Freakin’ Family Fun

There was something hanging on Hal’s hook at school when I picked him up today. No one else had one. I frowned as I moved his papers out of the way to get a better look. It was a clear plastic bag with a note taped to it.

Parents,

Your child was picked to be the Super Alphabet Show-n-Tell leader for the week! Attached you will find a Show-n-Tell bag. I ask that you help your child find one or two items around your house that begin with the letter of the week. Please make sure that the items they pick out to bring fit into this bag and are not valuable.

I juggled his coat and backpack and finished art projects and the Show-n-Tell bag while he picked his prize from the Treasure Box. I managed to get everything into the car and as we pulled away, he announced, “Mommy! I get to be the Show-n-Tell leader this week! I need to fill that bag with F words!” My evening would be full of him referring to “F words” and the adolescent inside me stifling giggles.

We began to brainstorm as I drove down the road.

“Fish!” he called out.

“How about frog?” I asked.

“Yeah! But we don’t have any fish or frogs at home. Oh! How about a banana? It’s F-F-F-F-Food.”

“It sure is!”

“And it’s F-F-F-F-Fruit!”

“Very good. I like it.” And I do. It reminds me of something his older siblings might do. Put something in the bag that would make his friends think he’s lost his mind and then surprise them with how it fits.

He begged me to go buy him a “fake fox”. He chose a ladybug shaped flashlight. And he clearly announced that “Fart is an F word!! F-F-F-Fart!” I suggested he leave that out of the bag.

We might have gotten a little bit carried away. I forgot there was a suggested quantity. When you pick small objects, you can sure get more than one or two items in the bag:

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When I found the plastic fork, Hal was ecstatic. And then Daryl lit up. “Hey!” he said, “Maybe that plastic it’s wrapped in is made out of Fossil Fuels!”

Yes, we are a nerd family.

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Parental Censoring

My evolution as a parent has been an interesting thing to watch. I was so much more careful with what my children saw when I was new at this. I’m not sure which version of me is better.

My first memory of cautious parental censoring has to do with whether Jane, then about 4 years old, could watch Shark Tales. I watched it first before deciding that there was just too much blatant sexual innuendo and she simply could not watch it.

My first stumble came when my husband and I thought it’d be so cool to show the kids (barely turned 7 and 4) that great movie from our childhood: Goonies. I squirmed on the couch as the boys in the movie tried to glue the penis back on a small replica of Michelangelo’s David – upside down, all the while repeatedly yelling “s**t!” and “my mom’s going to kill me – that’s her favorite part!”

Jane was too scared and left the room for most of the movie. Daryl, the four year old, repeatedly declared it his favorite movie at his preschool. His teacher raised her eyebrows in surprise. I guess she has a better memory than I do.

Since Jane was more sensitive than Daryl, we didn’t have too much trouble keeping everything age appropriate before Hal came along. If it was too mature for Daryl, Jane probably wasn’t ready to watch it either.

But then Hal came along. He’s five years younger than Daryl and eight years younger than Jane. When he was a baby, we’d just plan Harry Potter or other viewing for his nap time. He still has nap time but is particularly gifted at avoiding sleep during it. This means that won’t work anymore. He also resists going to bed without his big brother so after bedtime doesn’t work well either, unless the movie is only for Jane to see.

One day, Jane came home telling us that we just had to watch the movie Pitch Perfect. We tried to send the boys to bed but Daryl lobbied for permission to stay up and watch it with us. Once he secured permission, Hal put up his own fight.

Since it was so late, my husband convinced me that Hal would probably fall asleep anyway so we should just let him stay in the room. I had my doubts and I was right. He stayed awake the whole time, and since the entire family loved the film, we’ve watched it a dozen times since.

It’s hard to justify not letting him watch a movie that he’s already seen but now that he’s watched it so many times, he’s able to quote significant passages of the movie. Most of his favorite ones are ok. “Bootie work! Bootie work!” while he shakes his fanny at you is borderline. The worst, by far, is this one:

“I’m going to pitch-slap you so hard that your man boobs are going to concave.”

A preschooler is not known for clear enunciation and without the context of the movie to help with the pun, it sounds to any innocent bystander as if he just said “bitch-slap”.

You could say that we just made a mistake and this movie is not an indication of a slipping of our standards, but the fact is, even though I know we shouldn’t have let him see it, I don’t particularly regret it because we have, as a family, enjoyed referring to the movie.

Pitch Perfect was just the tip of the iceberg though. I let Daryl race through the Harry Potter books much younger than Jane. I’ve let him read Ender’s Game a full two years earlier than Jane – just so he could go watch the movie with us, which we did at 8:00 opening night – a school night! I even let Hal watch Thor on his birthday (PG-13 and on a school night!).

And the crowning jewel: when my husband passed off the decision on whether to let Jane go to a Walking Dead premier watch party at a friend’s house late on a school night, with the full belief that I would disallow it, I gave permission. Despite the fact that she had been having disturbing and terrible nightmares about zombies just this past summer.

I still draw the line at Hal seeing violent, intense, and/or action-packed PG-13 movies at the theater. I still check commonsensemedia.org before letting Jane see a theater movie I’m unfamiliar with. I still expect family to restrict viewing to PG or G without my consent. And when Jane asked to return to the friend’s house for week two of the Walking Dead, I loudly proclaimed NO! in unison with my husband.

So I’m not a lost cause. Just a considerably more relaxed version of my former self.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

My mom had a tradition when my brother and I were growing up. She took us to the dentist twice a year every year even though she didn’t have a lot of money to pay for those visits. And after each of those dentist visits, she would take us to Braum’s for a scoop of ice cream. She even took us after the occasional follow-up visits for fillings. That was fun. Trying to eat ice cream with half your face numb.

This might seem like an exceptionally illogical, bad parenting move. Taking your kids for a sweet treat after getting their teeth cleaned or repaired. Just inviting more trouble in the future. We loved her for it.

I think I might have inherited whatever gene caused my mom to engage in this activity. Today, I worked with the kids on cleaning their rooms and other parts of the house. And then we went outside and cleaned out the car.

Our car is one of the most junked-out vehicles on the road. Or at least, it seems that way to me. The floorboard in the backseat is usually not visible. Once we dug out all the toys and trash and clothes and books and… a seriously desiccated pomegranate, we were left with a floorboard covered with grass and dirt and bits of trash too small to pick up. I decided we needed to give the poor car a serious cleaning.

The kids were extremely well behaved while we waited at the car wash. When our car went out to the area where they vacuum and clean the inside, I saw the guy open the car, then walk away and ask one of his buddies to come help him out. The car belonging to the lady who came in considerably later than us was ready quite awhile before ours.

Eventually, though, the car was ready. It looked great! I thought the kids deserved a reward for working so hard and being on their best behavior. So I took a play from my mom’s playbook: I took them for ice cream. But the pizza was ready to be picked up too, so we didn’t eat it there. Yes, that’s right. I allowed three children to eat ice cream in the freshly cleaned car. Because I’m just that kind of special.

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