When it really counts, I resort to the faux-democracy of preselected acceptable choices (“Would you like to wear this, or this?”) because any semblance of a choice, however manufactured, tends to appease deep toddler yearnings for some control while under their current dictatorship.
But usually, I just let them pick. I figure it’s a harmless way for them to express themselves, even if I have to occasionally suffer sideways glances and condescending questions about whether or not their father dressed them today.
Plus, we’ll be spending most of our lives NOT dressed like our favorite princesses, so why deny them now?
And my older daughter Brontë definitely went through a phase of going practically everywhere dressed like a wedding cake, flouncing about every mundane errand while glittering fluffy pink tulle in her wake…
Yet after getting enough princessing out of her system, she eventually developed a far more sophisticated fashion sense than you’d expect from a five-year-old. In fact, I once had a fun idea about writing a blog post where I let my toddler pick out my outfits for a week that I later abandoned after she kept constructing truly tasteful outfits with well-coordinated accessories.
Well lately, her 3-year-old sister Bridget has also been expressing an interest in her clothing: YES, to the cats-with-glasses dress and DEFINITELY NO to the turquoise shirt.
I was a little surprised to find my Viking daughter suddenly demonstrating fashion sensitivity, but decided it must be time to let her pick her own outfits too.
So, after I told her to get dressed for the park, she came out wearing this:
And it was AWESOME.
In case it isn’t clear from the blurry picture, she’s wearing a pirate outfit with a sword and a knight’s helmet.
She’s pretty proud of it, too. Absolutely no kid is going to mess with her when she’s looking like that and she knows it.
She also made sure to grab her pirate musket water gun on the way out, because you can never be too armed for the playground.
Nor was it the last time this week she’s incorporated the helmet into her wardrobe. Yesterday, she got ready for the library like this:
You may be wondering why, at this point, we have a toddler-sized medieval helmet. Well, Bidgie saw it in the store and absolutely fell in love. She slapped that piece of armor on her head and blissfully rode around in the grocery cart like it had finally completed her.
Maybe YOU can deny your child medieval accouterments while looking into their innocent eyes, but I, for one, felt that watching a toddler stumble around in aggressive, Monty Python-esque head accessories was something my life desperately needed.
As I’ve mentioned before, my two-year-old daughter Bridget is a baby Viking: a freakishly-strong blonde who lives to dance, eat, and occasionally conquer all rules of civilized Christian society by violently head-butting them with her berserker rage.
And tonight, she waged a war on the meaning of pants.
Everything had been going so well. Earlier, she’d finally asked to use the potty insteadof just using it as a step-stool or a comedy hat as she’d done for months, in what I can only assume was a blatant mockery of our attempts to civilize her.
Then she actually peed in it for the first time, like she was supposed to.
We were so ridiculously thrilled. Even her four-year-old sister Brontë was impressed, telling her, “You PEED in the potty like A BIG GIRL. I’m so proud of you, Bridge-git, because you are being a big girl more every day!”
Everyone clapped. I gave Bridget a chocolate, which she wolfed down in beaming celebration before squaring her shoulders and bellowing something unintelligible to the heavens (which I can only assume was a shout-out to Odin) before tearing out of the room…
And that’s when things got weird.
I’m not sure if Bridget worried about whether her potty capitulation meant she’d become too domesticated, or if triumphing over her bowels overwhelmed her with a sense of boundless power, but she ran straight to the pajama drawer and started yelling, “PICK! PICK!”
You see, every night before bedtime, the girls get to pick the pajamas they’ll be wearing and it’s kind of an amazingly big deal for them.
I’m guessing that’s because they don’t control most aspects of their daily lives. They don’t get to make many selections apart from whether to play with dolls or Legos, drink water or milk, eat dinner or NOT eat dinner, and which cartoon characters they want smeared across their bodies as they sleep that night.
So when I opened the pajama drawer, Bridget dove in with real purpose, finally surfacing with a Minnie Mouse nightgown in one hand and an Olivia-the-piglet top in the other.
“You have an Olivia shirt… do you want the Olivia pants, Bridget?”
