Poisoning My Kids
This morning Sebastian was rambling about someone named Maria. "What's her name? Maria? Wait. Who's Maria? Is she the one who's a nun? Yeah. And she lives in that big house." And without a breath he breaks into, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"
I smiled to myself. We haven't watched The Sound of Music for quite a while and I wondered what triggered that nugget. He went on for a while, trying his best to remember the tune and when his memory ran dry, he shifted gears, "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no."
And what struck me as he warbled from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Amy Winehouse was how all parents poison their kids. Admit it. We do. With our likes and dislikes, the way we turn a phrase, the food we eat, our personal style, the television and movies we reference. (My white son does a spot on Miss Celie from The Color Purple.)
Amy Winehouse was Michael's introduction, although not The Sound of Music. Ever since Children of the Damned, Michael is wary of any movie with a passel of blond children. No, I was responsible for The Sound of Music. But only the fun parts in the first half of the film. After Captain Von Trapp marries Maria it gets heavy-handed for little ones. Hell, I'll admit it, it even gets heavy-handed for me. Julie Andrews is downright matronly. And I miss Baroness Schraeder and her bitchy remarks, "If I had only known, I would have brought my harmonica." So, I skip the parts about Nazi occupation, and instead the kids and I laugh as the children fall into the lake, sing with lonely goat herd marionettes, and giggle uncontrollably when Reverend Mother asks, "What is it you cunt face, Maria?" (Sebastian thinks her high falutin nun voice sounds funny, I appreciate the unintentional lowbrow humor of cunt face. It certainly makes Climb Every Mountain take on a different meaning.)
Recently, I have taken up the expletive, Jiminy Crickets (note the pluralization) to be used in place of the other popular JC. Just as easily, I could have chosen Julie Christie or Jimmy Connors or Jose Cuervo, but I get more bang for my buck debasing a Disney character. (Although, maybe I'm being shortsighted. Try this on for size: I just dropped an anvil on my big toe and Joan Collins it hurts like a Morgan Fairchild!) I can also be heard around the house shouting, "Dingdang it!" This of course replaces goddamnedmotherfuckinsonofabitch! However, both Jiminy Crickets and dingdang it are barely satisfying. I imagine it's like smoking Marlboro Reds for many years and then having to downgrade to a heavy filter. The kick in the pants is that both my kids have taken to exclaiming "Jiminy Crickets!" and "dingdang it!" when the situation warrants. Yep. Poisoned.
When Sebastian was three, he acquired a bad habit. He'd be pissed off about something and look at either Michael or I with furrowed brow and say, "You're a bitch." This confused us. We couldn't figure out where he heard that particular phrase. It wasn't us. We weren't going around the house saying, "You forgot to take out the trash, and by the way, you're a bitch." Now, if Sebastian was spouting, "Bitch, please!" we could have taken responsibility. But you're a bitch? We suffered through the typical parental rigmarole. We chastised. We ignored. But nothing stopped Sebastian from sounding like a broken parrot, "You're a bitch. You're a bitch. You're a bitch."
One day, I was picking Bash up from preschool, and in a stern tone, from across the playground, I heard one of his teachers reprimanding a student, "You're benched." Light bulb. You're benched. Evidently, parents are not the only ones who are poisoning our kids.
About six months later, Sebastian was at it again. In frustrated moments, he was partial to saying, "Fuck me." But this time we didn't freak out. We knew this came from us.
I can't believe no one told me how perversely pleased I would be when my kids would take on my isms. As long as Sebastian isn't cursing like a crack whore, it tickles me pink. And that's not to say they will cozy up to all of my stuff. As a kid, I did not want to sit in front of the TV and root for the Sooners with my dad. Nor did I care for my mother's peculiar snack of crumbled Saltines in skim milk. Consequently, I steer clear of both college football and soggy, salty snacks. But when Bash helps Maxie out of an anguished moment (and she's two, so those are often) by cooing, "It's okay, sweetheart," using my exact words and intonations, it sends me over the moon.
Last week, I took Maxie to the grocery store. The doors swoosh open and in the entrance, I don't know why, there were cases of soda stacked around a basketball hoop. I reacted as I usually do when confronted with things out of context, I ignored it, as if basketball set ups were commonplace at the neighborhood Ralph's. Maxie, with crystal clarity says, "Basketball." Now, I'll be honest, I could say we don't watch basketball at our house, but that would be a lie by omission. We don't watch ANY sports at our house, college football to synchronized swimming. Hell, I was fidgety during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.
So, how does my daughter know this random object, surrounded by Coca Cola products at the grocery store, has anything to do with basketball? I might not think this significant if she was labeling an actual basketball. But a regulation basketball hoop? We don't have one. Neither do our neighbors. Neither does her preschool. So, unless my daughter is sneaking out of her crib at nap time, and somehow getting to a playground for some one on one action without my knowing, there is no way she could cognitively know what a basketball is. But check this out, Maxie's birth mother was a basketball player. I'm not saying love of basketball runs in the DNA, but something instinctual is going on here.
With birth parent genetic makeup coursing through both of our kids, we don't get, "He has your eyes," "She has your laugh." So, when we're listening to the show tune station and Sebastian hears Tomorrow and asks, "What's that from?" not "What song is that?" I puff out my chest with great pride. Because that is our stamp. And in the whole nature/nurture mystery, it's thrilling to know we are leaving our indelible mark. Jackie Chan, I love poisoning my kids.