Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Riding In Cars With Girls

Last Autumn (that’s what fancy people call Fall) my wife had to urge to drive north to look at leaves in a whole different city. To me it was like going to another country to see what’s on television there. My wife is an adventurous, spontaneous woman while I am a trepidatious, thoughtful pussy. After lengthy negotiations it was determined that we would not be tent camping on Lake Superior with a three week old, but would be getting a cabin near a place called Old Woman’s Bay. Go ahead and Google Map that. I’ll wait... Did you see that? The word unorganized comes up right in the address. That’s a clue that it may be a long drive.

A twelve hour drive in fact, that’s without a three week old and a three year old in the car. Add in those factors and you have yourself a ∞ hour drive (that’s infinity for those who are unfamiliar with John Wallis’ invention).

We don’t own a car. With two children you might ask why. The answer: We are better than you. This means we have to rent cars when we go away. I remember those heady times when I was childless and could tote my bag to the car rental place and drive away. That’s a long gone dream. Now I pick up the car, drive it home, install both car seats, crayons, toys, books and make sure we have lots of kid’s audio books loaded onto our iPods. You may ask, why not bring a DVD player? The answer: We are still better than you.

I try very hard to find a rental place with an after hours drop box for the keys. One time I miscalculated and brought a car back during office hours. The maintenance guy looked at the car and told me I had destroyed it. I was horrified looking for scratches or dents I hadn’t noticed. When I pressed him to tell me what exactly was destroyed he pointed to the dusting of Cheerios, crayon shavings and smushed crackers and asked me if I had even thought about the next renters of the car. I had not, and will continue that policy.   

My wife’s family has special memories of listening to an album called “Free To Be You and Me” on long car trips. This has become a staple on our trips. Listening to the song “It’s Okay To Cry” sung by the New York Giants defensive tackle, Rosey Grier for the 10th time in an afternoon does make my eyes tear up so bad that I risk driving the car off a cliff and killing us all. It’s just that moving. I noticed that my sisters and mother-in-law always talked about this album, but not once did I hear my father-in-law speak of it. I asked him about it and both his eyes and his upper lip twitched a bit.

The kid in the "M" is trying to hang herself.

Another staple of our drives is my wife stepping on my shoulder and right cheek to get to the back seat of the car. Driving with a newborn is much like driving a kidnap victim. You have to tie them up in the car and every few hours chloroform them to keep them from screaming. My wife has perfected what she calls “air lifting”, the act of breastfeeding in a moving car. The woman should have had a career refueling planes mid-flight given this talent.

We have somehow avoided the dreaded “Are we there yet?” repetitive question nightmare, but we do get “How many more minutes before we are there?” The bright side is the 5 year old can’t tell time yet, the negative side is that as a result she thinks five minutes is an eternity. During the trip to Old Woman’s Bay my daughter would suddenly scream, “Daddy, I need to run!”  She was like that character in a disaster movie that snaps and screams he can’t take it any more and starts threatening the other characters with his own sharpened shin blade.

"Let me out of this seat, or I will cut a bitch."

We couldn’t argue with such logic and would stop every three hours or so, just to get out of the car and run around whatever green space there was and them jump back in the car again. Other drivers must have thought a bag of bees had been opened in our car to give us that sort of reaction.

Anyway the trip was worth it, the colours were beautiful, the weather unseasonably warm and I got to cross two more things off my bucket list. I saw the giant goose in Wawa and the giant nickel in Sudbury. Still on the list: the giant lobster in New Brunswick and the giant squid in Newfoundland. While in PEI I did see the giant potato, but my wife would not allow me to go into the potato museum attached to it. And for that I may never forgive her.

If I had a nickle for every time... I would crush your house with it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wild Animals In The Playground

Recently a game of “Kiss Tag” started after school each day. Kiss tag involves three or more girls ritually hunting and chasing down a boy and then threatening him by making a duck face.

While watching this happen I am taken back to my own childhood on Sunday nights  and can almost hear Marlin Perkins voice narrating a Mutual of Ohama’s Wild Kingdom. “Here we see a group of ravenous female kindergarteners stalking their prey. The colourful plumage adorned with Hana Montana stickers alert us that this is indeed a pack of females. Uh-oh, here comes an unlucky male, identified by its Transformer backpack and Spider-Man baseball cap. Off they go... Well fellow, it looks like you were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Here is where it ends though. The girls surround the boy, makes the kissy face while circling them and then runs off. I asked why they ran off before kissing the boy in “Kiss Tag”. The answer I got was that they spot a slower boy and chase after them at that moment. Like any good predator they go after the slowest and weakest of the group. If a boy ever shows up with a lame leg he’s a goner.