“No problem. Do you just want to wear the Minnie Mouse nightgown? You don’t have to wear pants with it.”
“Okay, that’s fine too. Except you have two shirts right now. Do you want the pants instead?” I pulled out the Olivia pants and offered them to her.
“NO!” Bridget insisted while shoving the Olivia pants away: “This!”
“Okay, but you have another SHIRT. You have TWO SHIRTS right now.”
“Pants,” she grunted through gritted teeth while staring me straight in the eyeballs, just daring me to suggest she wasn’t holding pants one. more. time. These were pants, goddammit, even if my limited peasant vision wouldn’t accept it.
I sat back.
Alright. Put on those pants then.
Bridget scowled at me while balancing one foot over an upside-down Olivia shirt. She snaked her wiggling toes into an armhole before thrusting her leg all-the-way through.
Hmm. Now what?
One leg safety through, Bridget glanced down at the giant neck-hole and tiny armhole beneath her, suddenly grasping the complex dignity equation in which she’d landed herself. Not yet willing to surrender, she picked up her free leg and alternated pointing her toes at the neck hole and leg hole, aiming back and forth until she lost her balance and fell smack down on her toddler butt.
She started rolling around, jamming her leg in various parts of the Olivia shirt as though sheer force of will would magically transform it into appropriate leg wear. Finally, she somehow managed to cram both her legs into a single armhole, then, realized she was trapped, began thrashing around in a berserker rage, screaming “PANTS! PANTS! NO PANTS!”
I let her thrash until she was winded. Laying helplessly on the floor, her dignity somehow crashed amidst a random pile of brightly-colored piglets, she finally looked over and weakly gasped, “Help?”
I worked the Olivia shirt off her legs. She ran over to the pajama drawer, fished out the Olivia pants, and collapsed on my lap. I wadded up each Olivia leg like pantyhose, popped her feet through either side, held her hands and pulled her back up to her feet.
She laid a hand against my neck, pulled my face closer, and pushed her forehead onto mine. She pushed our foreheads together for several moments.
“Mama.” She gave me a kiss.
Eh, part of me knew she needed to learn for herself that even spite can’t turn shirts into pants, but another part weirdly hoped she’d manage to pull it off somehow.
And still another part isn’t sure whether she’d actually hoped to transform shirts, or was trying to challenge rigid definitions. Maybe we’d all just been blindly accepting rules about only wearing shirts on the top halves of our bodies and a single open-minded clothing messiah could break the boundaries of our apparel world by bravely venturing into unknown territory.
But not today. Today was about getting a little too big for your britches after successfully peeing in designated containers then realizing your jailers sometimes know more than you do about the boundaries of space and time.
Bidgie squeezed my hand and led me to her room, so she could hear her bedtime story and finally drift off into a dreamworld of dragons and Valkyries.
She was safe. Mama had saved her from herself and pants.
So, I caught my daughter smacking her own butt this morning while yelling, “BAD! You’re WRONG! You need to STOP IT!”
It was a perplexing situation, one I hoped to better understand. So instead of telling her to cut it out, I tried to uncover what strange manner of 4-year-old psychology had driven her to this desperate point…
Me: Umm… what are you doing? Why are you spanking yourself?
Brontë: I’m NOT. I’m spanking MY PANTS.
Me: I see. Okay… why?
Brontë: Because they won’t do cartwheels and somersaults the way I want them to.
Me: That’s an interesting dilemma.
Brontë: They’re being WRONG pants!
Me: Well… you do realize that *you’re* actually the one that does cartwheels and somersaults, right? And that right now, you’re really just spanking yourself?
Brontë’s eyes got big for a moment before she swiveled around and stomped off, muttering, “DAMN IT, stupid pants!”
As I thought: Don’t laugh don’t laugh don’t laugh don’t laugh…
Because I really shouldn’t encourage swearing, even when executed perfectly and to hilarious effect.
But I can definitely see why she’d be mad at those pants. First, they mess up her cartwheels and somersaults. Then, they trick her into smacking herself and looking silly in front of her mom.
They were definitely being WRONG pants that deserved everything they got.
