My daughter got in the car recently, cautiously excited about an invitation to a birthday party.
"Momma, I got invited to a party. It's from my friend Lyla. You like her. You said she's a nice girl."
I knew from the pitch there was a catch. It had the tone of a salesman hocking an item you sort of want to buy at a price you don't want to pay. I waited for the caveat.
I'll never forget the day I told my cousin I was adopting a child. Her response caught me totally off guard. She first asked "When are you planning to retire?" Then she threatened me with death. Not as in, "I'm going to kill you." It was more like, "It's too late for you to start parenting because you're going to die."
It's the sort of thing I might have ignored from a passing stranger, but this was someone I looked up to as a big sister. I had always known her to be oddly critical. She was the kind of person who would tell you your nail polish didn't look good on your hands, or she might criticize your artwork because it had a white person instead of a black person in it. But I had grown to ignore her dark side and concentrate on her kinder moments, like the time I was 4 years old and she drove me from Lewisville to Hope, Arkansas, to go swimming for the first time ever. And the time she made me a long satin dress so I could march in her wedding. We looked more alike than sisters and I adored her.
I hate crafts. There, I said it. I hate crafts. I know that's blasphemy, especially for a stay at home mom. After all, isn't it our job to keep the kids entertained with pipe cleaners and paints and Play-Doh and anything else that can't be easily gotten out of carpet?
I recall when my daughter was small and trying to learn to use her little hands. One mother suggested I let her play with finger paints at the kitchen table to help develop her dexterity. I said "Sure, maybe," but I didn't. There was no way I was going to let any kid put her fingers in paint in my house.
Ditto for modeling clay. I'm sure somewhere someone has written a book detailing how to get clay out of carpet, but as far as I'm concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cleaning tips.
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Pulitzer Award and the 25th Anniversary of the closing of the Arkansas Gazette newspaper, which received the Pulitzer for its coverage of the Little Rock Central High School desgregation crisis in 1957. A recent reunion of former Gazette friends and colleagues reminded me that I memorialized the final hours of the Gazette with a short essay, written in 1991 after the close of the venerable newspaper.)
It felt like the last day of school. Everyone was dressed casually, more casually than they could have gotten away with under normal circumstances. No one was really working, only going through the motions, half-assing their usual assignments. Waiting.
The atmosphere was charged with an odd euphoria, like a controlled free-fall. Any second, our time here would be over, so it wouldn't matter how we behaved in this moment. We were waiting for an announcement that may or may not come that day, but it was an announcement we knew would come eventually. The Arkansas Gazette newspaper would close, and we would be summarily dismissed, marking the end of an era.
was cornered in the doctor's office by a woman who said her 'sweet' child suddenly turned into a 'monster' at age 16 and mine will, too. I seem to have this conversation a lot with people from outside my culture, especially when they see me with my 'well-behaved' daughter. Something about her behavior sets their teeth on edge, so I will address it.
To the woman in the doctor's office who claims her kid pulled a Jekyll & Hyde at age 16, I call bullshit. Madam, assuming there are no mental defects or other extenuating circumstances, I don't believe your child suddenly turned on you. Maybe your child was 'sweet' of his own accord when he was young, but I ask you, did you require that he be 'sweet?' Had you set any behavioral expectations, or were you just relying on his natural tendencies? Since you're cornering strangers like me in the doctor's office with tales of woe, I'm guessing you did the latter.
If you have ever been a new or expecting parent, you have probably experienced the temporary insanity that comes over people who are hearing the news for the first time. I'm talking about the psychosis that causes people to say odd and offensive things about you and your child. They may call into question the child's parentage: "That baby doesn't look anything like you. Are you sure it's yours?" Or they act as if babies come with exchange policies: "You had another girl. Didn't you want a boy?" Or they are downright rude: "A baby? Can you afford that?"
Adoptive parents are not immune to this syndrome. When my husband and I announced that we were adopting a child, reactions varied from sheer disbelief --"Stop kidding around; you know you don't want children." -- to the incredible --"You're adopting? Can't you get one of your sisters to have a baby for you?"
I've been watching a few television shows lately and I'm noticing a disturbing trend in which kids roll their eyes and zap their parents with caustic one-liners. Seriously! If my daughter did that... well let's just say I frequently remind her not to try that a home.
I'd like to see someone write a TV sitcom with a character like my mother. She came from a tradition where mouthy kids were met with swift retribution, where speaking to your mother like she's a junkyard dog was, frankly, not worth your professionally straightened teeth. My mother wasn't interested in being her child's friend. She didn't care whether you "liked" her or not. She only required that you respect her.
The number of times a day I am required to put my hands in shit is staggering.
We have a toddler and a cat. The toddler thinks the cat is a dog. The cat thinks the toddler is a monster. They are afraid of each other. Neither is potty trained.
A diaper change is like a surgical procedure involving precise preparation. Remove the subject's shoes, street clothes, and anything that might possibly get contaminated. All items needed for the procedure must be lined up in easy reach. A fair amount of hand scrubbing will be involved.
"Is that your daughter?"
I get this question all the time: On walks through town, at the grocery store, standing on the street.
"Is that your daughter?"
On a scale of annoyances, it's up there with, "Are you her real mother?" and dragging fingernails across a chalkboard.
The first time I got hit with this question, I was actually asked, "Is that your granddaughter?"
t's back to school time. That means it's time to stock up on school supplies. No, not pencils and crayons, although you'll need those, too. I mean the unofficial list of items needed for special theme days. Theme Days, like Farm Day, Arkansas Day, and Halloween are designed to make learning fun and interactive. Unfortunately, they put the bulk of the work on the grownups, and all the students have to do is dress up and show up. There's not an official school schedule that tells you which theme days are coming or what you as a parent will be required to contribute. (A cake? Money? Blood?) You'll have to rely on other parents for this information, or just wait for the official announcement that comes a few days before the event. Depending on the event, that might not be enough time to prepare, so this year, I'm preparing in advance with the following items.
Hal Hutchison, M.Ed.
Hal Wofford Hutchison, M.Ed., is a former columnist, writer and editor for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette newspapers. She has also been a secondary educator, and a university counselor and administrator. She lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her husband of 23 years and their daughter.