ShoreBilly’s Swill: Parenting Your Way Through Peanut Butter and Mullets
When last we chatted, I was walking you through some of the events that took place last week. True to form, I ran out of space before I had finished, so I’ll pick up right where I left off. Upon completion of last week’s column, my 2-year-old was the proud new owner of a ‘she mullet’ courtesy of her aspiring beautician 3-year-old sister. I had just made the discovery that she may need a comb over for her upcoming gig as flower girl in my niece’s wedding when my wife got home from work. I tried to bring her up to speed on my most recent failure as caretaker of our spawn. She gently stroked the freshly shorn head of our youngest as I briefed her on my horrific discovery of the follicular disaster. I was still gathering evidence upon her arrival home, and it wasn’t helping me at all that the 9-year-old kept presenting us with new piles of curly hair she was finding strategically placed about her bedroom.
We sat together taking in the new do with great sadness. We both instinctively knew that once that first batch of curls is gone, they never come back. My bride remained very calm, while I being the less emotionally stable of us fought back tears. It was now time to interrogate the prime suspect. Momma called over the 3-year-old and very calmly asked her if she had done this to her sister. I can only assume the inherent fear of the potential repercussions prompted her knee jerk response of; “no Mommy, I didn’t do it”.
She quickly turned and left the room. She didn’t make it far though because she was back within two minutes. She approached us with her eyes beginning to well up with tears and said; “Mommy, I need to tell you something.” She followed that with; “I did cut her hair. I’m soooo sorry.” Her unprovoked, completely sincere confession and glaringly apparent mortification over what she had done was more than ample punishment for the crime. We both picked her up and hugged her, but she broke down anyway.
Just when I thought we couldn’t possibly be any more of a Norman Rockwell painting, the 2-year-old climbed onto our laps and joined the mix. Her fresh new quaff had her looking like the bass player from the Runaways. She wrapped one arm around her 3-year-old sister/ barber, and began stroking her sister’s hair with the other hand. In the high pitched, impish, cherubic voice of pure innocence that could only come from a 2-year-old girl, she told her sister; “It’s alright. I don’t mind. I forgive you. It’ll grow back.”
The pair then shared a long, loving embrace like only sisters who will be lifelong best friends could. My bride, who is by far the strongest in our house, smiled proudly upon this beautiful spectacle. While I of course started to cry while thinking that maybe we’re not such crappy parents after all. And that was my Tuesday.
I’m now going to take a bit of literary license and transpose Wednesday and Thursday events. This is in case I again run out of space; I want to lead with the better story and the one less likely to make you call social services on me. Wednesday started off typically enough in my perpetual ‘one step forward, two steps back’ life. There was the pair of toddlers ritualistically bludgeoning each other followed by hugs and hysterical laughter. There was me desperately trying to multitask and failing miserably while actually accomplishing nothing. It was a typical day of me essentially running in quicksand while trying to tame a pair of female genetic reproductions of me (this is about the time that my Mom and God fist bump, point down laughing form Heaven saying; “look what we did, this is fantastic!”). There was the normal weekday fare of crayon graffiti, girls stripping down to nothing then climbing through a broken screen just to prove to me that they can escape at will if they were so inclined, and me clutching the small portion of my hair that is still brown and tugging desperately.
All of these events trying to be defused by a full-time-day-shift Dad with undiagnosed textbook symptoms of both O.C.D., and A.D.D. That’s freakin fun! Do you have any idea what it’s like to not be able to focus on something long enough to properly obsess over it? (Don’t hyper-analyze that last sentence. It was more just for fun.)
What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, it was squirrels. So eventually I got the two sisters who collectively are about as stable as a Chilean hillside in the wet season, to calm down. They cuddled up next to each other on the couch and I put in the movie Frozen (because in a house with 3 girls under 10 we just haven’t seen it enough times). They were completely pacified, and the scene was almost angelic. I stood there watching them for a minute or two locking the image in for life as my happy place.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity to go take a quick shower to get ready for work, so I did. Knowing what their genetically predisposed attention span is, I tried to perform my task in record time. I didn’t shave (Yes, I shave in the shower. Don’t judge me), I didn’t condition, I left the door propped open and the exhaust fan off so I could hear any potential problems, and I even used cold water to motivate me to get out quickly. I did everything right. Or so I thought.
I stepped out of the shower to complete silence. This, as any veteran parent knows is either really good or really bad. There is no middle of the road. It’s nap time or mischief. Assuming the latter based on my experience; I threw on my robe and came out to investigate. I walked out of my bedroom to find my 3-year-old standing there, grinning from ear to ear, with outstretched arms yelling; “surprise!!”
As a father of 4, I’ve gotten exceptionally good at censoring myself, to the point that I even edit my inner monologue when my kids are around. But when I saw what I did, I could not, to save my life repress the words; “HOLY SHIT!” from exploding out of the front of my head. Trust me when I say that almost all of you would have had the same reaction.