Have you ever done something that you thought was a SUPER WONDERFUL IDEA only to later see that same SUPER WONDERFUL IDEA as proof there’s something wrong with your brain?
See, we’ve been going through an extremely stressful few months around here trying to sell our house and buy one at the same time. Trying to bid with contingencies, spending ungodly amounts of money fixing up our yard to look more inviting and having to keep our stupidly white house with white carpets looking absolutely perfect, just in case strangers need to walk through and judge us.
And complicating this endeavor is the fact we’re raising two crazy toddlers in this stupidly white house. Look, toddlers are all a little crazy, but I suspect my toddlers are even crazier than most.
I have my reasons. Like, when I attended mamma-baby yoga classes with my kids, all the other babies were sleeping or playing quietly with their toys, whereas MY babies were either concocting complex schemes to rip off all the other babies’ toys or so wound up they were repeatedly smacking themselves into the wall mirrors while disrupting class with their shrieks.
My toddlers appear to have a death wish. I kept trying to rationalize this away, but after baby-proofing every room in our house, we kept seeing them think up endless ways to throw themselves off our loft or stack up enough furniture to remove lightbulbs so they could stick their fingers into the empty sockets.
You’d think they’d grow out of that nonsense as they got older, but l’appel du vide is only becoming more sophisticated. Just this morning, I caught Bridget dipping her TOOTHBRUSH into the toilet, then sucking the water out of it.
Since plummeting off the balcony didn’t work for her, she’s now clearly trying to contract some form of cholera.
Witnessing this, there first was horror. Then, uncomfortable curiosity about whether or not it was the first time. And finally, the painful realization that she grabs my husband’s toothbrush whenever she can get her hands on it…
Unwilling to fully process the implications, I piled the kids into the car to hit the library. We were nearly there when bloodcurdling screams exploded from the back seat, whereupon I turned around and saw this:
THAT’S RIGHT, SHE’S STRANGLING HERSELF WITH THE FRONT PASSENGER SIDE SEATBELT. It wasn’t actually tight enough to hurt her, but what an impressive effort. How have we all managed to survive??
And this kind of insanity; this type of gritty, single-minded focus on senseless destruction has been aimed at our white-carpeted house for the past four years. At any given moment, I get a text from our agent telling me someone wants to view our house within the hour, usually just after realizing my kids did something like not only bust into my lipstick selection but also the ten-pound bag of rice hidden in our pantry, because such an exciting combination of two new forms of artistic media couldn’t fail to be explored.
And as much as I’ve tried blaming our kids’ foolishness on my husband’s genes, I’m now forced to admit that mine may also be responsible. Because in the middle of all this house-swapping lunacy, some crazy mad scientist living deep in my brain decided:
“You know what? I don’t think this situation is nearly stressful enough. We should probably take everything up a notch by throwing a hysterical, house-shredding, not-potty-trained puppy into the mix.”
Yes, that was actually MY brain, surveying the landscape and determining how to proceed. Since the lipstick stains and rice everywhere hadn’t already broken me, I felt I needed a dog who’d shake every pillow in the house until feathers coated whatever clean space was left.
And you know what else? I don’t believe Douglas is a chihuahua mix. That’s what we were told by the sweet old lady handling him, but she’d pretty much gotten everything else about him wrong. She said he was six years old, but it turns out he’s 18 months. She said he was fixed, despite him clearly being intact.
I’m starting to wonder if she just assumed he was a chihuahua because most little dogs at shelters are (the bigger ones are Pit Bulls). Because since then, we’ve looked at photos of various dog breeds and he looks kind of EXACTLY like a Jack Russell terrier, which would explain the ridiculous amount of energy. It also means we busted straight past the beginner dog breeds to tackle the Advanced Calculus of challenging dog ownership.
We still love him, of course, despite the fact that Brontë is deeply dissatisfied and has already put in her order for a secondary dog. When we move, as she’s explained to us multiple times, we need to get what amounts to the EXACT OPPOSITE of Douglas: a giant, black, female dog named “Bella” with TWO ears that stick straight up.
