Monthly Archives: April 2011

Naked Dude

The other day my son Clyde got into a wrestling match with two of Clementine’s friends. Now, normally, this sort of fight would have been over in seconds—two sixteen-year-old boys versus one nine-year-old is a pretty uneven match up. But, unbeknownst to Sam and Eli, Clyde had a secret weapon up his sleeve—or rather, down his pants. Yep, it seems that at some point in the wrestling—and with plenty of encouragement from Clyde, I am sure—Clyde’s pants came clean off, leaving him absolutely, one-hundred percent, naked.

Not that this stopped Clyde from carrying on the fight, especially when he noticed that his nudity was helping him turn the tide of battle. And how could it not? What sixteen-year-old boy—or any-year-old boy, for that matter—wants to take the chance of touching or getting touched by a nine-year-old’s junk? And so, what looked like a fight that was going to be a serious beat-down—for Clyde at least—turned into a rout. It was brutal, kind of a cross between the sauna scene in “Eastern Promises” and the creepy little ghost kid scene in “The Grudge.” It was also, after the initial unveiling, totally one-sided: if it had been a professional fight the officials would’ve stopped it in the first round and the bookies would’ve refused to pay up. Actually, it’s too bad there isn’t a bookie living in my house: I could’ve made bank. Especially since at the beginning of the fight the odds were about100-to-1 against Clyde. Once the gloves—er, rather, pants—came off, however, it was no contest.

You’re probably thinking, sure, you would’ve cleaned up if you’d thought to make the bet, but who bets on a nine-year-old against two sixteen-year-olds? Well, I’ll tell you who: me. That’s because, to me, the whole pants-less ninja thing honestly wasn’t that big of a surprise. It’s true: if there’s one thing I know about Clyde, it’s that he revels in his nudity. And yes, I know that lots of little kids like to run around naked, but for most of them it’s something they outgrow. Not Clyde, though: he is as happy being naked today as he was the day he was born—more so, even, because now he is able to fully understand how uncomfortable it can make other people feel. Understand, and revel in it.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Heck, it might even turn out to be a good thing. He might turn out to be a nude model for an art class. Or at the very least, a JC Penney underwear model. But then again, those are the best case scenarios; there’s another, darker future out there that I shudder to even consider. What if Clyde becomes “Naked Dude?”

You know the guy I’m talking about—the guy who never misses an opportunity to get naked in front of strangers. The guy who is always waiting for you at the hot springs, or the remote trailhead, or that special waterfall that you hiked four hours just to reach. Oh sure, I know that, unlike Clyde, all of these guys are in their mid-fifties, but logic tells me that they didn’t start out that way. I mean, they had to have been kids at some point, right? Maybe even “Naked Kid”? But then again, maybe their “Naked Guy” careers didn’t start until they hit middle age. Maybe, in their youths, they were just as repressed as the rest of us.

And maybe that will be the difference between them and Clyde. Maybe they started their lives with their clothes on, and have been slowly removing them ever since. Just like Clyde will maybe start to slowly add more and more on.

Maybe. But in any event, it probably would be a good idea for me to start looking for a bookie, for the next big fight. Just in case.

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Where oh Where

There are certain things I just don’t want to know.

I don’t want to know what is really in my hot dog (truly, I don’t: please stop sending me those links on Facebook). And I don’t want to know that being in congress increases your chances of being a millionaire by about a thousand percent. (Okay: I do want to know that, but I don’t, you know?) And, believe it or not, I don’t even want to know where my toothbrush has been when it goes missing for the day. (This is not as odd as it might sound—both of my children are not only peripatetic brushers, but they are also opportunistic ones, appropriating the nearest toothbrush when necessary and then casting it aside when they are through. In the future, if you are using my bathroom and happen to notice that all of the toothbrushes are on little chains—like in the bank—you’ll know why.)

There is one thing, however, that I will always want to know, no matter what, and that is where my children are.

