I’m so glad political season is over, if only because now I don’t have to worry about my kids loudly repeating something they’ve heard me or my wife say as we pass a neighbor’s political sign. It can get a little uncomfortable when they start insulting a giant campaign flag hanging off a pickup truck. They don’t know it, but I know the owner of that truck doesn’t have a sense of humor.
My kids don’t know how to whisper. The chances of them being heard increase with the level of impropriety of what they are saying. If it involves a bodily function, you are guaranteed sudden silence as the words are uttered. If it involves the bodily function of a parent, you can count on a hot microphone nearby.
In the age of COVID, it’s even worse. Because now they are saying things that can be wildly misconstrued. The other morning we had a dishwasher repairman in our kitchen. (Big mistake. I have a rule against repair men coming in my house, but I thought maybe it wasn’t what I thought it was and decided to save time. A $98 lesson in trusting my gut.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Repair man is looking at the washer, we’re all wearing masks after I took a three-question phone survey assuring the company that we didn’t have COVID-19. Then my daughter starts sneezing and coughing and says, “I don’t feel good. My tummy hurts.”
Normally, this is where I’d start having a painfully obvious conversation with her so that the repair man would overhear that she’s just having allergies. And when her “tummy hurts” it usually means, you know… a bodily function that she usually blurts out. At this point I just didn’t have the energy for the charade.
I know I said a few embarrassing things around my family when I was a kid. Once, at a church function in which my dad was getting introduced in his new job at a religious college, someone asked me what I wanted to drink. I was three years old, and I said, “I’m a white wine drinker,” repeating something from a mid-1970’s TV commercial. A few years later, I heard a family speaking Spanish in a grocery store. I left my older sister’s side and went over and joined them in making what I assumed were funny noises. What goes around, comes around, I guess.
The worst experience I’ve had with the inability to control the words of my children was the time when I was leaving the Grand Prix with my son, who was 5 years old at the time. He was exhausted from a day out in the sun, but more than that, he was really unhappy that we were leaving. When we reached our bicycle, which was locked up in front of a busy sidewalk restaurant, he said, “Our bike isn’t parked here.”
I said, “Yes it is. It’s right here.” And I began unlocking the bike.
“That’s not your bike, Dad,” he said with insistence.
I looked at the eyes of the diners nearby, who were immediately curious.
“Yes it is!” I responded, completely aware that he was more believable than me.
“Dad, that’s not our bike!” he complained.
Of course, now I turned beet red, like the bike thief I was. I quickly grabbed the bike (looking even more suspicious) and put him on the child’s seat while he loudly wondered why we were “taking this bike.”
I have no idea what prompted that brilliant method of parental embarrassment. I’m just glad he hasn’t tried a similar tactic other times he disagrees with what we’re doing. I’d be in jail.
Alas, with another presidential election behind us, I can relax a little. My wife and I always take our kids with us to vote. As we parked in front of the polling place this year, we saw the sea of flag- and sign-wavers. I reminded the kids, “No comments. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t say anything to ANYONE.” And they did it! Unfortunately, it was my wife who couldn’t make it back to the car without dropping some colorful words on a maskless flag holder.
At least we know they’re learning from us.
Jon Kile is a stay-at-home dad, writer and amateur homeschool teacher in St. Petersburg. He and his wife Monica, a nonprofit consultant and marathoner, have a habit of loading their two kids into their RV and disappearing down the backroads of America. After a series of major medical emergencies in 2016, he was diagnosed with a rare condition called Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, in which his fragile arteries are prone to spontaneous rupture. Jon has adjusted his lifestyle while finding inner peace and humor against the backdrop of raising two feral children. Together, they’ve determined to “live in the moment.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit dontmakemeturnthisvanaround.com.