Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Corned Beef Knickers

"Well....you are."

Busted. My daughter just asked me if she could watch the Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham on Youtube. It's a cartoon of a book she can read from front to back - something that makes her and her parents (and wonderfully her teachers too) extremely proud of her. But one day last week when all was going absolutely mental - with kids desperate to perform violent acrobatics for their mother who'd just returned home from work at the kids bedtime - I'd stuck it on knowing it would keep her mellow and silent for just a second. Understandably she thinks it's cool. But I just asked her if she wanted to read a different book and she said no - she wanted to play Princess Bounce with me. I'm not in the mood (and have some cleaning to do) so I offered to sit and read quickly before getting the unseemly pile of laundry sorted upstairs. She fobbed off the first book suggestion of The Snail and The Whale so I tried to go safe with a Dr. Seuss book seeing as she can read most of them now. That twigged her desire to want to watch Green Eggs and Ham instead. So I made some silly offhand comment that it's silly to want to watch and listen to a book when you can read it. To which she replied, "Well....you are."

Which is sort of true. For large parts of the day when I'm "working" I'll have one headphone in. Often it's music and stand-up comedy, but lately it's been audiobooks. At the moment I'm flitting between a Penn Jillette book about atheism, and Stephen Fry's, The Liar. She knows this because I've told her that I'm listening to books, conferences and speeches and that sort of thing because - well - who else am I going to tell? Luckily for me though her being not yet five means her attention span is teenage-wank-fast so she's already decided to dress up a magnetic doll and color in a book about teeth so has forgotten about Dr. Seuss entirely. All of which reminded me of a New York Times opinion piece from last week about how e-books have led to a massive increase in the numbers of people reading and books being read - but with a large increase in independent bookstores closing. Which makes me feel guilty - I wanted to be a rare book weirdo about a decade ago. I even had some aspirations after getting my MA to get an archival job in Buffalo, NY at the Rare Book room in the Historical Society I was volunteering at. I still feel the embers of that burning desire to be around musty old texts all day long. Fast forward to now and I'm sorting out my families underpants whilst listening to Penn Jillette swearing with a finesse unrivaled by almost everyone.

Oddly this triggered another thing. I know it's pretty cool to do the, "kids of today don't even know what this is" meme thing online now. For example showing the photo of a pen and a cassette and asserting kids have no clue about the relationship. Of course when this popped up for my online group of friends someone quickly added, "Remember when people had pubic hair? It seems so long ago! Madness!!" But me - stood there with a pale-yellow pair of knickers in my hand - had the image of trying to open a corned beef can with one of those weird keys. I haven't seen these over here in the US - but they might still be used in the UK.


So I came downstairs and showed my daughter it and explained how it worked. Then I regaled her with fantastical stories about being able to buy mystery cans at the grocery store that had no label anymore. Then some tangent into buying broken biscuit/cookie pieces in bulk-buy bags for way less than if they were still whole. And boy was she impressed?! And by that I mean I instantly realized what a ridiculous thing to show a small child and expect them to be even remotely interested. More importantly - am I really this boring now? I'm sorting underpants, dreaming about corned beef keys and planning when to go buy dental floss as if I'm organizing a bank heist. More importantly than that too - why are my memories those of a 65 year old man?

I've heard countless stories from stay-at-home Moms about how boring it can get at home. I didn't understand that until I realized what a lot of them meant is that their kids are so freaking boring. Which is why so many of them develop some odd justification for why they don't have to play with them. I've read all sorts of supposedly empowering articles where moms say that it builds character and independence if you refuse to get down on the carpet and play - but the articles still include the main factor that the parent finds it mind-numbingly boring to play basic games, read the same books and pretend to be a pony/antelope/good parent. Luckily for me my kids aren't boring. Better than that - they seem to enjoy placating the endless stream of bollocks that I am prepared to spout at any given moment.

Which is why right now my daughter and I have combined all my morning boringness and are getting ready to play Princess Bounce and The Mysterious Key. We've grabbed her free car key that came in the mail. I've peeled the label off one can of pinto beans and hidden them in amongst her mothers underpants on the bed. Anything could happen.

As long as we don't find corned beef in her knickers I'll be happy.

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