My Aunt Edna sent me a list of "remember when" things that we use to do as kids when life seemed a bit more simple. It was a compilation of things like catching fireflys, play red light-green light, and endless summer days and nights with no A/C. The only one that I didn't see on the list was a game we use to play called "crack the whip". It usually entailed my brother pulling all of us (6 or so), as fast as we clasped one another arm-to-arm. After a few seconds, various bodies would be flying off the end of this human chain, one by one, with high-pitched laughs of hysterics and a few bumps and scraps in the process. The point of it is, that it was simple fun; there was no need to be "entertained".
Now to present day: what happened? Our kids can't seem to get by through the day without a Nintendo, Wii, or mom carpooling them to various high priced activities so they won't be bored. Nadia use to do this skit in the car when she was younger that usually left us all laughing so hard that there was a mad rush to bathroom once we got home because we were about to pee all over ourselves. She would start out like this:
"MOM - Entertain me! Moooooom - Entertain me NOW!!
Mooooo...oooooooM, I don't care if I have 999 Barbies - I wanna be entertained.
I wanna be entertained NOW - RIGHT NOW!
I'm bored - I don't wanna play with my Nintendo with 40 games - I want you to entertainment me right NOW!
"Moooom! Why are you hiding. Quit hiding mom, I wanna you to entertain me!"
" Moooo-OOOOM!! Play with me... entertain me NOW Mom!"
If I had a recording, I would add it cause it was so damn funny that my husband almost ran off the road because he was laughing and crying so hard. You know, the kind of laugh that makes your face hurt so bad that you pull it down so you don't have to smile anymore. It was that funny. But Nadia doesn't do that skit so much anymore because she is going through her "serious phase" in life. Too bad cause I could really use another one of those hard laughs these days. Plus, somewhere along the way, ALL the kids decided this wasn't just a joke to laugh about; it was a creed to start living by.
No one told me when I had children that I needed to add professional entertainment coordinator as one of my parental titles. I did have a job with a title like that once, but I didn't have it long which tells how well I'm doing with it now. I SUCK!! I am not one of those mom's that have my handy dandy clipboard filled with every day party games to fill those hum drum moments in my kids lives. I am of the old school of "go outside and play and figure it out for yourself". I must be a bad parent because I see other moms transporting their tots and tweens from everything to soccer, softball, pottery classes, piano/guitar/violin classes, and tree climbing lessons. And these are just in one day! I feel so inept.
Whatever happened to kids digging mud-holes in the back yard thus producing the most amazing mud pies, decorated with grass and flowers picked from the our mom's favorite flower bed? Hell, it worked for me when I was bored. They were pretty good when I tried to bake them too! Of course, I think my mom was considering giving my up for adoption that day cause of the stench I left in the kitchen. How about swiping a few of our precious childhood possessions, and a few pennies, and burying it so we could dig it up next summer. Only problem was is half of us forgot where we buried it and it was lost to the elements forever. What about packing a peanut butter sandwich and some chips and going for hike in our neighborhood, or the local woods? Well, the latter we now know is kinda out of the question for obvious reasons these days. Short of tagging our kids with microchips like our pet Fido and setting off every metal detector between here, there, and the mall; that ain't happening any time soon. Actually, that would be pretty damn funny if you asked me. Could you see all those neurotic mall store managers running around trying to figure who stole what? Now THAT would be entertaining!
Somewhere along the way, playtime and imagination was stolen from our children by Nintendo, Wii and Xbox 360 Live, and those musical learning toys we bought when our kids were six months old and we thought we'd make them the next Einstein by age of one, plus an unlimited supply of uniquely packaged corporate cartoons on TV. I don't know about you, but half those toys with all those flashing lights, dings, whistles, hoot-hoots, and screwed up looking musical animals resembled what I think would be a bad LSD trip. At least that's the closest I ever got to having one after hearing them go on and on for hours on end. Between those things and Teletubbies, parenthood almost came to a screeching halt. I should do a poll on how many people thought Teletubbies were thought up after a mind altering drug trip. Hell, it worked for Lewis Carroll!
Speaking of the boob tube; remember when we only had two hours of cartoons on Saturday morning? We had so little choices that I always opted for Bugs Bunny and when that was over, so was TV for the day. Hell, now Bugs Bunny has been kidnapped by the WB station, and I'm good to catch an original once a year myself. Now our delicate rugrats minds grow up with a myriad of selections that go on 24 freaking hours, 7 mind-altering days a week. Have you ever noticed the look on your kids faces as their watching TV these days. It's that sort of zombie face that kinda creeps you out as pass them juggling a full laundry basket, the baby, the cat, and four bags of groceries. They won't notice a thing except the flicker of TV screen. They won't hear you either unless you mention like "there's a giant cookie in the kitchen" or "I'm ordering a dozen pizza's for dinner; what do you want?"! And there is something genetically wrong about them not being able to keep their mouths closed while watching TV? Is there something that the tongue needs to watch that I don't know about yet?
