Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

November 18, 2002

Teach Your Children Well...

If I knew more of the words, I would write a book called, “The Classic Rocker’s Guide to Life.” I’m sure everyone would want it.

You can learn a lot from classic rock lyrics. For example, you should never stay at the Hotel California. Although you can check out any time you like, for some reason, you can never actually leave.

Another piece of useful classic rock wisdom comes from the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tune, “Teach Your Children.”

It’s a good song, despite such awful phrasing as, “Feed them on your dreams, the one they picks, the one you’ll know by.”

Here we have a hummable reminder that, as parents, we are responsible for shaping our children’s minds, and we need to make sure they don't become drug-addled like the ones responsible for that nearly incomprehensible line.

I try to teach Lucy something new every day. Inadvertently, I taught her some new vocabulary a couple days ago. We were driving to the local hospital to participate in a test of Lucy’s developmental progress. One of my mom’s friends is getting her PhD, and she needed a two-year-old to practice on, so I volunteered.

As usual, we were running just a little bit late. And so, as usual, I was feeling a little bit frazzled when Lucy called out from the back seat.

“Mama, my BOTTOM hurts.”

It’s never a good sign when Lucy’s bottom hurts. It usually means that it’s been punished by a monstrous bowel movement. As I pondered what evil could possibly be causing her pain and contributing in stinky ways to our lateness, I quietly muttered a bad word.

Lucy has tiny bat ears that pick up everything, and she promptly used her outside voice to repeat what I’d said. “DAMMIT! DEAMMMMMIT!” she yelled, laughing like a maniac.

Later, during the exam, the psychologist asked if Lucy was good at repeating words and phrases she hears.

“Yes,” I said. Dammit.

I’m not the only one who has taught Lucy some rotten stuff. My sister Susan taught her a camp song called, “There’s A Skeeter on My Peter, Whack It Off,” sung to the tune of “She'll be comin' 'round the mountain.”

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the week we learned this, a neighborhood family invited us to a birthday party. Adam hadn’t met the parents yet, and as we walked up to the door, I reminded him, “The mom is Andrea and the dad is Peter.”

With that, Lucy started bellowing, “THERE’S A SKEETER ON MY PETER WHACK IT OFF, WHACK IT OFF!”

I can only hope the sound of me gasping in horror muted the sound somewhat. My hopes of that are low; we haven’t heard from the family since.

I have tried to teach Lucy some good things. But it’s a lot harder than it looks. For example, Lucy often says, “Hold you, HOLD YOU,” when she wants me to pick her up.

“Lucy,” I explain, “When you want me to hold you, say hold me. If you’re talking about me, you say you. But if you’re talking about you, then say me. Get it?”

Time is also very difficult. I’m starting on the big concepts, like today, tomorrow and yesterday.

“Lucy,” I say. “Yesterday used to be today. Tomorrow, today will be yesterday.”

She just looks at me quietly. In all likelihood, she’s thinking, “That doesn’t make any sense, dammit.”

I can’t blame her. But the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song does make me feel better about all of this. “Just look at them and cry,” the song says. “And know they love you.”

Lucy has learned to love. She loves the cats. She loves the dog. She even loves chocolate soy milk. Every so often, I am reminded that, despite my many faults, Lucy even loves me.

Love you, Mama. And I can just tell, when she says it, that you means me. So maybe I’m teaching her something after all.

November 04, 2002

How to Keep Halloween Happy

Just when I’ve mastered paranoia enough to stop putting my hand in front of sleeping Lucy’s nostrils to make sure air is still circulating, something happens to make me freak out all over again.

Lucy was making a cake last weekend with my brother. He’d sat her up on the counter so that she could stir the batter, and when he went to put the cake in the oven, she tumbled off and landed on her arm. All that night, she wouldn’t use it. She woke up a couple times in the middle of the night, calling out for me. It was like watching a baby bird that had fallen from the nest. My heart strings were twanging like crazy.

The next morning, I took her to the doctor’s for an X-Ray. Everything checked out OK. My brother didn’t break my baby. He merely bruised her, so he will live another day.

Then Halloween came. When we were little kids, the big scare was that someone had laced Mickey Mouse tattoos with acid. I didn’t know what acid was, but it sounded like nasty stuff. Even innocent apples were scary back then. Rumor had it they could harbor razor blades that were undetectable to the trick-or-treater’s eye.

Nowadays, I know enough to know that the Mickey Mouse thing was urban legend, and that it would be really hard to slip a razor blade into an apple without leaving a gash.

But Halloween still rattles my bones, and it’s all because I have a child on the front lines.

This year, Lucy dressed up as a dog, and I relished the opportunity to walk her on a leash without being harshly judged. She wasn’t going to get high on candy and race out into the street, not when I was walking her. No siree! She stayed safe from cars, and as an added bonus, she impressed people by sitting, barking, begging and rolling over.

She was so impressive, in fact, that complete strangers in a bank insisted on taking her picture, and then they dumped all of the candy left in the bowl straight into her doggie bag.

Somewhere in the distance, I heard a brace of off-key violins playing their “ree-ree-ree” song. It wasn’t even dark yet, and Lucy had amassed a full bag of candy. The way I saw it, she might as well have been carrying a bag full of chocolate-coated artillery. Everything was a potential hazard.

The Almond Joy bars, for example, contain almonds. ALMONDS! Throat-sized nuts hidden beneath a layer of silky chocolate, lying in wait, living to choke her, much as a pig might choke a python if such a snake ever made it into a barnyard.

I had no choice. The Almond Joy could kill Lucy. It had to go. So I ate it.

Lucy’s bag also contained a mysterious candy I’d never seen before. It came in a long, thin bar, shaped something like a camel’s tongue. Everyone knows how ill-tempered camels can be. I regarded this orange-flavored menace and noticed that, despite the fact that only one came in the package, it was called “Air Heads.”

“I’d be the airhead if I let Lucy eat this,” I said.

With only her safety in mind, I ate it myself.

Shockingly, Lucy’s bag was heavy with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Everyone knows those are the unnatural byproduct of a hideous accident between a jar of peanut butter and a chocolate bar. What kind of parent would let their child eat such a monstrosity?

Not me. It would be like asking for Lucy to have more such disfiguring accidents herself. Looking out for my precious, precious child, I ate them all.

I also ate the miniature Hershey’s bars, which are armed with four vicious corners, any one of which could easily put out an eye.

Despite the fact that I was feeling rather sick, I tucked away the overly hard Jolly Ranchers. I ate the Tootsie Pops and the DumDums. How dum would someone be to let a 2-year-old have a lollipop? I wasn’t about to find out. I also ate the Bazooka bubble gum, because everyone knows bazookas are a mighty type of gun and gum named after a gun is way too dangerous for a child.

Lucy, who has been out all morning, is now safe from her candy. Meanwhile, I feel like a beached manatee. One of my orifices, and I can’t tell which from my position on the floor, is emitting a pathetic, intermittent and high-pitched wail.

I’ve done my job, though, much as my own mother did for me back in the years of the mysteriously disappearing Halloween candy.

Lucy will live to trick-or-treat another year. May I only have the strength and courage to protect her so well in the future. I think it will require a new pair of pants.