ability to fly and to become invisible, if only for a chance at what must usually be considered the minorest of superpowers: the ability to project a cone of silence.

I can’t even remember who possessed this superpower originally; for a while I thought it was Superman, but then somebody pointed out that what he actually had was a Fortress of Solitude (equally appealing). Then I thought that it might be Aquaman before I remembered that, while he did have that cone thing, his was for talking to the fish (not so appealing) Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter who had the cone of silence, because, just like invisibility or flying, this is a superpower I am unlikely ever to possess, which is a shame, because I have been in dire need of it ever since my son, Clyde, turned four and really learned how to fight.

As a veteran parent with almost nine years’ time served, I thought I could handle any noise my children threw at me: non-stop whining for Happy meals, shrill, ear-piercing little girl screaming–even an Elmo movie being popped into the VCR at high volume on an early Sunday morning. With my special “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you” powers of extra strength denial I was invincible: crying jags that would cause my husband (and the neighbors) to consider emigration would barely cause me to glance up from my book long enough to smugly say, “Oh, does that noise bother you?”

Of course, like a Greek heroine mocking the power of the gods, I should have known that eventually I would be punished for my misplaced pride: in my case, punishment came in the form of a heaping helping of sibling rivalry.

Before Clyde turned four, I never gave sibling rivalry much thought: with nearly five year’s difference in my kids’ ages, I thought that Clementine would, with a few well-placed blows, quickly and brutally establish her supremacy right from the start. (In my defense, I’m sure the Russians thought much the same thing when they went into Afghanistan.)

What I failed to consider, however, is that with Clyde there can be no ultimate supremacy, because Clyde never quits. To put it another way: that boy sure can take a punch. Sure, he still dissolves into a hysterical, crying mess after each blow, but then he’s back for more. And therein lies my problem.

It seems that the combination of Clementine’s shrieks of rage, Clyde’s cries of attack/retreat/attack, and the assorted calls from both demanding immediate punishment
of the other all triangulate perfectly to burst right through my protective “la-la-la” barrier. It’s like I’m a dog, and they finally found the right whistle.

My husband finds all this highly amusing–having grown up as one of seven combatants, he now finds that he is the one immune to our children’s “dulcet tones”. This, of course, is evidence of the gods at there most merciless; how else would you explain my husband glancing up smugly from his book in order to say to me: “Oh, does that noise bother you?”

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Cage Match

I’ve always wondered if the little tics and habits you have as a child give any indication as to what kind of career you will have when you grow up. Take my stepfather, for example: from a young age he showed an unusual interest in both sweeping, and making recordings of people using the toilet; he grew up to be crazy. Ok, so that’s not such a good example; but maybe the five-year-old Thomas Edison drove his parents crazy with his inventions, and Mademoiselle Curie’s favorite toy was her junior chemistry set. Who knows, maybe even George Bush made a habit of invading neighboring kids’ yards and liberating their unusually large toy reserves.

The reason that I have such a strong interest in this is because of my son, Clyde, and his rather “interesting” personal habits. When he was younger these habits involved things like wiping his butt and blowing his nose with the same piece of toilet paper–in that order. Naturally, this made me think that any future career he had would involve saying things like “would you like fries with that?” and “I’d like to tell you about a special offer from Dell”. Lately, however, he has begun to show talents of another sort, talents that I hope may lead him down an entirely different, albeit not quite as respectable, career path: lately I have begun to think that maybe he will grow up to be a fight promoter.

Everything he touches starts a fight. His silverware at dinnertime, the pair of socks he has been told to put on, even the worms he finds when I am planting in the yard. Nothing is safe from his Don King-like machinations; when it comes to organizing a throw down he is Tina Turner in Beyond the Thunderdome, except he doesn’t have that creepy little guy following him around saying, “Who rules Bartertown?”

With Clyde, though, it’s not just the fights, but the nature of the fights that makes me think he has a future in the sports world: like all the best fight promoters, Clyde knows that there is more to orchestrating a fight than throwing a couple of combatants into a ring: instinctively he seems to understand that the best fights involve not just man against man (or, in Clyde’s case, fork against spoon), but are actually little Morality plays where Good can finally triumph over Evil. That’s why, in Clyde’s rumbles, the potato masher (Good) always wins out over the ice cream scoop (Evil), and even the lowly (but still Good) butter knife can carry the day against the supremely Evil corkscrew.

Of course, the thing that really makes me think that Clyde will grow up to be a fight promoter, and not just a fight instigator, are his audiences. Who can forget the big showdown between the slotted serving spoon (Good) and the melon-baller (Evil)? Certainly not all the soupspoons and teaspoons, who turned out en masse to cheer their brethren on. (And certainly not the rest of us, who ate our cereal with forks for weeks afterwards).

You’d think, with Clyde’s career path seemingly laid out before him, that I’d be entirely sold on the idea that the things you are interested in when you are young will determine what you will become when you grow up–but actually, I’m not. I can’t be, because that would mean my daughter, Clementine, whose favorite hobby is cutting out little tiny pieces of paper and leaving them in piles all over the house, will someday grow up to be a performance artist. Or crazy. I have to say that, of the two, I’m hoping for the latter.

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