You see, Douglas has one ear that sticks up and one that folds over. I think it’s adorable, but it’s driving Brontë nuts. She keeps trying to unfold the bendy ear in a fruitless attempt to set things right. Something about Douglas’s mismatched ears really tweaks her 4-year-old concept of predictable world order.
For me, those concepts are a tad bit more unhinged by errant pillow feathers settling into dog turds on our expensively-cleaned white carpet right before our 2-year-old with an angry colon tries to hang herself with the seatbelts in our car, but why should my personal definitions of domestic tranquility take precedence, right?
Yet tonight, just as I thought the whole crumbing chaotic universe was about to claim my very soul…
SOMEONE DECIDED TO BUY OUR HOUSE!
Hallelujah! It’s OVER.
Someone is buying our house and someone else accepted our offer on theirs. On the same night.
Everything is right again and all we need to do is move.
(And get a giant black female dog with TWO sticky-up ears so my 4-year-old can again feel the world is just and consistent.)
Everyone is beautiful and wonderful again and I wish you all a good night. I love you all.
It’s been one of those weeks with kids where, despite all our good intentions, we ended up eating way too many tacos and frozen pizzas.
You know how it is…. I kept meaning to make beef slow-cooker stew, but kept forgetting to pull steak out of our freezer because our two-year-old daughter, Bridget, has been waking up around 3:45 AM each morning to shriek inconsolably for a couple hours.
I have no idea what’s going on and all I can get out of her is the word “mankeys,” said repeatedly in a panicked voice. I can only assume she’s having evil monkey nightmares which climax in her bloodcurdling screams.
They must be godawful scary monkeys, from what I can tell.
Hopefully, we’ll get to the bottom of it. But in the meantime, I decided everyone really needed a proper meal. Desperately needing a break, I asked John to take our four-year-old daughter, Brontë, to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients. Someone needed to stay home with Bridget, anyway, while she slept off yet another crazed monkey hangover.
So John took Brontë to the grocery store, where they had a good time. After finding her Wonder Woman tiara in the backseat of our car, Brontë put it on and talked about saving the day for the rest of the ride.
In the store, John told her she could “save the day” by grabbing food off our list and putting it into the cart. This method has been working well, by the way, for minimizing grocery store tantrums. Brontë seems less bored when she’s involved in the process.
And I heard she mostly did a great job, apart from when he asked her to to grab celery and she came back with some fruity Starbucks drink instead.
Well, everything was fine until they came back home, where John piled all the grocery bags on the kitchen table. In the middle of putting everything away, he reaches into one of the bags and pulls out a ginormous bag of gummy bears.
He drops it to the table with a THUD. We both stare at it.
Brontë stops in her tracks, puts her hands on her hips and says, “Whoa! Look at that!”
“I wasn’t expecting that,” John said.
And Brontë, feigning shock, says, “Wow, yeah… that’s really weird.”
John bunches up his eyebrows. “So, that giant bag of gummy bears just happened to fall inside our cart?”
Finally, Brontë flings both her arms over her head:
“FINE. OKAY, I GRABBED THEM. You caught me, guys… IT WAS ME!” Then she ran to her room in a panic and slammed the door.
(She really caved under the slightest pressure, didn’t she?)
Maybe she’d been inspired by her baby sister’s attempted chocolate heist last week, but I’m not sure how she thought she could pull this off. First of all, she’s obsessed with gummy bears and everyone knows it. She sings the gummy bear song all the time. A better move leading up to this crime would’ve been faking gummy bear nonchalance.
I still can’t help being impressed that she managed to grab such a huge bag, slip it into the cart unnoticed, then play stupid while the checker was ringing it out. But she overlooked one critical element: she needed to pay attention to which grocery bag contained the contraband, so she could later create a distraction and then make off with the goods.
A fine effort, I have to say. she needed to iron out a few kinks.
So we’ve had Douglas the chihuahua/terrier/something for about a week now and I have to tell you, he’s driving me nuts.
Don’t get me wrong. He IS sweet and adorable and will cuddle up to you at night and really, really means well, but I’m having a rough time with his berserker dog energies.