Now my cousin recently started his own blog of various stories of life and childhood. He recently wrote about our grandmother and days spent fishing with her by the Catawba River in North Carolina. This is gonna shock your shorts off, but they actually went fishing with worms dug from the ground and with her ordinary cane poles. Cane poles! My gosh, the kids where I live can't go fishing without buying out the local bait shop for buckets of special shrimp or some weird, slimy live bait. And God forbid they go without the latest cartoon laden fishing pole from WallyWorld! My son has set himself up with a surf cast net, brand new fiberglass pole with all the perks, and won't go without hitting that same damn bait shop! I mentioned to him to dig up worms the night before in our backyard and you would have thought I told him to go dumpster diving for his food for dinner!
Somewhere in all of this, I have to blame my husband. We gotta blame the husband for something cause this is our jobs as wives. It's in the vows when we say "I will love, honor, and cherish you, and somehow blame you for something while we are married". My husband is the guy that when the twins were little he would promise them a new toy if they would just get in their car seat without a major meltdown. Which, by the way, was EVERY FREAKING TIME they got in the car seat. He was on a first name basis with Toys R Us for years, complete with full brass band every time we walked in the door. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the point.
Every outing was a reason to buy them a new toy. Needless to say, we had multiple plastic storage buckets FULL of absolutely useless, brainless, pointless shit for them to submerge themselves in. Now here we are, four kids later and thousands of dollars spent on LeapPads, videos and dvds, Rescue Heroes, Build-A-Bear dolls, Barbie this and Barbie that with a few of those Bratz things thrown in, and a whole myriad of crazy shit my kids wanted. My garage has a tower of unused and discarded toys that my kids find boring now because they're not entertaining enough. We spent all that money just to bore our kids to death; boy are we bad parents or what.
But I like to use it as an opportunity to point out to my husband just how much bloody money he has wasted. It makes me feel less guilty for buying shoes these days.
He actually blames me now for spoiling the kids. Okay, I admit I did go overboard with clothes there for awhile. But why blame me for all the toys. Yeah, I bought them all so I can go around and eventually clean them all up 14 freaking times a day, organize them into their proper his and her boxes so no "it's mine" fights erupt, and step on the sprawled out lego pieces while I'm navigating my half-asleep ass across the floor, then screaming as loud as I can - silently of course, so as not to wake up the whole bloody neighborhood!! Yeah - that's it - I invested in all those toys so I could spend 11 years ripping the flesh off the bottom of my feet.
But when I bring up the fact that he hit as many toy stores as he could find between Nana and Grandpa's house, to our house ( there are exactly seven Dollar Stores between there and here), it suddenly becomes a mute point. He bought a Playstation and had to actually force Julian to play with it when he was just five. Poor Julian hadn't clue how to work the controls, and his father's urging for him to play usually resulted in meltdowns. But Kurt was bound and determined to make a video wizard out of him before the week was through. The rest is history because that boy is foaming at the mouth over Xbox Live as I write, and there is no turning back now.
My daughters are seriously addicted to Nintendo and Wii these days. Dolls are sooo faux pas, and playing games outside is considered a plague that should be avoided at all cost, unless it means my taking them to the beach with all the picnic trimmings and as many blow up thing-a-ma-jigs one can stuff in the car. We bought them new bikes; they still look brand new three years later. My kids playing outside can actually result in an all out war within 10 minutes of interacting in a game of baseball together. How freaking long can Nadia and Julian fight about the exact spot to put the home plate when they're only talking about a few inches here?
"No Nadia, the plate goes there so I can pitch" Julian says.
"No Julian, it's suppose to be here so I can be directly in front of you while you pitch", Nadia barks back.
"Nadia, you need to put the plate here so I can stand there", Julian chides.
"I'm not putting the plate there because then I won't be in front of you when you pitch and then I can't hit the ball!", Nadia screams back at him.
"Nadia you're trying to cheat!!", Julian screams back.
"No, you're the cheater. You just don't want me to hit the ball. You always have to be the boss!" she screeches in his face.
"Julian, you're just trying to boss us around!" Toni finally blurts. The girl has gotta get her two cents worth in this battle.
Down slams that bat. Out comes that damn referee shirt and whistle of mine. I am not happy because I DO NOT look pleasant in vertical black and white stripes and a Swiss Miss style cooking apron trying to corral these kids in a time out session.
So I cancel dinner for an hour and attempt to entertain them in that game of "crack the whip". It's all laughs for about 30 seconds until two of them fall on top of one another and then it's a "she fell on me and hurt my ankle - he landed on me on purpose - she's not playing fair - he's looking at me funny - she's breathing - he's breathing harder than me", and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah! One of my favorite childhood games has just been thrown in the category of forget it.
They all get up and manage to shove and push each other back into the house while grumbling various degrees of blame and insults at each other. Deaf ears fall on my repeated requests to "hush, be nice, and if you don't stop your grounded till your 80". Now as they are back in the house and flopped in different positions of disgust on the sofa, one by one they soon begin to chime:
"Mom, I'm bored" says one.
