Childrens’ Day and other things

"I am FWEE." "He means 'three.'"

We were in a local park the other day, and Hobbes was swinging on the big kids’ swing. He is very proud of himself for this graduation from the little kid swings, which consist of buckets that even toddlers can’t figure out how to fall out of. He is now responsible for staying in the swing by himself. This is accomplished by sheer force of will, as far as I can tell. His grip on the swing chains is erratic at best. I let him swing on it anyway, because how else is he going to learn? As I have taught him to say when prompted, “Gwavity is a witch.”1

A couple of swings away, a slightly older boy was driving his father mad.

“Stop whining!

“But daddy–”

There’s a sonic scream quality to a child’s whine that you can’t really appreciate until you have one living with you. I think that was the original inspiration for Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver, to tell you the truth. Some clever writer noticed that whenever a kid whined, something happened — a door got opened, a stepstool got dragged over, a popsicle got unwrapped — and extrapolated it out further. What if the whine had magic powers? What if the whine was sciencey? What if you encapsulated the whine, and got rid of the enfant terrible — that role already being taken by the eponymous hero — and the intervening grown-up? What if you made it a device that you could turn off?

In my imagination, it’s that last idea that sold it to a room full of exhausted producers with little kids at home.

Daddy, I want you to push it like running and you diiiiiiiiidn’t.”

“I did it just like that!”

Daaaaaaadddddddyyyyyyyyyyyyy–!” The rest of his complaint was lost in the ear-scraping wail of whine hitting soft palate limitations.

They’d been going at it for the last five minutes, and the father was rapidly losing his mind. My teeth were starting to itch. Hobbes, less impressed, had been attending with great interest through the entire scene. Neither of us were able to figure out what the little boy wanted, which made four of us. 2

“Mommy,” Hobbes said with disapproval. “He should stop whining.”

“Honey,” I said. “You ever hear of the pot calling the kettle black?”

Pot, what? “No, the boy,” he said. “He is whining a lot.”

“So do you.”

I don’t whine.”

“Yes you do. And you sound just like that.”

Hobbes listened intently to the other child, whose father was just hitting the hair-pulling stage.

“I whine too much,” he decided at last.

Hallelujah. I patted my son proudly on the head. “Truer words,” I said, “have never been spoken.”

Step 1. Admitting there is a problem.

Bad Parenting 101

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