I have a five-year old who is getting even with me for being a five-year old who never shut up. It’s a curse. Parents say, “I hope you have one just like you.” Well, I did. And while I never walked across the house to turn around, bend over, and pass gas in people’s faces running away laughing like an evil little monster, I certainly did the following:
1. I had to be right. Yes, if there was a suspect commercial on the television, I had to comment like I was in training to be an opinion-laced TV news pundit on a not really fair and biased news outlet I mention from time to time. My son returns this favor by commenting on everything.
2. I had to ask questions about everything. I asked so many questions that my mom bought me a book “Tell Me Why,” which answered much of the more frequently asked meaning of life questions, like how basic things worked, why God allowed suffering in the universe and the one I remember best, how gelatin is made from animal bones. This started my slippery slope to vegetarianism, I believe, and provided a story I use to disgust my students to this day. Declan gets even with me by asking questions to which he knows the answer. “What’s ‘scary?'” It means frightening. “What’s ‘frightening?'” Something that makes you afraid. “What’s ‘something that makes you afraid?'” It’s the rest of my life if you don’t stop asking questions! Alas, the experts tell us when you get exasperated by the questions, to be grateful that they are choosing you to ask the questions to–it helps to control the indoctrination process.
3. I didn’t listen very well. I might have obeyed the letter of the law, but I twisted it to fit my purposes. I’m getting repaid for this in spades. If I say “Please don’t jump on that,” I’ll get “I’m not–it was a bounce.” If I say, “Don’t touch,” guaranteed there will be a touch. Yesterday, I found a fresh, warm piece of toast on the counter.
“I told you can’t use the toaster by yourself.” There is a reason for this–I bake my own bread. Part of making toast requires using the big French knife to cleave off a hunk of bread to stuff in the toaster. I’m not making the kid go gluten-free or starve.
He replied, “I didn’t.” What do you mean you didn’t? There’s a piece of toast there. How did it get there?”
“I don’t know.”
Let’s review. “I told you not to make toast by yourself, yet there is a piece of toast there. And it’s warm. And I heard the toaster pop…How did the toast get there?” Logic finally prevailed like when a police officer catches the crook red-handed. “But you have the stuff in your hand.”
“Okay, Mommy, I made the toast. I didn’t really make it, I just pushed the button. The toaster made it.” Apparently, Johnny Cochrane has reincarnated in my son.
4. I knew everything. I had a fact and an annoying comeback for everything. I still do on some days. Quite honestly, though I admit to being a nerd and fringe character all throughout school, I’m surprised I didn’t get locked in a gym locker. I guess the nerds and bad athletes serve the purpose of providing enough free entertainment for the rest of the community that it’s best to keep them around. I can see this tendency in the boy as he relentlessly peppers us with every dinosaur fact known to man–he has books, little video clips on PBS, and fact cards. I don’t know any of this stuff, but I’ve had to study on the down low because heaven forbid anyone mispronounces a dino–you’re in for a 45 minute lecture from the youngest paleontologist in the world.
5. I never shut up. I still struggle with this one. Maybe it’s the way my brain thinks in so many directions at once. Maybe it’s because I see so many connections between things that other people don’t see, (because they may not be there?) and I want to explore them all at the same time. In emails, maybe it’s because I type fast, a skill for which I will always be grateful to Mrs. Stanulonis, my eighth grade math teacher, for teaching me in a couple of hours after school. I went home and practiced on my cast-iron Royal antique typewriter–apparently the same model used by Hemingway, never realizing I’d use that skill to torture the recipients of my emails and research years later. I can see that Declan is going to hang tight in the “never shutting up” karma competition.
6. Weird foods. I am now a vegetarian, though when I was five, I was forced to eat all the yucky foods that we had–liver, bad cooking, unseasoned food. One time, my mom made soup starter and I loved it. She cried. All the cooking she put time into, we wouldn’t eat, but we loved processed soup. Declan has proclaimed himself a “fruititarian.” I’m not sure whether to shove my cooking down his throat or not, so I just let him eat the stolen hunks of bread and foraged apples from the fruit bowl. I choose not to fight on this one. We’ll see in twenty years if I ruined him.
So, to all the people who buy stuffed animals cursed with voodoo, charms, and spells under the guise of gifts and incant “I hope you have one just like you,” let me tell you–it does, in fact, work.