Before I had kids, I knew exactly what kind of parent I would be.
I’d be the kind who:
- Makes their kid wonderful meals from scratch and teaches them to love eating healthy sophisticated foods, and
- Reasonably explains why screaming in public is a bad idea and therefore has super well-behaved kids in public.
And as it turns out, my kids will consider shoving a piece of broccoli in their mouths… if it’s covered in cheese or butter and holding a plate of ketchup-drenched dinosaur nuggets hostage.
And last week, Bridget threw such a huge fit in the park that three other parents stepped in to help me deal with it. They found her grit truly impressive.
Brontë later reported her baby sister’s episode to her father thusly:
Brontë: Bidgie threw a huge fit at the park today.
John: Oh yeah?
Brontë: Yes, a BIG… HUGE… CRAZY FIT!
Bridget: THAT NOT TRUE.
Brontë: Yes it is.
Bridget: I DON’T LIKE YOU.
Brontë (bursting into tears): That hurts my feelings.
Bridget: Okay, okay, I love you… Now SHUT UP!
So apparently, we don’t really know what kind of parents we’ll be until we actually have kids and other parents to compare ourselves with and while other parents are reminding their kids to “make good choices today” while dropping them off at school, I’m hiding behind trees for jump-scares.
(I don’t know if jump-scares are a good choice, even if your kids think it’s hilarious, so I’m guessing that “Super-Responsible Mom” isn’t me.)
Even so, the neighborhood somehow talked me into being one of the Girl Scout Leaders for our local troupe, which makes me question their collective judgment. Cookie sales have been happening lately, for example, and yet no one’s on board with my ideas about targeting bars and dispensaries. I mean… fish in a barrel, right?
Are these good choices, Erin?
And then I go encouraging little girls to write about dog poop, which makes more sense in context…
See, since I’m a freelance writer, I was asked to give a small presentation about writing so the girls could earn their journaling badges. Really? In front of people? I’m an introverted writer, sheesh…
But I managed it and then the girls broke into groups to write their own stories. Since this week’s theme was helpfulness, they had to write about Something They Did That Was Helpful.
I sat next to a little girl, aged about 7, with a blonde bob that we’ll call “Lucy” for the purposes of this tale.
Me: What would you like to write about, Lucy?
Lucy (looking defiant): DOG POOP.
Me: Alright, dog poop. Is dog poop helpful?
Lucy (smirking): My dog POOPED in my room and I HAD TO PICK IT UP. That was HELPFUL of me.
Me (nodding): I can see that. But look, you can’t just write “I picked up some dog poop in my room.” We need to be able to *see* the poo, to smell it…
Lucy (giggling): What!?
Me: Well, what did it look like? Was it brown or black? Stinky or dry? Tell me about this dog and your room and where he pooped in it.
Lucy (turning pink): He’s a small dog and the poo was small and he pooped in the corner of my room.
Me: That’s a good start, but we need more details. I want to be able to feel the warmth of his turd in my hand as I read your story.
Lucy (laughing until she’s wiping tears off her cheeks): OMG, well, it was dry already and cold but still pretty gross. I have to pick up his poop ALL THE TIME!
Me: And how does that make you feel?
Me: But also good at picking up dog poop?
Lucy: I guess… yeah. Can a draw a picture when I’m done?
Me: Sure. Be sure to draw the poop and circle it and write “poop” with an arrow pointing to the poop when you’re done.
And she did. She wrote two whole pages all about this poo episode and was feeling pretty good about it until her mom was picking her up and another Scout yells, “LUCY WROTE ABOUT POOP!”
Lucy’s mom’s face turns mortified white.
I jump in: “See, the girls were supposed to write about being helpful and Lucy felt helpful about cleaning up after the dog. She wrote all about her dog and what the poop was like and how she was being helpful for the family.”
Lucy’s mom relaxed, whew. Maybe she thinks I’m a maniac now, but she needed to know I’d encouraged this behavior before Lucy got in trouble for repeatedly saying “POOP” in front of all the other girl scout moms.
I mean, maybe it wasn’t the loftiest topic, but she did end up writing a long, creative story instead of continuing to resist the exercise, and vented her frustration in a harmless way.
Plus, Lucy’s totally my buddy now. She thinks I’m on the level. Which is why she approached me at the next meeting to ask what was going on in a photo she found in National Geographic. (We were cutting photos out of magazines to illustrate posters about good values and my group’s poster was about HONESTY.)
Me: Hmm… it looks like a shaman is trying to get rid of this woman’s uterine tumor.
Lucy: What’s a uterine?
Me: Umm… well, you know how women get big bellies when they’re going to have a baby?
Me: The baby is inside their “uterus.” It’s where the baby grows.
Lucy: Oh. What’s a tumor?
Me: It’s when cells keep growing like mad scientists and it makes a big lump that can kill you.
Lucy (nodding): What’s a shaman?
Me: It’s like… a witch doctor. Someone who heals by using spells and medicine.
Lucy: Is it working?
Me: Probably not.
Right then, another Girl Scout mom walks up, swipes our copy of National Geographic and adds it to the pile she’s carrying. “These are NOT appropriate for children,” she says, and I can’t help wondering if it’s because I was just explaining witch doctors and uterine tumors to the children.
(But wouldn’t lying to the children while making a poster about HONESTY be somewhat hypocritical?)
So it turns out, I’m a weird parent. Eh, at least the kids seem to appreciate how I’m not real easy to shock.
And they also like the jump-scares.