With my son Clyde, it’s easy: I just follow the sounds of dying zombies and exploding tanks and, sure enough, there’s Clyde, on the the other end of the gun (or cricket bat, or chainsaw, or flamethrower—whatever the weapon du jour happens to be). Which is another way of saying “on the other end of the PS3 controller.”

Clementine, however, is a little more difficult. She actually goes outside. (To be fair, Clyde will also go outside—at least as far as the signal on his bluetooth will reach.) Clementine, though, not only goes outside, but goes out of the yard, which makes her a wee bit harder to track down (there are also hardly ever any screaming zombies in her vicinity). It was for this reason that I got her a cellphone—to locate her.

No matter what your thoughts on teens and cellphones are, there is no denying that they are great devices for locating your missing child. Or, at least, they should be. The problem is, however, that for cellphones to function as a locator device two important conditions must be met. (I’m ignoring the GPS feature some cellphones have, because those plans cost money, and I’m already paying enough for the phone.) Anyway, the first condition is that the child actually answers the phone when they see who’s calling (thanks for nothing, caller ID), and the other is that the phone actually be in their possession in the first place.

You’d think that the second part would be the easiest—after all, isn’t the usual stereotype of a modern teenage girl that of one with a cellphone absolutely welded to her palm? And even putting aside stereotypes for the moment, wasn’t this the same child who absolutely begged for a phone of her own? Unfortunately, however, just like the Barbie Dream House you begged for when you were ten, the bloom came off the cell phone rose early on, and as often as not when I call it to try and locate its owner I can hear it chirping plaintively from somewhere near the bottom of her unmade bed.

That’s why I went to Plan B: get everyone’s else’s number. That’s right: I have everyone’s number in my own cellphone. Well, okay. Not everyone’s. But everyone I think Clementine might come into contact with, including the people I rather wish she wouldn’t. And better yet, I’m not afraid to use those numbers.

Even better still, the people at the other end of those numbers are not yet immune to my nagging—unlike Clementine—and will therefore generally do whatever it takes to get me to stop calling them. Including walking over to Clementine, tapping her on the shoulder, and saying, “Dude, answer your phone, already; your mom’s driving me crazy.”

Ah, the wonders of modern technology.

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Kid in a Box

In a way, I was lucky. When my daughter Clementine was born 10 days after her due date, followed, a few years later, by her brother Clyde being born three weeks before his, I was put on immediate notice that, while it may be that I have a child-rearing schedule firmly in place, my children were obviously under absolutely no urge to follow it. Knowing that from the very beginning made it easier for me to accept things later on when they insisted on being the outliers on my imaginary bell curve—way too early to walk and too late to get teeth, not speaking for months past the expected day (and then speaking in full sentences), giving up on nursing first too soon, at one, and then too late, at three. And, of course, most tragically, giving up on naps just when I was starting to learn to enjoy them again myself.

Things haven’t changed much as they’ve gotten older: no matter what I do, what plans I make for them, they insist on being the people they are going to be, when they want to be them. For example, the one I originally signed up for dance ended up playing right field, and the one I bought the football helmet for cheerfully goes to dance class twice a week. Go figure.

But that’s okay. As far as I’m concerned, I would no more try and force my kids to fit into some kind of imaginary little box I started building back in fourth grade (back when I also thought that my husband was going to be a doctor/astronaut/rock star and that we would both live on a quarter horse ranch in Wyoming) than I would try and force them into clothes that were too small for them. Besides, even if it were possible to do such a thing, wouldn’t it ruin the delicious surprise of slowly discovering what kind of people they are going to turn out to be? And so, even though I am at turns excited, frustrated, mystified, and incredulous as I watch them slowly evolve, above all else I am for the most part, quiet.