My sweet Angel, now adorned in only Pull Ups and a short sleeve tee shirt was coated in who knows what, which was giving her entire upper body an orange, brownish almost glowing tint. Her whole face, her arms from finger tips to where her shirt sleeves began, perfectly, almost expertly coated with whatever the hell this awful looking substance was. And it had a sort of gravel-like texture to it.
My initial thought, insane as it sounds in retrospect, seemed perfectly logical to me at the time. I actually believed for a moment, that in the roughly 7 minutes I was absent from the room to perform an accelerated hygiene ritual that perhaps, just maybe, the circus was in town. And that for some unknown reason the circus had chosen a residential side street in Ocean Pines to march its parade upon. The excitement and commotion in the street out front of course was enough to pique the curiosity of my daughter who broke free and ran out front to see what was happening. This is when her enthusiasm prompted her to breech the procession and run behind a pachyderm at the exact instant that it voided its’ spastic colon.
If you are a newcomer to the column, I’ll translate. It looked like an elephant took a crap on my kid. I stood there before her completely terrified wondering if I were going to have to call C.D.C. Without getting any closer to her (out of selfish concern for my own safety and hygiene) I asked her what was all over her. She, in possibly the proudest voice I’ve ever heard proclaimed; “It’s peanut butter! I tricked you Daddy!” Indeed she had, but now a few thoughts were running through my head.
My first thought of course was; “My God, how do we get her clean. We don’t have a dog!” I actually for a brief moment entertained the idea of walking her to my neighbor’s house that does have a dog and just setting her in the yard. It would have been too difficult to explain though should something go awry. And of course she used the chunky peanut butter which explained the nasty looking texture to an already gross situation. Here to fore, I’ll be introducing her to people as my daughter Skippy.
I don’t know how many of you have ever had call to clean half a jar of chunky peanut butter off of another human being but I can now tell you that it is no easy task. It was a seemingly never ending rotation of bath, shower, bath, shower, bath, and plunger. I had to keep rinsing the tub between sessions. And of course, her little sister was wondering why she wasn’t getting a bath, so she stripped down and jumped in with her. Now they both have a glistening slimy nutty coating to them. It took quite awhile, but I eventually got them both clean.
I then went to assess the damage to the rest of the house. I feared the worst as I searched for the jar of peanut butter. I was pleasantly surprised though when I found it sitting upright and open in the middle of the living room carpet. Beside it was the upside down lid. You could see in the jar the perfect impression of a tiny little hand having scooped its’ contents. And miraculously, even having traversed the entire house to come surprise me, she had not gotten a speck of peanut butter on anything but herself.
If I can take a positive away from this experience, I can now say with staunch conviction that neither of my daughters have a peanut allergy. Most parents either have to go through a horrible experience or a series of doctor visits to obtain that knowledge. All it cost me was the price of one jar of the chunky stuff.
You may have noticed that I’m running extra long on this one. The reason being that I’m out of town all next week and probably will not find the time to write. So I’m doubling up this week just in case, so please read slowly. I was going to break it into two pieces, but as it turned out, the cliffhanger would have come just before I identified the substance as peanut butter. I’m pretty sure that would have warranted some hate mail.
On Thursday afternoon I was playing with my girls in the living room. I was seated on the sofa, and they were taking turns sitting on my shins while I bounced them. It’s a game they call pony ride, and is usually pretty innocuous. It was the 3-year-olds turn, and she was bouncing and laughing hysterically. She reached up with both of her hands and gripped both of my index fingers. She tried to pull herself the rest of the way up onto my lap with seemingly minimal effort. Suddenly, she let out a blood curdling scream, grabbed her left elbow, and hit the floor like she had been shot.
I feared the worst and tried to give her small tests to check her mobility. From shoulder to fingertips there was nothing. She couldn’t move her arm at all, and she was clearly in excruciating pain. I reticently went to the other room to wake my wife who was taking a nap between two overnight shifts at the hospital. She could immediately tell that I was devastated by the possibility that I had just dislocated my own daughter’s elbow.
Needless to say we wound up in the E.R. She was such a good sport the entire time, but that arm was just not moving. After a brief wait, the doctor came in and asked her if she could raise her arm. Once again she tried, and suddenly her elbow just popped back into place and she could raise her arm and bend it. Her eyes got huge and she looked at her Mom and me, and then the doctor as if to say; “Damn, this guy is good!” He never actually touched her, she healed herself and he was in our presence just long enough to explain the condition called Nurse Maid’s Elbow. This evidently is a very common occurrence in children under 5.
It didn’t make me feel any less awful about myself. By the time we got back home from the hospital, she was totally fine as if nothing had happened. Believe it or not, there were several other things that happened last week worthy of writing about, but these were some of the highlights. And I didn’t even get to tell you about work. Next time I’ll tell you about some of the human gems that I’ve encountered in the bar over the closing weeks of the summer of 2014. Send me your thoughts and input at [email protected]
Thanks for playing along.
Until two weeks from now, Syd Nichols