Years ago, when I first had the idea for a blog, I had considered a category of articles entitled:
"Things I never thought I would have had to tell my children"
But then I realized that's a pretty long category name. So I scrapped it and just went with the plain old germane category of "Parenting".
But it's a true statement that as a fledgling parent, there were moments that really surprised me. Not so much the impact that children would have on my life - I mean, I am a life long pessimist and I expect the worst from everything, so I knew with alarming accuracy how badly three little girls would cause havoc. But what surprised me was all the stuff I had to explain to my kids, that I never thought I would have had to say.
We have all heard those stories of the kids who pick up tiny, discarded pieces of food from some dirty corner of the world and eat it without thought to how disgusting it is. That story that makes us cringe, where the kid is in the massive Chuck E. Cheese's ball pit and dunks underneath to find a pocket of Nixon era popcorn. When he emerges victorious, bursting forth from the balls like a dolphin jumping up for air, the parent lets forth a scream fit for a horror movie when she see her little Jimmy Jr's mouth filled to capacity with infectious, dirty pieces of overheated corn kernels. Or that story where the baby is crawling along for the first time at day care, and wanders to the corner of the mat while the mom is filling out paper work, and the daycare employees are all trying to keep the other inmates from killing one another. The baby scratches at the corner like a dog wanting to go outside, then comes up with a small foreign object from the crevice between the mat and the plastic molding along the floor. The mom rushes over the counter like Bo Duke sliding across the General Lee, in a desperate attempt to get to her little bundle of joy before the baby inserts the nefarious object into her mouth. The young mothers heart sinks when she realizes this is no ordinary particle of dirt or grime, or even - heaven forbid - an old piece of food. No, this is nothing so innocent as that. Just as the baby places it into that darling little mouth the mom recognizes that half-moon shaped splinter of doom. Oh mother of all that's holy it's a FINGERNAIL!
Yeah, we've all heard those stories.
So I knew I would need to instruct my children on the intricacies of life in the civilized world, what foods to eat, what foods to avoid, the three second rule, and what foods the three second rule does not apply to (IE nothing sticky like cheese or... well anything else sticky).
But one night while I was attending a ladies volleyball match that my wife was playing in, I looked up on the stage behind the court where my kids were playing along with several other kids whose parents were watching the game. At this time in their development they loved playing 'dogs'. By this I mean, my oldest daughter is the loving, yet stern owner of two dogs, who happen to be played by my two younger daughters. Their version of 'barking' really consists of them yipping all the time like a little poodle or some other cat that people confuse with a canine. They do this in spite of the fact that I tell them dogs that small and that yip that much really belong in kennels or in the purses of hotel magnates daughters, but not in our house. Any dog we have, needs to be able to kill something, even if it is just one of those little ridiculous yipping mutts. Alas, they do not listen, and so I let them have their fun.
I was talking with a friend of mine, no doubt imparting some vital parenting knowledge and advice to him, all the while watching my kids out of the corner of my eye as they played 'dogs' on the stage in front of thirty or forty people. My mouth opened in horror when I noticed my oldest daughter chastening one of her dogs, who then pouted briefly before getting an imaginary treat, which cheered her up considerably. The excitement caused by the unexpected generosity of her master caused this little doggy to show her appreciation in the manner of all good doggies - by sitting up on her hind legs and licking her master on the cheek.
My friend - God bless him - acted like he did not see. (To this day I consider that a measure of a great friend - a person willing to over look the embarrassing stuff you or your children do and act like they didn't see it). I rushed over, my face red with embarrassed rage and through the clenched teeth and deathly whisper of upset parents since time began I said: "What are you doing? Have you lost your mind? Why would you lick her face?" Or something sage and calm like that.
To which my youngest daughter innocently replied (in a tone that suggested she had no clue why this was weird): "I am just playing dogs daddy. She gave me a treat!"
The next few seconds are sort of a blur as I wished for the ability to go back and time and forbid this action before it happened, but I am pretty sure the volleyball game behind me stopped as I smacked myself in the forehead.
Upon reflection, I am still both mortified at what happened, yet encouraged. I mean, if a kid is willing to go to that extent to play the part of a dog, perhaps I am looking at the next Meryl Streep or something. That shows some real commitment right?
Talk about method acting.