Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Remembering when…I used to stress about how my kids might malign me at school as second graders (i.e. how they’d tell all regarding our gloriously dysfunctional family and household). I’ve since mellowed on the matter, which is good, methinks.

My kids send me into a panic for lots of reasons these days—like when they hurl their smallish bodies into oblivion, when they careen out of control on those sinfully precarious scooters, or when they giggle uncontrollably while stuffing their mouths as full as humanly possible with marshmallows or macaroni—as if imitating a ravenous chipmunk were the least bit amusing. But mostly, I live in fear of what my dandies will say in school as a matter of course—the telling bit of detail that will raise as many flags as eyebrows in the teacher’s lounge this year. More specifically, it’s the completely spontaneous and utterly uncensored snippets of speech that worry me to the point of distraction—The Full Monty regarding the glut of dysfunction present in our home.

And now that the let’s-get-to-know-our-classmates phase of school has begun in earnest, my trepidation has grown to a level roughly three times what it was just a few short months ago—when I stressed over what drivel Seek and Destroy might be inclined share with fellow camp-goers, instructors and swimming chums. At least in those venues, I could present my side of the story, if not defend my ineptitude as a parent.

Quite literally, I cringe when I think of the boundless opportunities for embarrassment and shame (mine, of course) that exist from the moment my charges make landfall in their classrooms till the moment they return home. During Show & Tell (if second-graders still enjoy such a glorious activity), my gals are likely to produce a fistful of worms or the petrified wad of chewing gum that together they harvested from the bleachers at Coach I’s basketball camp this past summer. A treasured memento for certain, along with the photo of a dashing, 20-something-ish coach they both vowed to marry “…when I get big, Mom.”

Likewise, I want to crawl under a rock when I imagine the pall that will undoubtedly be cast over their teachers upon learning that my dear children are more than just a little familiar with Jeff Dunham’s stand-up routine and the irreverent crew of puppet people he brings to life on stage. Or that I once laundered 74 pairs of underpants in one day (we counted). Or that all who reside under my roof believe that ketchup is an actual food group and Bruster’s ice cream, the nectar of the gods—qualifying as a legitimate meal in all 50 states. Or that my heathens pay homage each night to Walter, the Farting Dog, an inflatable replica of a beloved fictional character, now suspended from their bedroom ceiling, compliments of Betsy at Otto’s Bookstore. Or that I’ve fed my brood dinner in the bathtub more than once—to compensate for my less-than-stellar (read: abysmal) performance in the getting-to-bed-on-time arena.

I shudder also to think of the shock and horror my blithesome bunch might engender in the cafeteria should they inadvertently quote Dunham’s Peanut, Jose Jalapeno or (Heaven forbid!) WALTER if they suddenly felt the compelling desire to entertain the troops. Worse yet, they could repeat with remarkable accuracy each and every syllable of what I shouldn’t have said while shrieking at the dog who had just gnawed an entire leg off a plastic cow—and before that, a plastic dinosaur—and before that, a plastic pig.

What’s more, I envision stunned silence (followed by riotous laughter) when one or both shoot a hand in the air, eagerly volunteering the word “poop” as a perfect example of a palindrome. Or the circus which would ensue upon their use of the word “pathetic” in a sentence. “My mommy thinks President Bush is pathetic.” It’s only a matter of time before that gem of commentary bubbles to the surface, fueling all sorts of classroom discussions—both welcome and not-so-welcome. (Maybe I should just apologize now or forever hold my cynicism at the dinner table).

There’s no doubt about it; dysfunction flourishes here in this household. But perhaps it is decidedly relative. To borrow from my husband’s vat of uncannily accurate insights about the world at large, “Every house has the same discussion and every family’s weirdness is its own normalcy.”

There is some comfort in that, I suppose. Then again, the man thinks whistling for cats, as well as children, is normal.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2008 Melinda L. Wentzel

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