Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Big Love

Somehow, the other day, after Zeb woke up at 6:30 a.m., I found myself lying on the couch with him watching a video for the Pussycat Dolls' song "Buttons'' (see "My Lumps'' entry in November 2005 archives).
As they strode amazon-like through the video, straddling chairs, then tossing them aside, Zeb exclaimed, "That boy has a lot of mommies!''
"Which boy? You mean Snoop Dogg, the rapper guy?''
"No,'' he said. "The boy that's not in the video.''
"You mean, there's some boy who has all of them as mommies, but you can't see him in the video, maybe kind of like you?''
It was Zeb's polygamy fantasy, only with mommies instead of wives.

Myths And Legends

Lulu once staged the myth of "Orpheus and Eurydice,'' starring the family.
Maybe this is what happens in families where kids aren't allowed to watch the Disney Channel or eat Cheeez-Its. So I was shocked when Lulu suggested this, since we normally avoid high culture.
In the fall, however, she got a book called "Myths and Legend'' from her friend Celia (actually Celia's mom) . It was a birthday gift and she insisted we read it to her at bedtime. We think maybe she was drawn to the book because we don't go to church and it fulfills her unmet spiritual needs. Also, she likes the pictures.
She was especially struck with" Orpheus and Eurydice.'' In this story, Eurydice, a nymph, and Orpheus, the son of Apollo, are married and deeply in love. But she dies from a snake bite. Orpheus is so grief-stricken, he travels to Hades and tries to bring her back. He plays his lyre and begs Hades and Persephone (part-time goddess of the underworld) to let her return with him.
Hades refuses, but Persephone is so moved by the music, she says Eurydice can follow him from Hades if he promises not to look back. But of course, as he's floating upward, he worries Eurydice isn't behind him and turns around "only to glimpse Eurydice's sorrowful face and her outstretched hand as she faded back into the blackness.''
In Lulu's production, Zeb was Hades, she was Persephone and Regis and I were Eurydice and Orpheus. She and Zeb had to wait downstairs until I died and joined them.
Then Regis had to come down playing Lulu's toy guitar.
"You guys, can Eurydice come upstairs?'' he asked.
"No!'' Zeb shouted.
"Yeah, its okay. She can go,'' replied Lulu.
I began ascending the staircase until Regis turned around.
"Orpheus'' I wailed, backing down the stairs with my arms outstretched.
We both pretended to cry.
It took about three minutes.
And that was the first and last play we ever performed.
posted by mean old mommy at 8:11 PM 0 comments

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Strangers With Candy

Last weekend, we marched in the Childrens Day parade in Mount Nabor (see previous post). Regis built a float out of the kids' Radio Flyer wagon, like he does every year.
This year he made Dino, and at the kids' behest, we were forced to dress like the Flintstones.
I actually really liked being Wilma. Wilma is the Jackie O of cartoon charactors, with her pearls and her little white dress, although Betty Rubble is sexier and initially, I wanted to be Betty.
But then I would have been married to Barney and people would be confused to see Barney and Betty with Dino, so we had to be Fred and Wilma.
Anyway, the best thing about marching in the parade is throwing candy to screaming spectators.
Zeb, however, has never wanted to throw candy. He sits in the wagon, possesively clutching his bucket full. He'll reach in and grab a fistful, but its too hard for him to actually part with it, so for the rest of the parade it sits in his sweaty little palm, melting.
This year, we got so frustrated that when the rest of us ran out of candy, we were snatching pieces from him so we could pelt the people at the end of the parade who never get candy because everyone always runs out by then.
Zeb sobbed, crouching protectively over his bucket, and as I tried to pry a pack of Bottle Caps from him, I realized that seeking the mob's approval had reduced me to THIS!
We apologized. But before the night time parade (there's two, one in the afternoon and one at dusk) we tried yet again to convince Zeb to throw candy.
I used empathy: "You love candy so much and its such a treat. Its hard to actually give it away.''
I resorted to bribery: "You can have your own special bag at the end of the parade if you throw the candy in the bucket.''
I tried apapealing to his sense of altruism: "It makes people so happy when you give them the candy!''
But the only thing that worked was when I stressed the heady sense of power you feel as the crowd shrieks your cartoon name, and, if you deign to make them happy, you can nonchalantly toss them a few Skittles.
"Zeb, YOU are the one with the candy. YOU are the important guy. YOU have what they want. The guy with the candy is like a movie star. Kids will go, "Bam Bam! Over here! Over here! Give me some candy!'' And when you do, they're like, "Thanks Bam Bam!'' They think its so cool. You'll feel like such a big shot. And, oh yeah, you'll feel good that you shared your candy with them.''
That night, he enthusiastically threw fistfuls at everyone he saw.
Unfortunately, when it was over I couldn't help thinking of a story Regis used to tell me from his childhood. Timmy Sheehan was an outcast boy who discovered that the kids who normally ignored him or teased him would grovel at his feet if he brought out a bag of candy at recess and tossed it out on the playground, where everyone fought and scrambled to get some.
But when it was over, the kids would go back to ignoring him. And I think he was the kind of kid who later ate dog shit on a dare.
So maybe, in the long run, the message I gave to Zeb wasn't really so good.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Not So Tiny Dancer

