Thoughts on understanding children. “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries…” by Erma Bombeck (June 2012)

Susan’s Thursday morning note June 28, 2012
Parenting and pessimism humor by Erma Bombeck
Good morning!  Perfect filler with a little coffee inside, flowers still at the part of their day where they are happy outside the window, living room already destroyed by the V5 young tornado that is now spinning on two feet around the living room, the day has begun!!  I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on many books the last few weeks, but finally picked one up that I can’t decide what to type for you, there is so much you’d laugh at!  If Life is a Bowl of Cherries – What am I Doing in the Pits? by Erma Bombeck.  There are so many funny sections.  I’ve narrowed it down to two!  Trying to understand children, and living life as an eternal pessimist when presented with a good week.  Here’s to a smile on this hot, oppressive week for you!!!  Susan

Understanding Children

I will never understand children.  I never pretended to.  I meet mothers all the time who make resolutions to themselves.  “I’m going to develop patience with my children and go out of my way to show them I am interested in them and what they do.  I am going to understand my children.”  These women wind up making rag rugs, using blunt scissors.  I firmly believe kids don’t want your understanding.  They want your trust, your compassion, your blinding love and your car keys, but you try to understand them and you’re in big trouble.  To me, they remain life’s greatest mysteries.
I have never understood, for example, how come a child can climb up on the roof, scale the TV antenna and rescue the cat…yet cannot walk down the hallway without grabbing both walls with his grubby hands for balance.
Or how come a child can eat yellow snow, kiss the dog on the lips, chew gum that he found in the ashtray, put his mouth over a muddy garden hose…and refuse to drink from a glass his brother has just used.
Why is it he can stand with one foot on first base while reaching out and plucking a baseball off the ground with the tips of his fingers..yet cannot pick up a piece of soap before it melts into the drain.  I’ve seen kids ride bicycles, run, play ball, set up a camp, swing, fight a war, swim and race for eight hours…yet have to be driven to the garbage can.  It puzzles me how a child can see a dairy bar three miles away, but cannot see a 4×6 rug that has scrunched up under his feet and has been dragged through two rooms.  Maybe you know why a child can reject a hot dog with mustard served on a soft bun at home, yet eat six of them two hours later at fifty cents each.
Did you ever wonder how you can trip over a kid’s shoes under the kitchen sink, in the bathroom, on the front porch, under the coffee table, in the sandbox, in the car, in the clothes hamper and on the washer…but can never find them when it is time to cut grass?
If child raising were to be summed up in one word, it’s frustration.  You think you’re on the inside track and you find you’re still in eh starting gate.  It’s not that you expect dividends on what you’re doing…only a few meager returns.  Okay, take the car incident.  My oldest took her car to the garage for repairs last week and used my car while hers was being fixed.  On the day her car came back she returned my car keys and said, “Hey Mom, you owe me three dollars for the gas I put in your car”…
I said to my husband one night, “I see our children as kites.  You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground.  You run with them until you’re both breathless…they crash…you add a longer tail…they hit the rooftop…you pluck them out of the spouting…you patch and comfort, adjust and teach.  You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly…Finally, they’re airborne, but they need more string and with each twist of the ball of twine, there is a sadness that goes with the joy because the kite becomes more distant and somehow you know it won’t be long before this beautiful creature will snap the lifeline binding you together and soar as it was meant to soar – free and alone.”
“That was beautiful,” said my husband.  “Are you finished?”  “I think so.  Why?”  “Because one of your kites just crashed into the garage door with his car…another is landing here with three surfboards with friends on them and the third is hung up at college and needs more string to come home for the holidays.”
Orthodox Worrier:
When you’re an orthodox worrier, some days are worse than others.  I pride myself on being able to handle traumas, natural disasters, deep depression, misfortune, hardship, discomfort, and readily adjust when they run out of extra crispy chicken at the carry-out.  But last week, you would not believe that even a professional pessimist could have survived what I went through.