I’m beyond certain this has something to do with me being a cat person.
I’m used to calm, clean kitties who like your approval but don’t NEED it, whereas Douglas goes into approval-seeking seizures so violent they’ve actually drawn blood. He wasn’t even trying to be mean… he just goes into such a licking, head-whipping frenzy that upon seeing me, he woodpeckers his face against my hands until his teeth accidentally break the skin.
And he has other problems, like:
He chews EVERYTHING. I have two kids under five, which means there’s a wave of toys constantly enveloping our house. I was hoping the threat of dog ingestion would help me train my kids to pick up after themselves, but so far, the dog keeps on crapping Legos and trying to wrestle Bridget’s blankies away.
He isn’t leash-trained. Approaching Douglas with a leash makes him instantly pee all over the floor. Then he stubbornly sits there while you pull at the leash until he’s choking and vomiting.
But if you remove the leash, he won’t respond to commands AT ALL. When I took Douglas and the girls out to get mail from the mailbox, the FIRST thing he did was run straight out into the street and into oncoming traffic. He not only didn’t flinch when we called his name, he bolted away from us for the next half hour while we tried to grab him.
When we let him inside, the first thing he does is find a sweet corner of the house to crap in. We tell him NO and put him back outside for a decent interval before bringing him back in. Then he instantly craps again, like he’d been holding it. He’s THE OPPOSITE of potty-trained. He WANTS to crap inside.
Despite all of his issues, there’s NO WAY we’re taking Douglas back to the shelter because that would break his little doggie heart. He truly loves us and was so happy to become part of our family that I just can’t do that to him.
But what to do…
The other night, it hit me: Brontë not only loves animals but, like many 4-year-old girls, she’s incredibly bossy. She bosses her little sister around all the time, tries to boss around John and me, and managed to train Frodo the Cat to stand up on command, just cause she was bored.
So, I turned to her while she was eating some graham crackers at the kitchen table. I told her in a very serious voice: “Brontë, I’m making you the Official Boss of the Dog.”
She stood up, nodded, and said, “I’m also the Boss of the Minnie Mouse blanket.”
“Yes you are. You are the Boss of Minnie Mouse and also the Boss of the Dog.”
How did I not instantly see it? Brontë’s hyper control needs and an out-of-control little dog is a match made in heaven. She even has infinite time on her hands.
And she’s been taking her duties very seriously. Everywhere I go, I’m hearing Brontë whip Douglas into shape:
“No, DOUG-LAS! People are NOT for biting. We are NOT DOG TOYS. Kissing us is an okay thing to do. You can kiss but you CANNOT BITE!”
“Douglas, you are NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY WITH BARBIES. Here… you can play with your squeaky duck.”
“Douglas, STOP GIVING THE CATS MEAN LOOKS! Raj will smack you in the face and he will be RIGHT.”
“You do NOT poop in my room. Rooms are NOT for pooping! You can poop in the potty or outside because you are a dog but you do NOT poop in the living room or my room and you DO NOT poop next to Ariel because SHE IS A MERMAID.”
Okay, so maybe I set Brontë on the dog because I knew it would be funny and that would kind of help me deal with all the frustrations he’s caused, but I still think it’s a good plan. She seems to have the essential training idea down and I somehow think a four-year-old mind could maybe brain-hack a dog.
The dining room chair shoved in front of the stove should’ve been my first clue. I kept staring at this inconsistency while sipping my coffee, but nothing else was amiss.
My kids had used this maneuver to pilfer the cabinets before, but they were always sloppy about it. Cabinets were left hanging open and food scattered everywhere, like raccoons had turned over the kitchen.
And the kids were still asleep, weren’t they?
Eh, whatever. I shrugged it off and went about my day until later that morning, when I plopped down on the couch and heard the faintest crunch.
I tugged back a cushion to see a flash of yellow. I jumped off the couch, grabbed the yellow thing and pulled it out–an empty, crinkled bag of Nestle’s Mini Chocolate Chips–and then, more yellow…
ANOTHER empty bag of Nestle’s Chocolate Chips. Baffling.
