Sometimes, I think I’m not capable of parenting my children in a way that will shepherd them into adulthood, happy and healthy. Particularly with Chickadee. I say she’s complicated, which is sort of like saying that skunks have a slight odor or that there are a few stars in the galaxy. Ahem.
Anyway, my children love stories. They will listen with rapt attention to any sort of tale, either real or imagined. But their absolutely favorite stories are personal anecdotes about my misbehavior as a child. They beg to hear certain stories over and over. And in catering to them, and retelling these tales? I’ve realized that I deserve every nanosecond of grief that these children present me.
I was a nightmare. A small sampling of the stories my kids like best:
I once pulled a fabulous disappearing act. My mother put me down for a nap one afternoon and I vanished. Well, not really. I had made myself a little nest in the bottom of my closet and curled up and gone to sleep in there. But no one figured that out until my mother had freaked out and made my father come home and was on the verge of phoning the police.
Toys used to be buried in the bottom of cereal boxes. Really, Mama? Yes, really. The box would advertise a toy, and the toy would be down at the bottom of the box, under all of the cereal. (I rarely buy cereal that includes a prize, but nowadays they put it in the box on top of the bag.) I used to go grocery shopping with my father so that I could pick out a cereal for the week based upon the toy I was hoping to have. Then I would eat that cereal every morning until I couldn’t stand it anymore. That would only take a couple of days. Then? I would sneak the box into my room and pour out the cereal behind my dresser until the level was low enough that I could get to the prize. Too bad I wasn’t smart enough to dispose of the evidence before we decided to move my furniture around.
Things with wheels should not be used near stairs. My brother and I had a wheeled wooden ride-on toy that was probably some sort of horse…? I remember it looking like a giraffe, however. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that we used to play a game where one of us would sit on the horse/giraffe, and close our eyes, and the other one would push us around the house for a while and then stop, and the rider then had to guess where in the house we were. One day I got the brilliant idea to wheel my brother to the top of the stairs and just hold him there with the front wheels over the edge. He always guessed right about where I wheeled him, so I figured this would be a great way to stump him. I sort of forgot that he’s a lot bigger (therefore, heavier) than me. Whoops. Down the stairs he and the mutant giraffe went. It was an accident. My brother was fine but my entire family still believes I tried to kill him. Sheesh.
The first time I moved out, I was five. I have no recall of the precipitating events, but at five years old I decided I was all done living at home. I packed my little suitcase, bid my family farewell, and set out down the road. I went straight to the next door neighbors and announced that I was running away and needed a place to live. The neighbors–a very kind elderly couple–invited me in immediately. They fed me cream cheese on toast made with that miniature bread people use for hors d’oeuvres, which convinced me their home was a magical place indeed. (Hey! Miniature bread! Maybe they had elves, too!) After a while my dad came to take me home.
I have a small scar shaped like a triangle on my arm. One early morning, I was engaging in one of my favorite pasttimes: leaping from the top of my dresser onto my bed. La la la! It was kind of a long leap, which is what made it fun. Well, I got sloppy, and on one leap, I didn’t get quite far enough. I slammed into the side of the bed and caught my forearm on the corner of the metal bed frame. The resultant cut was so deep, it didn’t even bleed. Many hilarious hijinks ensued, of course. Including me tearfully confessing to jumping on my bed. I wasn’t jumping on my bed; I was leaping to my bed so that I could pretend I was flying, but even at such a tender young age I knew confessing to a lesser crime might save my behind.
Mom, Dad? I’m sorry. For this stuff; for the other stuff; for the stuff you never even found out about. Really. Not just because I fear what the future holds.
Stop looking at me like that.