It began on Monday when the kids filed into the kitchen completely dressed.  I stood there with my iron (the one with the fifty-foot cord) and asked, “Who wants something pressed before you go to school?”  No one moved!  My car with the new battery actually started.  I found a parking place in front of the supermarket, got a shopping cart with four wheels that all went in the same direction at the same time, and found a sale on something edible that I needed.  That night, on television, Angie Dickinson looked a little fat.  I cooked a dinner that no one had had for lunch.
All of that began to make me feel a little edgy, but I figured by the next day things would surely get back to normal.  They didn’t.  At the library, all four of the books I had written were checked out.  I took a bath and the phone didn’t ring.  I sewed up a skirt and with two inches left to do, the bobbin didn’t even run out of thread.  I went to bed thinking things had to get worse tomorrow…they couldn’t get any better.
On Wednesday, I ran for a bus and made it.  The dentist said I had no cavities.  The phone was ringing when I arrived home and even after I dropped my key a couple of times, I answered it and they were still on the line.  The Avon lady refused me service saying I didn’t need her as I already looked terrific.  My husband asked me what kind of a day I had and didn’t leave the room when I started to answer.
By Thursday, I was a basket case anticipating what was in store for me, but it didn’t happen.  My daughter told me my white socks looked good with wedgies.  The checkbook balanced.  No one snacked and ruined their dinners, and a film at the school, The History of Sulphur, was canceled. 
On Friday, I was sobbing into a dishtowel when my husband tried to comfort me, “I can’t help it,” I said, “things were never meant to go this well.  I’m worried.”
“Now, now,” he said patting my shoulder, things can’t go rotten all the time.  How could we appreciate the bad times if we don’t have a good day once in a while?”
“I know I’m going to get it,” I said.  “Do you know that yesterday I went into the boys’ room and their beds were made? (He frowned.) And that we got a note from the IRS apologizing for being late with our refund?  This isn’t like us,” I whined.  “The bad times I can handle.  It’s the good times that drive me crazy.  When is the other shoe going to drop?” 
We heard a car turn into the garage and make the sickening scrape of a fender when it meets an immovable wall.  We looked at each other and smiled.  Things are looking up.
I like to say, “Isn’t it fun to have fun?”  And, in this case, “Isn’t it fun to laugh?”  If you can get a copy of this book you’ll enjoy a lot of her short essays.  A serious one – when she as a daughter had to take on the roll of “mothering” her mother.  Another funny list of rules around the house (how-to’s) if she were to die.  What her family cannot seem to do without her (this list includes changing toilet paper roll, washing toothpaste off side of washbowl, etc.).   It’s so fun to laugh.  So rare to laugh where you humiliate yourself with the giggles and tears.  One of the rare pleasures of existing, don’t you think?  It’s so hot.  But, amidst the hot, oppressive days come the same little frogs that daily say hello, the butterflies that land on our children’s fingers, the freckles on their noses that are popping stronger because of suntans, the missing sandals, the ketchup bottle’s daily use, the sounds of splashes, watering cans, the sights of wilting flowers that perk up after our attention, the overdose of Diet Coke.  The smell of gasoline hanging in the air.  The little Killdeer’s trying to distract us from their nests running across yards each morning.  The tiny cupcakes with red, white, & blue frosting that make it into our carts.  Summer.  Details.  Life.  Oh, so fast the winds of time blow.  Details.  Will we notice them? 
Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday.  Thank you for your constant encouragement & for shopping in our store.  Have a great end of the week…little details.  Life.  Creation.  A glimpse to the heavens, a short drop to our knees, always knowing that the peace that passes the understanding of any around us is a gift to be granted with those movements.  Susan
Latin for this week:
laughter - risus
to laugh - ridere
to laugh at - Ride Risi Risum

Works Cited:
Bombeck, Erma.  If Life is a Bowl of Cheeries, What am I Doing in the Pits?  New York.  McGraw-Hill.  1978.