I took a deep breath before peeling the cushions back all the way, which revealed TWO ENTIRE BAGS of Nestle’s Mini Chocolate Chips packed into the couch crevices.
I tucked myself onto the stairs, where I could invisibly wait..
And after some time, Bridget wandered into the living room, sucking her thumb. She slowly backed up to the couch. After checking the perimeter, her tiny hand darted into the couch cushions, coming back with a wad of chips. She shoved the chocolate wad into her mouth, chewed it up, then used her shirt to remove the smears of evidence.
I played it cool for a couple of hours while Bridget played the drooling toddler bit to absolute perfection, innocently wandering around with toys like she didn’t have six cups of chocolate chips stashed in nearby furniture. She never once succumbed to her chocolate cravings while I was in the room.
She was shoving Legos into random castles when out-of-nowhere, I hauled the H-vac in.
Flipping in on, I noticed her sudden panic at the sounds of whirling vacuum. Grabbing her blankie, she raced over and pounced on the evidence couch.
She stretched out
“I know you hid chocolate chips in the couch, Bridget. You need to move.”
She looked at the floor, got up, and backed away from the couch.
I almost felt bad about sucking away her chocolate stash. I couldn’t help being impressed by her multi-step plan.
I mean, she’s only two years old, but she thought to:
Get up either in the middle of the night or early that morning to pilfer the chocolate supply when no one was looking
Cover the evidence up, not only closing the cabinets but also tucking the chocolate chips evenly around all the cushions so no one could see them poking out
Tuck the empty bags into the couch too
Go back to bed before anyone was the wiser
Only grab handfuls of chocolate when she was by herself, and
Hold out to protect her chocolate stash until the gig was absolutely up.
It was almost the perfect chocolate heist. The only flaw in her devious plan was not realizing the chocolate would eventually melt and best-case scenario, she’d be left eating handfuls of melted chocolate with a bunch of lint balls and couch threads mixed in.
And her oversight led to the obliteration of our chocolate supply. Now it’s gone and mom will never store future chocolate in that cabinet again, a toddler miscalculation of potential risks and rewards.
I figure that’s punishment enough. She was this close to establishing a personal chocolate supply for days on end and I don’t think her big sister had any clue what was going down.
You’re a dark horse, Bridget, but I’m onto you. For now.
So you may have caught on from earlier posts that I’m generally a cat person. Cats just make sense to me: they’re calm, dignified and will cuddle you while you’re reading a book or watching a movie.
Dogs, on the other hand, can stress me out. They have all this jumpy energy and need constant validation.
But a crazy thing happened a few days ago when my husband and I went out to eat at one of our favorite Sacramento restaurants. We sat on the patio, right next to volunteers from the local animal shelter who were also eating lunch. They brought some dogs.
And when I turned around, one of those dogs was staring at me: A little yellow dog with a curly tail. One ear sticking up and the other down. We locked eyes…
I smiled. He wagged his tail, ran over, and started licking my hand.
And suddenly, I had a dog.
His name is “Douglas” and I’m still not sure how it happened. I can only assume Douglas pulled some kind of crazy dog sorcery because everything is a blur until the part where I’m filling out paperwork then driving home with a little yellow dog curled up on my lap, hoping he wasn’t about to attack our four cats.
Here’s what happened:
My husband and I walked into our house with Douglas trotting after us. The cats were all lounging about, lazily cleaning their ears until they suddenly noticed a dog in their wake. They froze, poofing up to 3X their original size.
Douglas wagged his tail then trotted up to Raj, our enormous stripey cat, who promptly punched Douglas across the face.
Instead of fighting back, Douglas backed off. This was wise, because he was outnumbered. The cats didn’t bother him again.
I went to sleep that night with Douglas curled up next to me when Violet, our shy black-and-white kitty-cat jumped into bed. She usually sleeps there.
Everything was fine until she realized she had a dog next to her, whereupon her tail blew up like a Christmas tree before she bounced across the room. She jumped onto the desk where she gave Douglas a cold, murderous, death stare FOR AN HOUR.
