A Prince Among Ordinary Men (or How to Giggle During a Pandemic)

This morning, my son had a little trouble managing his emotions. Sometimes e-learning and quarantine get a little much for all of us. So we took turns writing a story together. I thought I’d share it with you here. I lightly edited his writing for grammar and clarity. The parts he wrote are in italics. I hope it makes you giggle a bit too:

Mom: Once upon a time there was a boy, a prince among ordinary men, named Alex.* He was the kind of boy that could make a bad day seem good, and by that I mean the world was a better place just because of the sheer fact he was in it. He didn’t realize this was true. He really had nothing to feel good about. In fact, sometimes he felt so bad, he just had to yell. And that’s just what he would do. (Yelling is ok, actually. We all feel like yelling sometimes, especially when the world seems to be totally wonky like it is right now.) 

He soon found ways to make himself feel a little better, even though it’s really rough sometimes. His mom helped just by being there when he needed a hug. That’s always nice. Anyway, he made a decision that, despite the fact that the adults of this world seemed to be screwing everything up, that today was going to be a good day. He realized he couldn’t control what was going on out there, but he could control what was happening in his heart of hearts and his brain of brains.

He had made up his mind. He slowly steeled his resolve, sat up straight in his chair, and said, “Ass!” as loud as he could. (Cursing always made him giggle and this time was no different.) He added in a “Shit!” for good measure just to make sure the cursing giggle lasted a little longer.

From the first giggle, something changed within him. He felt lighter. Dare he say, happier? No, he wasn’t ready to go there yet. But the weight of the world did seem to lift a little. The corners of his mouth started to edge upward just the slightest little bit. But don’t you dare call it a smile! It is not a smile. It is just what it is. Because what did he have to smile about?

Kid: No clue, he thought. What did he have to smile about? The world was going through something big. Why was he grinning, giggling, smiling? He threw himself on his bed and began to say the next curse word that came to his mind, “Da….”

Just then, his sister walked into his room and said, “Have you seen my phone?”

“No, I haven’t,” he said, finishing the other half of the curse word in his head. He giggled.

His sister asked, “What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing,” he said.

Mom: Cursing did make him feel better for the time being, but he wondered what he was going to do when he ran out of curse words. Hopefully, he wouldn’t need to pull out the “mother of all curse words.” You know the one I’m talking about. The one you’re even afraid to say to yourself, inside your head. Like, if you even think it, the principal is going to pop out of your bedroom closet, look at you with that ‘oh, you’re in trouble now’ look, raise her index finger and beckon you to follow her down the long hall (the long haul?) to the principal’s office.

You can feel it now. How everyone’s eyes turn to you in pity and fear. Pre-grieving for what is about to happen to you because you dared to think that one word.

Alex looked to the door where his sister just exited. Then he looked to the closet door. The principal wasn’t there. Thank goodness. Because he thought that for just one second he might have thought that word. You know the one I’m talking about.

“Meow,” he heard.

Kid: He looked down at the cat pleading to get out of the room. Alex opened the door and let her out. She ran down the long hall. Alex looked back at the closet and the door was now open. It couldn’t be his parents or his sister. They were all downstairs. Who was it?

Mom: It must’ve been the wind, Alex thought to himself as he shut the closet door. But remember that heart of heart and that brain of brains? Both his heart and his brains told him that it wasn’t just the wind.

Kid: He thought it might just be broken. Then a big germ leaped out at him and the house flooded with corona….

Then he woke up. Bad words flowed through his head. He giggled and started laughing, then laughing like crazy, then psycho laughing, and then he had a good night and day.

The End

*Names were changed to protect the innocent.

The World is Ending and All I Have to Wear is this Chambray Shirt

I don’t mean to sound apocalyptic, but stuff is getting real. Hurricanes, fires, floods. Rampant overt racism. Plans to round up groups of people and ship them off to who knows where.

Even if you are not directly affected by these events, you can feel the many different holes that are slowly tearing themselves open in the everyday fabric of society. Those who previously existed hidden within those holes are now feeling emboldened to come out and bully others for no other reason than they now feel empowered to come out of their holes and bully others.

Meanwhile, life goes on. I get my kids ready for school in the morning. I put on a happy face and greet the other parents and teachers, wishing everyone I see to have a good day. They return the sentiment to me. Kindness goes a long way.

After dropping the kids at school, I return home to check my Twitter timeline, which consists of a healthy mix of protest tweets against the latest outrageous act of the Trump regime, disaster tweets documenting the newest natural disasters, and moms asking you to answer their poll about whether you would prefer to drive or fly to Disneyland this year.

So what do I, as a middle-class, white, suburban mom, do? Do I continue to play my fiddle as Rome burns? Do I put on a false face and act like the erosion of common decency, the manifestations of climate change, and the scarily backward time-lapse of America isn’t bothering me? Do I put on my chambray shirt and post of picture of myself on Facebook asking people to comment on whether they like it or not?

Or… do I try to close one of those many holes that’s opening? Do I try to block the way, standing strong, chest out, feet wide, hands-on-hips, like some middle-aged wannabe Wonder Woman?

It’s risky (and, yes, sometimes embarrassing not to fit in with the model of what I should be doing as a white suburban mom). But if I posted my own personal Twitter poll about how I would prefer to get from this point in time to some time in the future, I would choose to be a middle-aged Wonder Woman. I’m putting my whole mom-self out there with my needlepoint skills and my Wonder Woman attitude, and I’m going to try to sew up as many of those holes as I can. The future that my kids inherit is worth both the risk and the embarrassment.

I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween one year when I was a kid. Maybe I can find my old mask packed away somewhere and wear it with my chambray shirt.

Teaching Genetics to a 4-Year-Old

If you ask me, it’s never too early to learn something.

My little girl asked me why I have brown eyes while she has blue eyes. I told her it had something to do with the DNA that she received from her parents. (She and her brother are well aware that they each have half of my DNA and half of their father’s.) But I thought I could go a little further with this. Hence, a lesson in the Punnett square.

Though I didn’t use Punnett squares to attempt to explain dominant and recessive patterns of inheritance, I did think that working through a few Punnett squares and making some connection to genetics and DNA would be helpful in her understanding of science later on. (I recall learning Cartesian coordinates in school and thinking how easy it was because I grew up playing Battleship.)

Anyway, above are the Punnett squares my four-year-old daughter and I worked through together. She picked the letters and the color and I helped her fill in the squares. She did the last one almost entirely on her own.

UPDATE: I wrote this post more than two years ago. I was inspired to post it here because my son, 6, asked me the same question that she asked: why does he have brown eyes while his twin sister has blue eyes? This time I did attempt to explain dominant and recessive genes while working through a Punnett square. Not sure how much he will retain, but at least the neuronal spark will be there when he learns about it in school.