I Gave My Son His Most Embarrassing Moment

My oldest is in 6th grade, ruling the school as only 6th graders in elementary school know how. They’ve had a section on the medieval time period (yes, I successfully spelled medieval without the spellcheck!) which culminated in a great Medieval Feast this week. Every year I’ve seen the 6th graders come to school for their feast in actual medieval costuming. I’m talking serious costuming, not the homemade or Walmart kind.

Self-Revelry Time

My mom raised me in homemade costumes, and most of my kids’ costumes have been homemade as well. I’d like to say I’m creative that way, but really I’m just kinda cheap. I didn’t want to take the homemade route for Blake’s medieval feast, though. I mean seriously, my oldest will be in junior high next year! This feast will be one of his best memories from elementary school. So I surprised him and rented a really beautiful knight’s costume (from a wonderful shop owner who gave me a good discount since it was a school event).
knight
Blake was also supposed to bring in a non-paper and non-plastic plate and cup. I was so excited to provide him with a metal Armatale platter and a stainless steel adult beverage shaker goblet. I packed it in a brown cloth bag that I never use and sent him to the feast.

And I flirted with, but refrained from, giddiness all day, resisting unusual urges to pop in at the school and check things out.

Confession Time

When we picked Blake up from school, I was surprised at his less-than-enthusiastic response when I asked him how his day was. He handed me the bag of dinnerware as he said, “There was something weird in the bag, Mom.”

“What was it?” I asked.

“I don’t want to say,” he said.

Israel and I exchanged the typical parental glances you have all exchanged yourselves if you have children who know how to speak. I opened the bag up and saw the platter. I saw the goblet. It all looked fine so far. And then I moved them out of the way to dig deeper and found something rather strappy and made of fabric. I pulled it out, shook it a bit to untangle it, and then shoved it right back in again when I recognized the Victoria’s Secret logo etched into the thong waistband.

Israel and I started cracking up. I think it’s better for Blake’s recovery that way — you know, to laugh about it.

“I’m so sorry, Blake!” I told him. I swear I don’t remember ever using that bag before.

I encouraged Blake to talk about it. For therapy.

So here’s how it went down. He pulled his platter and goblet out of the bag, and out slipped the above-mentioned accompanying item.

“What’s this?” he said out loud and began to untangle said strappy item while his friends watched on, curious, until the nature of the formerly unrecognizable item became apparent. And then he shoved it back into the bag.

At least it wasn’t in any sort of showy pattern or color. And I think it’s better for him that there was less of it, rather than . . . more.

I think. . . ?

* * *

Note: Today’s blog post is a response to the Carpool Queen’s Confession post and her question: “Because I’m all about laughing ministering to the needs of others, what can you confess to and make everyone else feel better?”

4-Year Old Skeptic

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Aiden is proving to be our most skeptical child. And it’s not because he’s negative or doubtful. He’ll actually tap dance for strangers and ask if they would like to pay him for it. He’s skeptical because he likes to figure out how a thing came together. At two years old we constantly found him lying on the floor watching the wheels of a toy car as he glided it back and forth, trying to grasp, I think, how the wheels turned while the car didn’t.

At four years old he learned (and understood!) how to count musical notation.

These days he makes stuff out of paper or trash. We can hardly throw anything away because he sees it as a potential component to something he can build. Recently he designed a three-dimensional box out of paper and provided picture instructions on how to do it. Yesterday he took two light bulb boxes from the recycle bin, taped them together, and devised rules for a game, again, with illustrated instructions.

This desire to break everything down to components and answers has made the holidays an interesting experience. At four years old Aiden found a packaged toy in our bedroom closet and announced with a huge smile that Mom and Dad go shopping and pretend to be Santa Clause. There was no disappointment because the magic was in having potentially figured it out.

We didn’t give him an outright yes or no. I just asked him, “What makes you think that?” And when he gave me his evidence, I nodded my head and said, “Very interesting idea.” I’m learning he doesn’t want us to give him a definite yes or no. He prefers a little mystery so he can continue to find evidence to prove or disprove his theories.

Skepticism & The Tooth Fairy

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On Christmas Eve, at six-and-a-half years old, Aiden finally lost his first tooth and we were expecting a meeting between two holiday mystery characters. Santa Clause and the tooth fairy in one night! Of course, the solution of one led to the solution of the other. “I know Mom is the tooth fairy,” he said.

We played our usual run-around game, ”Why do you assume it’s Mom? What if it’s Dad?”

He laughed, “Because the Tooth Fairy is a girl!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “In that short film Dad made, Larry was the Tooth Fairy.”

“Oh, yeah…” Aiden stewed on that, looking back and forth from me to Israel.

Last week when he lost his second tooth he decided to take a risk and test his theory by addressing the tooth fairy, herself. Or, himself. After receiving payment for his tooth he put a note under his pillow. Israel and I responded to it on the same piece of paper, with a little clue to the true nature of the “tooth fairy.” The new information surprised him so he asked a follow-up question and we answered that, as well. It continued for a few nights. Here’s what the note said after the third night:

Aiden: I love you.