"Mom, there is nothing to do" whines the second.
"Mom, is there anything to do around here besides go outsiiiiiiide", the third says with that annoying twang in their nose in order to accent the shear agony that they are going through.
Here I am trying to whip up that gourmet meal that they will eventually refuse to eat, once placed below their finicky noses, and now they want me to "un-bore" them because they want to be entertained - AGAIN. Isn't that what I was just trying to do outside! Sometimes I think that raising children is like having my brains being constantly pecked at by a duck!
So I start naming the usual activities in that chirpy "Mary Poppins" ,"make me wanna puke", sing-song voice because we're trying to emphasize the freaking positive here: board games, Legos, Barbie dolls, makeup makeovers, climb a tree, climb on top of the house and jump off (just kidding - getting desperate and losing my mind), hide-n-seek, etc., etc.., etc. Three sets of rolled eyeballs glare at me in unison like I should be tarred and feathered. I'm trying to name anything that doesn't involve Hannah Montana, Nintendo, Wii, Xbox; basically ANYTHING electronic. They act like I'm suggesting I hang them from the ceiling by their toenails and torture them with cheap household products!
But my little three year old Nia has got it; she's happily emptying all my drawers of cooking utensils and banging the metals pans so loud that I will need a hearing aid next week. But at least she's not plugged in to some corporate power surge that sucks out the part of the brain that says "you can think on your own". I will happily sport a pretty hot pink hearing aid just to support her musical imagination.
Eventually the remote clicks on our over paid satellite TV channel box. The kids are suddenly quiet and channel surfing through the latest crap served to them by the likes of Nick, Nick Jr., Disney, Teen Disney, Toon Disney, Cartoon Network, Cartoon Crap Network, Watch Your Brains Melt Before Your Eyes Jr., Your Mom and Dad Don't Know Crap Network, etc., etc., etc. This stuff sucks and I can't handle listening to another minute of canned laughter to poorly written dialogue meant to teach children the most moronic ways of interacting with society.
So I've decided to take drastic actions into my own hands.
"Hey, anyone want to help me cook?"
Dead silence is soon replaced with a mad stampede of six heavy footed steps into the kitchen. I should have been specific as to who I was talking to because now everyone wants to do exactly the same thing that I am doing. I live with a bunch of professional-chef wanna-be's when none of them have had lessons beyond Emeril 101 on the Food Network channel (at least ONE good thing has come out of TV). But at least they are inspired!
"Fine", I say. "Just NO ONE touch the RAW chicken", I fiercely demand.
Soon the kitchen is a flurry of bread crumbs flying and spices swinging. Each fighting the other over who is going to season the flour for the chicken piccata. Nadia is constantly repeating that she's making the sauce and Julian keeps following suit by telling her to "shut up". Oh the bond between twins. Nia is still beating the pots and pans as I try to wrangle a few from her to cook with, and Toni is quietly cutting the lemons and other stuff for a salad. They are finally entertained.
I learn something from this that should have been written for us completely baffled first-time mothers:
1- We DO NOT need every electronic gadget that Toys R Us or any other cartoon station thinks we should have in order to make our children smarter or happier. LeapPads, and the like, are too expensive and they suck anyway - there I said it and I feel no less a parent for saying so.
2- "LazyTown" will not mysteriously make our kids get off their couch potato asses and suddenly run five miles a day. In fact, this a completely weird cartoon that that is also a by-product of too much wacky weed and pizza. People dressed as plastic puppets should not be shown to children under the age of 16. And Teletubbies are dumb... period!
3- All you need to entertain your kids is in your kitchen and at U-Haul. I noticed that through the years, my kids got more musical challenges from wooden spoons and pots and pans that they ever did with those "Parents" magazine recommended, "Made In China Wina", lead paint laden musical pieces of junk. U-Haul has the greatest selection of cheap toys EVER. Take only $10 and buy BOXES. Yes, boxes. Did you ever notice that kids get more mileage from the box that the toy came in than the actual toy itself? Save some bucks, buy some boxes. I see a U-Haul commercial in my future.
4- I have discovered that "crack the whip" works better if I duct tape pillows all over my kids and then watch them waddle all over the place before they fall down. The YouTube video is coming soon! It's a new, improved version that makes me laugh harder than the original. This is where my son has discovered that's it's a lot of fun now to put every stitch of clothing on that he owns and tempt the girls to make him fall over. He calls it "Fat Man Walking".
5- It's okay if they get bored. They will not suddenly form into balls of gooey cocoons then morph into parent-eating gremlins. Didn't they make a movie like that???
6- If all else fails - then cheerfully offer the job of folding the clothes that have formed into that monumental statue in the corner of the laundry room. A cooperative outside game of tag starts looking pretty good then.
7- Regardless of all the moping, whining, fights, bickering, broken toys, over-priced toys, cries of boredom.... I love these kids more than life and that's why I want to please them - because they will eventually decide if I go to an old folks home or not.
Anyone for bowling?