Sure it’s hard to watch them make some boneheaded mistakes, but then again I am sure that it was hard for my mother to watch me put on pumps and bobbie socks. (Give me a break: it was the 80s.) But still: I am a firm believer that not only do we learn best from our mistakes, but also that we very nearly learn only from them. (I’m not willing to go so far as to say that no one can learn any other way: there very well might be a tribe of people somewhere out there who has managed to perfect the art of listening to—and learning from—the cautionary tales of their elders; so far, however, I have yet to see any evidence of such a tribe’s existence.)

Again, I understand how hard it is to watch someone you care about make the same stupid mistakes you made yourself, but the truth of the matter is they’re not making your mistakes all over again—they’re making their own. And the ability to make—and recover from—mistakes is one of the most valuable skills you can teach your kids, certainly much more valuable than teaching them never to make any mistakes in the first place.

It’s like “Cinderella.” In the original Grimm’s version, the mother was so desperate for one of her own daughters to be the one who ended up with the prince that she cut off their toes to try and make their feet fit into the shoes.

Of course, it didn’t work. And more than that, I’ll bet that those sisters never listened to a word their mother said again.

Who knows? Maybe that was the real lesson of the story after all.

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Why Bother

There comes a point in every parent’s life when they look at their children and say to themselves, “Why did I even bother?”

Not necessarily, “why did I even bother having them?” (although that is definitely a subject for another column) but rather, “why did I bother making sure they were safe, well-fed, and warmly dressed when they were toddlers just so that the moment they hit their teen years all three of those things could fly out the window?”

Take the issue of “safe” for example. Do you remember putting foam bumpers on the corners of your coffee table, buying the latest car seat, and asking for child-proof lids on all of your prescriptions? All that, only to have them, little more than a decade later, stumble out of the open bed of someone’s truck, clutching the goose egg they got from learning to do an ollie (sans helmet, of course) and then telling you they feel a little queasy because someone at the skatepark gave them a pill for their headache. (“What kind of pill?” you ask in alarm. “I dunno. It was yellow. Or pink. Or maybe both.” “’Maybe both’ as in you took two different pills, or ‘maybe both’ in that you took one pill that was two different colors?” “Huh? Were we talking about something?”)

Then there’s the issue of warmly dressed. Recently, one of my daughter Clementine’s friends was diagnosed with frostbite of the toe. Frostbite. This wasn’t someone who was homeless, or whose parents had lost their jobs and couldn’t afford to buy him new shoes. Nor was this someone who was trying to set the record for the youngest (and stupidest) person to climb Everest. No, this was someone who chose to walk around barefoot in the snow right here in Flagstaff because it “felt more freer.” (I’m letting you know right now that if ‘freedom’ means giving up on learning the proper use of comparative adjectives, then you can count me out right now.) And, in case you’re thinking, “Well, boys will be boys,” know this: it’s not just the boys. I can’t tell you the number of times Clementine has come home from school wet and shivering, only to step over the parkas lining her floor so that she can change into a dry short sleeved t-shirt to go back out in the snow.

But I think that out of all three of the above issues, the one that gets me the most is the one of “well-fed, which is actually a little bit ironic since that’s the one that affects me the least. This is all because early on I decided that it didn’t matter if I ended up raising my children on a diet of nuclear waste and slaughterhouse sweepings, as long as it meant I didn’t have to spend an hour at the table every evening cajoling them to “just take one more bite.”

Given the refined palates of the under ten set, that meant that most of their dinners came out of a box. A cheap box. I know plenty of other families, however, who spent the financial equivalent of a round the world cruise making sure that their kids had pesticide free strawberries and organic milk to pour onto their omega/flax/quinoa flakes every morning. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that today, when those same kids are living on a steady diet of ramen noodles and Mickey D’s, I sometimes wonder if every time those parents find a double cheeseburger wrapper in their kid’s backpack if in their mind’s eye they see Morocco slipping past a porthole. I know that I would.

Or, at the very least, have to ask myself: “Why did I even bother?”

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