Saturday, 3 May 2008

Doin' It For The Kids

One of the scariest things about having children is that they’re a blank slate and I, their mother, am a pen filled with indelible ink-

What’s that? Ink isn’t used on a slate, and slates are meant to be wiped clean and written on over and over again until cracked over the head of Gilbert Blythe for calling Anne ‘carrots’? Hang on, let me try again:

Children are sponges, equally capable of soaking up the milk of human kindness or the liquid faeces of the scum of humanity alike…no, wait! Children are the harshest mirrors, reflecting not our superficial appearance, but the juicy pimples on our character and conduct…

Ugh, I give up. You know what I mean; if I’m not careful, my children are going to end up the kind of slate that’s covered in swear words, pornographic doodles, and chemical formulas for illicit substances.

Bearing this in mind, I try to conceal from them the kinds of behaviour I don’t want them to emulate, and attempt not to burden their fragile developing personalities with my own psychological baggage. Obviously Mr. Lonie and I confine our Bacchanalian orgies with people we meet online at to times when the ten-year-old girl next door is available to baby-sit; and when the children are within earshot I spell out (instead of pronouncing) the obscenities I scream at random passers-by I don’t like the look of, but something I really struggle with is keeping my fears and phobias repressed deep inside where they can manifest at a more convenient time as something less traumatic for the children to witness, such as severe facial tics or trichotillomania.

Maybe if I were scared of unicorns or dodos or space aliens I might be more successful, seeing as we don’t get many of them around here (and even the anal probes aren’t so bad after the first two or three abductions), but unfortunately it’s spiders and cockroaches, with their creeping and scuttling and insinuating themselves into every nook and cranny in the house in order to leap out at me with fangs bared and antennae waving menacingly, that I loathe and fear. I know there are all sorts of techniques to combat such fears, but my preferred method of spraying DDT from crop dusters is frowned upon these days, just because a few scientists started bleating about cancer and birth defects and untold effects on the ecosystem (which sounds like namby-pamby bug-loving nonsense to me).

So I’m forced to suffer the iniquities of a society biased against people who simply want to eliminate all insect and arachnid life within fifty metres of their house. I must fight every natural inclination and actually approach said creatures of hell’s outhouse, and touch them with something less buffering than a ten-foot barge-pole, in order to eject them from my home. What’s more, in the interests of preserving my children’s freedom to cultivate their own bugbears without undue influence, I have to do all this with as much of a psychotically indifferent façade as I can muster, while inside I am screaming and quaking and cursing Mr. Lonie for his absence and his neglect of this basic husbandly duty.

Helping matters still less is the discomfiting realisation that, as I age, what started out as normal dislikes and aversions are amplifying into irrational, paralysing terrors. It seems that I’m doomed to end my days as a twitchy mental patient who can’t even look at the Dewey Decimal number of a book containing a reference to another book with a picture of a cockroach in it, without curling into a foetal ball and clutching to my chest the cans of bug spray I keep holstered on my hips. Death will come for me not with a scythe, but a fake tarantula dangling on a string, and as the massive heart attack sends me shuffling off this mortal coil his dry wheezy laughter will be the last thing I hear.

Nevertheless, I am, as I said, more scared of damaging forever the impressionable young minds of my children with my exaggerated dread (children are malleable clay and I am the potter…?). I’d hate to see them suffer the same unnecessary apprehensions I do, and be reduced to a whimpering mass of non-functionality every time an objectionable creepy-crawly crosses their path.

And besides, if I manipulate them just right, I’ll always have someone around to get rid of that cockroach for me.


Diesel said...

You really think they're a blank slate? My kids were both born with very definite personalities. Sometimes I don't think there's anything I can do to change them.

Lonie Polony said...

I was thinking more in terms of attitudes and behaviours they learn from parents and significant caregivers (racism, meanness, low-class chigger behaviour etc).

But without wanting to get into the whole nature/nurture debate, I agree that my children all have different personality tendencies. Therein lies one of the challenges of raising more than one child!

Jules said...

I have the exact some dilemmas. But in the end I have had to just scream quietly as I bash the fuckers to death. I do tell them though that they should only bash the white tails as they are aggressive and mean and if they bit you can leave flesh eating bugs in your skin. A friend of mine has a golf ball size hole in her shin to prove this.

I have actually gotten better and dealing with them in the moment but more and more terrified of where the "unknown" ones are lurking. I check the ceilings every night before bed and sometimes even wake up in the night and "know" there is one about and sure a bloody nuff, I will do a torch search and find some big barstard sitting on a wall in the hall just waiting to run into our mouths once we fall asleep. Barstards!!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE all your mixed metaphors as children as blank slates, clay, sponges, etc. You crack me up!
You just need to somehow NOT transmit your fear of creepy-crawlies to them so that they can deal with them for you. This is my personal goal, but so far I've only managed one scared of spiders (which ironically don't bother me) and two who HATE cockroaches as much as I do.
Good luck!

Lonie Polony said...

You've got spidey senses of a different kind, eh Jules? I hate white tails too, and am always apprehensive of the linen cupboard since I heard that's where they like to live. Remember when we were all told they were fatal? But hey it's okay now people, they only cause necrosis of the flesh. Joy.

Hi there planetnomad (love your stuff, by the way). Bringing up children who can deal with bugs for me is certainly my aim. Tried to train the dogs to eat roaches but had no luck :(

p0nk said...

i had 5 kids before i realized i was a loser of a parent. Now that mine are completely screwed up, i've moved on to coaching youth sports so that my messed up kids won't stand out as much.

Lonie Polony said...

Lol p0nk, I should try that. Or maybe I could send my children to the most underachieving school in the area to ensure they all are named dux.

hazelblackberry said...

None of my three parents are afraid of spiders, so why am I? But I think after reading Jules' comment that I'm not soooo bad.

Just remember what Lou Reed said, Lonie:

Why stop at one, I might have ten, a regular TV brood
I'd breed a little liberal army in the wood
Just like these redneck lunatics I see at the local bar
with their tribe of mutant inbred piglets with cloven hooves

I'd teach them how to plant a bomb, start a fire, play guitar
and if they catch a hunter, shoot him in the nuts
I'd try to be as progressive as I could possibly be
as long as I didn't have to try too much

(Also remember that Lou doesn't have kids.)

Lonie Polony said...

I think fear of spiders is perfectly natural, Hazel, an instinctual thing or genetic knowledge or whatever the term is (I never studied anthropology, I'm afraid). It's just the degree of fear that's the problem! Maybe I could have ten children and train them to comb the house and surrounds for bugs or something?

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