Tooth fairy: Thank you for the teeth. We love you too.

Aiden: Who are you!

Tooth fairy: We are the ones who buy your special teeth.
We are the tooth fairy.
Why do you want to know?

Aiden: Because I want to see what you look like.

Tooth fairy: I look a little bit like you. –#1
(in different handwriting): And so do I. –#2

Apparently, we threw him off with our last response. He came running into the kitchen where the rest of us were sitting at the table and he announced, “My toothfairies are clones of me!”

We exchanged looks. We questioned his theory. We asked him to read his note again and emphasized the words, “a little bit.” But he wasn’t thinking about the qualifier. He was chewing on the implications of this new bizarre idea. He looked around the dining table, shot his arm into to a point toward Blake and yelled, “And your tooth fairy must be two clones of you!” He then pointed to Dad and Trinity and myself, “And you have your own clones . . . and so do you!”

We were slightly concerned.

To Discover Or To Be Told

Later that night Aiden confided in me. “I’m embarrassed that I wrote, ‘I love you,’ to my clones. I meant for that to go to you because I thought you were the tooth fairy.”

I couldn’t keep his sweet vulnerability exposed like that. I told him, “You know, Aiden? A lot of people say that I look a little bit like you.”

“No, you don’t,” he answered.

Now I understood his switch to the Clone Theory. He had no idea we look similar. “Yeah, I really do. A little bit.”

Recognition pushed his eyes wide open and he emphasized the words, “A little bit?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And Daddy looks a little like you, too.”

He smiled and his embarrassment vanished. But within minutes disappointment replaced it and he complained to us, “Now I know for sure that Mom and Dad are the tooth fairy.” It turns out he really does prefer the questions, the theories, the evidence collecting, over hearing the answer from someone else.

“I didn’t say that, Aiden,” I immediately backtracked. “Blake and Trinity look like you, too. And Grandma Gertrude has the same exact nose as you.”

He laughed and let it go. Hopefully, I left it open just enough for him to have sunk back into his happy state of wonderful skeptical inquiry again. His third tooth is loose now and Easter is on its way, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough. If not, it might be time to nudge his questions in a newer, deeper direction, anyway.
missing tooth

The Battle For Hair Control

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My mom loved to put me in pigtails when I was little. I hated them. I hated the part-line in the middle that divided my head down from the top of my bangs to the nape of my neck. I hated their curly ends that stuck out from above my ears and made me look like the little girl that I was. Pigtails were so Cindy Brady, and I just wanted to be Marsha.

On picture day in first grade, I got into a fight with Mom about it. She wanted to inflict her baby-pigtail-torture onto the sides of my six-year-old head, forever cementing them to the memories of my classmates. I refused. I told her I was done with pigtails. Grown out of them.

Mom got her way. She was just too big for me and I had no control over the situation. I went to school and got my picture taken with a tail sprouting from each side of me. That day, after school, as I was playing in my front yard with those silly-looking tails flapping around the sides of my head, my best friend’s mother, Vera, pulled up into her driveway in her station wagon. Vera lived next door. She got out of her car and called out, “I like your pig tails, Noell!”

I’m sure my mouth dropped and I doubt I thanked Vera for her compliment because what I felt at that moment was not gratitude. It was rage. I ran into my house and hunted my hair’s dictator, “Mom!”

“What?” she asked, all innocent. As. If.

“You told Vera to tell me she liked my pigtails,” I said.

“What?”

“You told her to say that so I would keep wearing them!” I have a natural streak of skepticism that shines once in a while and I wasn’t the type to fall so easily for ploys like this.

My mom laughed. She tried not to. But she laughed.

“I did not. I didn’t tell her to say that.” She failed in her attempts to get serious, but the coincidence, along with my six-year-old insistence of taking charge of my own hair, was apparently entertaining to her.

She didn’t realize that this was more than just my hair we were talking about. The hair frames the face, and that means the hair shapes the face. The way a person looks…it all comes down to the hair.

Eventually, I was able to convince my mom to give me more hair control. She let me wear my hair down more often, usually with a barrette on the side. But what I really wanted was a roach clip. Roach clips with earthy strands that dangled with beads and feathers — just right for a gypsy personality like mine — were hot at that time where I lived in L.A. during the late seventies. But it might have been that they’re used to hold your marijuana that kept my parents from letting me wear one.
roach_clip
Later I moved on to the single pony tail that shoots from just one side of the head where you brush all your hair over to the side in a freaky pseudo-sexy early eighties kind of way. Mom didn’t really like that look for me either, so I didn’t get to wear it as often as I wished.
jo
If I could have fulfilled my hair fantasies, though, I would have had full curly hair like Olivia Newton John’s at the end of Grease. Except as a brunette. Instead I just had plain and boring flat stringy hair.
grease
I have fine hair, and fine hair likes to rule its own world and do its own thing. So in that case, my hair and I are the same. I endured a lot of bad hair throughout my life. It was off and on, really, but mostly off. It took me until I was twenty-five years old before I found a hair stylist that could give me hair that I like more often than not.

