I have a new essay at Hippocampus on fear and writing. Beware of bugs and spitting.
“On my mental list of bad-mom moments, teaching my two-year old to swear is right up near the top.”
Yes, that’s right. I taught my kids to swear — unintentionally, of course. If you want to see what happens next — and how I took a mess from bad to worse — join me at Mamapedia’s “Voices” for the rest of the essay.
Mamapedia is an on-line community of moms, a collective of shared wisdom. Linking moms at all stages of their parenting adventures, the site provides articles, advice, questions and answers, and even some sweet family deals.
I hope you’ll click on over to read the rest of my essay, “Curses” — and bring a cup of coffee. You’ll want to stay awhile.
My six-year-old daughter, Boo, has spunk. In spades. Her imagination is extraordinary. She spits out phrases that could only come from ghosts or fairies in the night, whispering in her ear. I suspect she’s channeling an eighty-year-old Italian man. Or a pirate.
Boo has a wavering respect for truth. Sometimes, she fudges it, especially if she thinks she’s about to get in trouble. This is normal child development. For kids her age, the lines between fact and fiction aren’t always absolute.
From a writer’s standpoint, that’s kind of cool. From a mom’s standpoint, it can get irritating. If there’s milk all over the carpet, and Boo’s alone in the room, she still insists she didn’t do it.
One night at dinner, we decided to “make a point” about truth telling. My older daughter — who is a stickler for absolutes — told the story of “The boy who cried wolf”. I’m sure you know it. A young boy is supposed to watch the village sheep and keep them safe from wolves. When he gets bored, he shouts “Wolf!” just to cause commotion. The villagers come running with their pitchforks. No wolf. The next day, same thing. On the third day, there really is a wolf but no one comes when the boy calls. Alas, poor sheep.
The moral’s clear, right? Tell the truth, or there will be Dire Consequences involving all manner of teeth and claws. We have assumed this linear path, A to B, for centuries — the story has roots in Ancient Greece.
That’s not what Boo garnered from the tale. No, with the plot laid out before her, Boo said:
“Those people should really keep their sheep indoors.”
Dinner’s just begun and already there’s big trouble. Grumpy faces, slouching backs. Elbows on the table, spilled parmesan and blueberries. I’m a broken record of “please sit down” and “eat your vegetables,” tired of listening to myself. And dinner’s not half over.
Every parent knows this scene, this vibe, of tempers flared and days unraveling. By evening, we count up our infractions, our impatience and mistakes, regrets played out like a barbed-wire rosary.
Tomorrow, we’ll do better.
But the next day starts with grumbles, spilled orange juice and chores undone. My kids wait until I’m in the shower before they start to fight. Covered with shampoo, I’m a rotten referree. The screaming escalates. Here we go again. Continue reading
If my daughter had been two seconds faster, she would have been hit by the car. She was running, the hedge blocked her from the driver’s view, and the car was going too fast, cutting a gap between parking lots.
My breath must have stopped, stopped and hung suspended, leaving pieces of me there inside that frozen moment. Now I return, again and again, to the same almost-image. The car, the hedge, my daughter. It’s a stillpoint emblazoned with viceral, burning clarity. It shocks me out of sleep.
Two seconds. Two seconds can be a not-much, forgotten and discarded. Two seconds can be an everything. Continue reading