Part of a child’s “charm” is his honesty. There are a myriad of shows, videos, bloopers, and posts centered on a little kid who utters sentences void of any decorum or etiquette but ripe with observation. Take the movie “Kindergarten Cop” as a case in point (I know I know – The Governator sucks but bear with me). In a clip, 5-year-olds tell Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character things about their Daddys. The kids respond with sincere descriptions such as, “My dad can’t wear any hats because his head is too big”; “My dad doesn’t do anything since the crash”; “My dad lives in New York and drives a taxi. My mom hopes he dies real soon”; and a set of twins who synchronize: “Our mom says our dad is a real sex machine”.
Funny for Hollywood. Cute for the observer. Hilarious if it isn’t your own kid. But I’d like to discuss the dark side of a toddler’s empirical evidences – when it isn’t funny, when it isn’t cute, and when it is your kid.
I was gone all weekend painting cakes downtown for St. Louis’ “Cakeway to the West” public art display. My three boys had school yesterday and I missed them immensely. My youngest, 3-year-old Samuel Jude (my puppeteer) was home today so I made our time together all about him. I said, “Hey, Sammy, wanna play horsey?” “Yeah!!!” he screamed as he lumbered atop my back. For a 3 year old, Samuel is off the pediatric charts for height and weight. He is a solid mass of boy so I can only slowly crawl around our living room with his grip choking me out as he wailed in delight like I’m a fucking go-kart. As I circled around the coffee table, he told me, “This is more like riding a rhino”.
I’m not sure how he knows what a rhinoceros is but you certainly don’t equate that animal as having the graceful qualities of a horse. You describe linebackers as rhinos. Not a game called “Horsey”. And not your mom. I’m pretty sure Samuel isn’t a Persian prince swinging into an ancient Roman territory in an attempt to usurp control by intimidating the residents through a dramatic rhinoceros-riding entrance. And I’m pretty sure I don’t share any DNA with a dinosaur’s cousin. Knowing, however, that my girth is akin to that pre-historic like animal, can only mean that Samuel is calling me a fat ass. Which isn’t entirely false since I’ve gained 30 pounds while grieving the sudden death of my papa. (I blame this “food = comfort” mentality completely on my mother who, after I would inevitable fuck up during piano recitals as a kid, would assuage my self-loathing by suggesting we go to the Parkmoor and eat a Belgian waffle, cause, you know, that will make my failures okay. But a mother’s guilt trips are for another story…)
During my period of mourning, I’ve also been crying a lot just out of the blue. Coming off of one such 3-day period of total depression, I finally decided to try and shake it off – starting with taking a shower. First of all, because I literally needed it (it had been at least 3 days) and secondly, for the metaphorical benefits of washing away the emotional dirt and grime. Samuel, ever present, sat and waited for me on the bathroom floor, talking the ENTIRE time about who knows what. As I appeared from behind the glass doors and into the steamy room, Samuel said very matter of factly, “Mommy, you’re broken”. My head whirled with guilt assuming he was referring to my broken state of mind. How have I not been meeting my kids’ needs? How needy and selfish have I become? How have I been failing as a mother lately? How have I failed as a mother in my entirety?
As I put on my robe, Samuel goes on to explain, “You’re broken because you don’t have any balls. Ha ha ha! You have a ‘gina!”. Sweet relief! I don’t have to send my kids to therapy – they can go when they can pay for it themselves! But hold up. Wait a minute. What the fuck did you just say? I’m BROKEN because I don’t have a penis? I understand that living with 2 brothers and a father would naturally lend itself to a penis majority mentality. But it doesn’t mean that not having a penis means I’m lesser, which is what Samuel was insinuating with all of his innocent observations.
Then I just got pissed. In my bathrobe, I told my 3 year old, in no certain terms, that having a penis does not equate superiority. I said to him, “I grew up with three brothers and know how to clothesline you so you better watch your mouth. Plus, you came out of my ‘gina…by the way…it’s VA-gina….but you’re just a baby so don’t know what you’re talking about.” He retorts, “I’m not a baby. I’m a big boy.” His selfish, apathetic response to my threats coupled with his insistence of me being wrong in any capacity started to infuriate me even more. So I said to him, “Well, if you’re a big boy, then you can go get a job and wipe your own butt”. Ever the one-upper, Samuel responded, “I don’t have to because dad will do it”.
Rather than continuing this inane argument, I got dressed into my rhino mom uniform of black knit pants and black t-shirt, muttering defeat about our bullshit patriarchal society. So when you go to Target and see a mom with greasy hair, 2-day old eye makeup smeared on her face, and kids pulling at her for EVERYTHING, know that she’s already been reminded by her children how she hasn’t met some innocuous standard of living predicated upon a child’s barometer. Have compassion for her. She’s not a hoosier – she’s a mom. And she will fuck you up.