But my greatest hair triumph came when I was around thirty years old. I discovered a hair style that always looks good, no matter how demanding and stubborn my fine hair decides to be. If it’s not working out, no worries. I can guarantee myself a good hair day if I put it up in pigtails.

Yeah, I said it. Pigtails. Mom was right.

But only sort of right. It’s the technique that makes it work. I still hate the lined part-down-the-middle-of-the-head look. At least on me. I part the front of my hair to the side, then back-brush it at the top of the back to give it some fullness.. And I only center-part it at the very nape of my neck. It’s much more flattering to both my face and the back of my head to have just an inch of a center-parted hair line.
pigtails_rule
I don’t allow for those curly little piggy-looking tail ends, either. Instead, I wear my tails low, under and just behind my ears. And when they’re long enough I back-brush those tails to give them a ratty sort of splayed-out look that says “I don’t care.” Even though I really do. But like I said, earlier, it’s all about how the hair frames the face and it’s the long wisps that fall down in front of my ears toward my neck that are essential to top it off.

So I guess we both got our way. Mom got me wearing the hairstyle she always liked best on me. And I finally got control of my hair.

Pigtails rule.
pigtails_at_hoover_dam

Regaining Consciousness

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I had a moment this morning I’m not totally conscious of. Awareness just began as my son, Blake, said to me, “Mom, you’re funny when you’re spaced out.”

I saw Blake as he finished his statement, and then I looked around the room to see that each family member was staring at me with interested looks on their faces.

Then Israel said, “Let me tell you what you just did.”

And that’s when he recreated for me the moment I missed while I sat at the breakfast table thinking about something, which slipped from my memory as soon as I noticed everyone watching me.

“You were staring off into space,” Israel explained. “And I asked if you wanted more toast. You didn’t answer but just kept staring off. So I asked again.”

Then Israel imitated me and my spaced out face, with my eyes all bugged out and huge, while the rest of my features were totally blank and relaxed. He showed me what I looked like as forced my face to move in his direction like a zombie, as if hypnotized, and then tried to transition from my own inner world to the reality of my family’s kitchen by stating back to him, in a slow zombie-like monotone statement, “Do I want more toast.”

That’s when Blake commented on my hilarity and I began to retrieve outer-world consciousness again. Hey, at least I correctly switched the “you” to an “I” when I made my hypnotized restatement of Israel’s question. All I can say is I inherited my ability to get totally lost in my head from my mom. It’s a genetic and I can’t help it. I could be a drunk, or an abusive parent. No, I’m just slightly negligent for short periods of time. It sure provides regular entertainment to my children and husband, though.

Ringing In The New Year With Childhood Ignorance

Sometimes, as an adult, you forget that your kids don’t automatically know a lot of basic day-to-day things until you tell them. All day we’d been wishing each other a Happy New Year, talking about the coming of 2010 and the fortune cookies we’d be having that evening in order to receive our fortunes…

Aiden

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I ran to the store for some treats just a couple hours before it would close for the night. And then, around dinner time as we were getting close to the celebration evening, Aiden (my 6-yr-old) asked if he could have some of the treats sitting in the grocery bag on the table.

“That’s for tonight,” I told him.

“Oh.” He had an ignorant look on his face, like “tonight” meant nothing special to him.

“Can we watch one of the movies Nana gave us?”

“That’s for tonight, too,” I said. I knew we were going to need something to fill up the long six-hour evening we were planning to have with the children.

“Oh.”

Later on we were talking about how tomorrow it would be 2010 and Aiden said something about waking up in the morning and it will be a new year. That’s when I recognized the lack of party-anticipation on his face. He had no idea the evening would be any different from any other evenings when we put him to bed around 8:30.

The year before he had fallen asleep early, before the New Year’s celebration got going. He didn’t remember anything about it. I would never have guessed, though, that after experiencing six new years in his life, he was totally ignorant that we celebrated it. So it was really fun, getting to be the one to enlighten him of the coming evening and everything we would do.

Watching the excitement enter his face as I explained it was much better than the actual minute at midnight when the kids forced out a “Happy New Year,” with their half-closed eyes and mouths and then stumbled their way to their beds where they fell immediately to sleep.

Trinity

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This morning I walked into the kitchen and noticed a new January calendar on the fridge in place of the old December one. I wondered where we got it before I recognized my sister’s digital artwork — it was just like the 2009 calendar she gave us the year before.

“Did Lindsay add an extra January to our calendar?” I asked Trinity, who was standing next to the fridge and who had appointed herself the monthly calendar flipper.

She didn’t answer because she had no idea what I was talking about.

And then I got it. Trinity had flipped the calendar back to the beginning. To January 2009. Of course, there would be no way for her to know that you can’t just reuse the same calendar over and over again until someone explained to her that the numbers and the days change every year. And I wonder if she’ll always remember that moment as the moment she learned how calendars and days work, the same way I remember when my mom explained to me that ellamenapee is not a single letter of the alphabet but five different letters.