Frankly, I was a little creeped out.
Douglas is chewing EVERYTHING. Apparently, the squeaky duck and badger toys we got him just aren’t cutting it. I left the living room for two minutes and came back to find a cantelope-sized hole in the rug.
This is especially problematic because our kids still leave their crap all over the house. He’s been choking down Legos, left and right, and likes to eat princess dolls.
I’m trying to make the best of it by telling the kids they have to clean up their toys before they get eaten. This is a crash course in toy management.
Bridget is compulsively feeding the dog. She’s throwing lunch and dinner on the floor and shoving food in his mouth all day. Either the novelty will wear off soon, or Douglas is about to get really fat.
Brontë is revealing in the dog’s shenanigans because it gives her an excuse to boss him around. Four-year-old girls can be really bossy. All day, I’m hearing “DOUG-LAS! That is NOT your princess mermaid doll! YOU PLAY WITH YOUR DUCK!”
The transition hasn’t been entirely smooth. Still, John had to drop Douglas back off at the shelter to get neutered yesterday and the poor guy was shaking, refusing to leave the car. He must’ve thought we were sending him back.
When we picked him up and brought him home again, he was sooooooo happy.
Don’t worry, little Douglas. We’ll make this work.
I don’t know if people without children believe parents think all kids are adorable, but deep down, we really don’t.
Like this weekend when we took our kids to Fairytale Town in Sacramento. It’s a cute toddler theme park based on fairytales, with a King Arthur castle in the middle and several tiny bridges around its make-believe moat.
Well, I was crossing one of these tiny bridges while holding Bridget’s (my two-year-old’s) hand when this pushy kid with a skateboard runs up behind us…
We were already crossing the when he rammed in right behind us in a vain attempt to pass. Grunting about how slow we’re going (because 2-year-olds are pretty short), he starts shoving.
Annoyed as hell, I firmly let Bridget walk across at her natural pace.
Once we got to the other side and the kid was free to run away, he swivels around instead to shout, “Oh my GOD, you guys are SO UNBELIEVABLY SLOW it’s RIDICULOUS!”
“And you are INCREDIBLY RUDE!” I told him. “Trying to knock over a baby… GO LEARN SOME MANNERS!”
Startled, he ran. Maybe I was supposed to assume he needs our love and understanding to properly blossom, but I just couldn’t help thinking he’s gonna keep acting like a jerk unless it gets socially uncomfortable.
Either way, he skated off and our 4-year-old daughter Brontë went after him. She ran up smiling, but he didn’t want to talk to her.
Everything was fine until we were later playing in the Sherwood Forrest playground section. Brontë sees this kid again and starts following him around, fawning on him, as he rolled his eyes at her again and again.
You see, other people looked at this kid and probably saw a cute little boy holding a skateboard, but when I looked at him, my brain fast-forwarded a dozen or so years until I saw this:
Okay, so those of you born in the nineties may be missing the reference, but that’s John Bender, the rules-ignoring bad boy of The Breakfast Club. Notice how he’s smoking in the library and clearly up to no good with his shoes.
And this is what makes me realize I’m really a parent now: when I look at this guy, I’m seeing the guy who could screw up Future Brontë.
You know, the Brontë who is president of the chess club and a serious contender for the International Science & Calculus College Scholarship until she gets mixed up with the likes of HIM.
And then we’re all of a sudden hearing, “But I loooooooove him” and “He didn’t really violate his parole, they’re just out to get him! No one understands him like me!”
No, Brontë, no!
They always make jokes about dads sitting on the porch with a shotgun, but I think moms actually panic even more.
Why? Because dads think their little girls are sweet little princesses who could be led astray by motorcycle jocks like this. Blindsided, if you will.
But moms… well, moms were once teenage girls themselves, so they understand exactly how they think. We ALL thought Bender was the hottest guy in the film. We loved it when Claire, the virginal princess, falls madly in love with him.
Forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest, so dads with shotguns make Bender delicious. It’s just not that easy.
Yeah, Brontë may be four, but I figure defeating the Bad Boy is gonna take some serious planning.