This kid is fucked

I asked what they would do if they ever caught a boy. They said they would kiss him. I asked where they would kiss him. The answer anywhere, like the hand. One girl, in a kindergarten whisper (megaphone), asked my daughter if she would kiss a boy on the lips. She replied in such a way as the first girl had suggested she kiss a working sewer pipe.

This game of Kiss Tag went on for a few days with little issue, but then slowly things got more intense. The girls talked nonstop about the game of tag after school. They started strategising by pretending not to play and pouncing on the boys, or “sneaking” which entails crouching down about two inches so they would be invisible to the naked eye. I half expected to walk into my daughter’s room to find a model of the playground like models of the battleground you see in every war movie, except covered in ribbons and hair barrettes.

...but with a slide in the middle

One day while I was watching the game I saw a swarm of girls grab a boy by his shirt and start swinging him around. He lost his balance and went down. Like jackals the girls pounced on him being very careful to only make a kissing face and never actually coming close enough to kiss him. At this point I used my dad voice and screamed to knock it off. My daughter and her friends gave me an “awwww...” while the kids who didn’t know me looked horrified. For a kid there is nothing as scary as an adult you don’t know yelling at you to scare the Hello Kitty underpants off your butt. I wasn’t so worried about the boy as I was paying for his shirt. Hell, we are a one income family now.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bard Is The Word, Surfing Bard!

Recently at one of our lunch conversation my daughter and her friend took a break talking about beavers and asked about Princess Kate. Not knowing a lot about the Monarch I Googled her. As always, that only resulted in naked pictures, which I chose to bookmark rather than show the kids.

Instead I drew the following family tree to give them an idea of how the monarchy looked.

Crayon over a latex wall. I believe Monet used the same medium

One big question was why the Queen’s husband was a Prince rather than a King. I answered because the Queen was of royal blood, and as such her husband could not be a King. That disappointed the girls and they insisted that he get a hat with a leaf in it if he couldn’t have a crown. I think Prince Phillip would approve.

After they were as bored as I was about the royal family, my daughter’s friend told me her favorite Princess was Juliet, and wanted to know more about her. As I am a theater major I told the story in the simplest of terms. Note: I am not actually a theatre major, I went to Community College and have a diploma in General Arts and Science with a concentration in theatre. A diploma so useless that I refused to trade in the blank scroll handed to me on stage at graduation, wrote “Dyploma” on it and hung it in the bathroom.

Back to the story: Basically the Montagues and Capulets hate each other and when their kids fall in love the parents won’t let them marry. So Juliet pretends to die so she and Romeo can move away  and get married. One of the girls then asks why they didn’t just run away. Not knowing the answer, I thought quickly and offered cookies. After forgetting their question in the dreamlike ecstasy of peanut butter chip cookies I continue, glossing over the over the whole suicide aspect of the ending and said they accidentally drank poison. 

This lead to the question, “What is poison?” I explain that the reason they aren’t  allowed under the kitchen sink is because there are things that are poisonous under there that will make them very sick or kill them. This then lead to Shakespeare's greatest work of art being called “The story where the kids went under the sink”.

After the synopsis my daughter’s friend informs me that her Daddy told her that Juliet doesn’t die in the story. My heart races, we tend to be pretty frank with our kids when it comes to this stuff. The cat didn’t go to the farm, it was hit by a car, I didn’t let the spider out of the house, I squished it’s eight legged body and flushed it down the can, that man isn’t sick he’s a huffer. I was worried that I have now added the idea of death to this girl’s head and she will go home and challenge her father. You never want to be the asshole parent whose comments lead to a big serious discussion at home. You want to be the one who forces the other parent to find a way our of explaining the definition of feltch while you snicker quietly in the background.

It was only later that I was told by her parents that she was only referring to a Taylor Swift song called Love Story, where it ends with Romeo talking to Juliet’s dad. Shakespeare missed that obvious ending didn’t he? The Capulets just believe in old fashioned chivalry.

So then the girls ask me what happens to you after you die. Instead of curling into the fetal position and screaming I tried to answer. “Well, it depends on what you believe. Some people believe you go to heaven, some believe you come back as another person or animal and other’s believe you are just gone.” If I believed in the first scenario I would have prayed for no follow up questions. My daughter piped up and said she believed you became a skull in the ground. Being a theatre major I shouted “Hamlet”.

Actual centerpiece for my daughter's 4th birthday