Zeb has a thing for one of the teenage girls who's helping Lulu rehearse for the annual "Children's Day'' show (Its a century-old tradition where two 15-year-olds in Mount Nabor are voted "king'' and "queen,'' and during their "coronation'' the kids put on a "show' to "entertain'' them. And the next day, there's a parade. Its actually very cool despite its retro corniness and the pain and bitterness caused by the "elections.'').
Anyway, when the younger kids were playing outside, and the teens were inside rehearsing, Zeb tugged my arm.
"Mommy,'' he said. "Come see my dancer.''
"Your dancer? What do you mean? Who's your dancer?''
"My dancer in the pink shirt,'' he said.
He led me into the hall and pointed to Paige, the leggy blonde who had singled him out earlier in the cast party snack line, asking if he would dance next year with the others.
"No,''he announced loudly. "I'm too shy.''
"He's a really good dancer, though,'' I volunteered. Twice.
I not only worry that people will judge me for having a shy child---even though, dammit, there's nothing wrong with being shy and he's not shy at all when he gets to know people-- I also felt compelled to stoke his ego with extra heartiness so others would see that, yes, my child is shy, but its not because I don't routinely bolster his self-confidence with plenty of praise. (And yes, people really do seem to judge you if your kid is shy. Like you've damaged them in some way. I think its because of their own fears of exclusion. I know that's the case with me.)
Anyway, Paige, who was Mount Nabor Queen 2004, smiled down at Zeb and told him, "You're not too shy if you can tell me that!''
As Zeb and I watched her onstage, she looked over at us puzzled. I pointed to Zeb and said, "He wanted to come see you dance. He has a crush on you,''
She laughed and gave him a little wave.
"Mom, you're embarassing me,''' Zeb complained as we walked out.
I was surprised that not only was he old enough to feel embarassed, but that he conveyed his embarassment in a 14-year-old's tone of mortified exasperation.
"I'm sorry. I'll never say that again,'' I reassured him. "But I don't think she minded. And I can see why you like her. She's really pretty and nice.''
When I was tucking Lulu into bed, I couldn't help telling her about Zeb's crush. I warned her not to tease him, and so far, she hasn't.
But when they were watching TV the next day, she gingerly asked him, "Zeb, do you love my dancer?''
"No,'' he answered irritably. "I love MY dancer!'''
He wanted to know when My Dancer was coming over. Could My Dancer ever babysit?
Later that night, I was telling Regis about My Dancer, when I had another gender reversal epiphany.
"Girls don't get crushes like that on older boys at that age,'' I said.
Then again, I pointed out, no one was encouraging four-year-old girls.
No one would say, "Ooooh, you have a crush on the 18-year-old skateboarder across the street. And, hey, I don't blame you. He's a hottie!''
I imagined how stricken a grown man would be if led Lulu by the hand and blurted, "She has a crush on you! She calls you My Insurance Salesman.''