Monday, February 11, 2013

Downton Parenting

A scene played out between Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton on Downton Abbey last night, and the subject, parenting.


For those of you entirely out of the know, Smith (right) plays the Dowager Countess, a woman who doesn't mince words and sounds and acts as if she just walked off the stage of an Oscar Wilde play. Wilton's Cousin Isobel is less well-to-do, but equally steadfast in her beliefs. These two hens cluck and spar with each other every chance they get.

DOWAGER COUNTESS: One forgets about parenthood. The on-and-on-ness of it.

COUSIN ISOBEL: Were you a very involved mother with Robert and Rosamund?

DOWAGER COUNTESS: Does it surprise you?

COUSIN ISOBEL: A bit. I'd imagined them surrounded by nannies and governesses being starched and ironed to spend an hour with you after tea.

DOWAGER COUNTESS: Yes, but it was an hour every day.

COUSIN ISOBEL: I see, yes. How tiring.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Is That a Unicorn on Your Head or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

No Christmas after December 25th.

Isn't that the unspoken rule?

And anyone who doesn't throw away the tree, take down the lights, pack away the inflatable Frosty lawn decor should get fined lots and lots of money. I don't want to see any lingering holly or mistletoe, taste eggnog-flavored cappuccino, smell any roasted chestnuts or god awful peppermint scented candles, or watch the Laverne and Shirley rerun "Christmas Eve at the Booby Hatch" outside the month of December. What is with people who cover their house with Christmas lights, run up electric bill, deepen their carbon footprint and yet refuse to take them down in a timely manner? Or as my cousin-in-law, Greg, so eloquently put it, "Get your Flocking Xmas tree out of the house, it's February already." 

Three weeks ago, Sebastian had his regularly scheduled physical. He goes to Children's Hospital here in Los Angeles. And in this bastion of wellness there is, quite incongruously, a McDonald's on the ground floor for all of us parents to painfully negotiate every single time we have a doctor's appointment. There motto should be: Go to Children's Hospital to maintain health, leave with a Quarter Pounder

Sebastian gave me the pathetic look. "Please can I get a Happy Meal?" And before I could even think no he adds, "I never get what I want." 

Yeah, that's right kid. Your dad and I just shelled out a couple grand to give you a kick ass Christmas, but of course I can't throw that in your face because you think Santa and a gaggle of elves made that Kindle Fire especially for you!

Of course, I acquiesced to the Golden Arches, pleased as punch that my jockey-sized son is passionate about eating anything. I go in and order him his standard: a Happy Meal for a boy, chocolate milk, cheeseburger with cheese and ketchup only. You have to include the "with cheese" in the cheeseburger order, otherwise you will end up with the following inane conversation...

CUSTOMER: My son would like a plain cheeseburger with ketchup.

MICKEY D'S EMPLOYEE: Would you like cheese on that?

(Which seems like trick question or the beginning of a Becket play.)

CUSTOMER: Yes. That's why I said I wanted a cheeseburger.

MICKEY D'S EMPLOYEE: Well some people order a plain cheeseburger and don't want cheese on it.

I want to know who the fuck those people are. They go on my shit list along with those who think fruitcake can be served year round!

This conversation actually took place years ago at two different McDonald's!!, and at that time all I wanted to do was jump across the counter and choke the breath out of Becky or Jose or Quanisha or whoever my McDonald's server was at the time. But I have been worn down. These days I play right into their silliness and order "a plain cheeseburger with cheese" to insure that pasteurized mold is indeed part of my son's meal. But I digress...

Back at Children's Hospital, after ordering this particular plain cheeseburger with cheese (how many have their been?), I took a step back from the counter clutching a little paper number in my hand and it dawns on me that the peppy tune I'd been mindlessly humming is actually playing on their sound system...it's The Twelve Days of Christmas almost two weeks after New Years.

What the fuck?

And just as the final strains of "...and a partridge in a pear tree" were fading away, then started up "God rest ye merry gentlemen...". Which was followed by Hark are the Bells, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and that maudlin drummer boy. IT WAS McDONALD'S CHRISTMAS MIX...IN JANUARY!

That's it. Any and all aseasonal propaganda should be punishable by death. Like Voldemort, Christmas at this time of year is the holiday that should not be named. Never. Ever. Under any circumstances. Finale. Kaput...

...That's why it pains me to the core, with Valentine's Day around the corner, to have to share with you my yuletide mishap.

Maxwell is part of the school chorus, and starting in October she and her buddies rehearsed for the Christmas show. One of the requests from the music teacher was that each kid should wear a woolly sweater and a Santa hat. 

The sweater was easy, but I couldn't find the Santa hat I knew was somewhere in our house, and I really didn't want to buy a new one. Besides I saw an expensive Christmas ahead, Kindle Fires and American Girl dolls don't come cheap, so I cut corners anywhere I could, even if that corner was only $4.79. 

Besides, I couldn't imagine every parent would follow the costume directions. Certainly there must be those who are as lazy, as clueless and as cheap as I am.

The day of the show, Maxwell insisted on bringing her unicorn hat instead of showing up empty headed. I let her do so figuring that the powers that be would take one look at the knitted phallus and refuse to let her to wear it.

Well, wasn't I wrong. There she is in the center of it all, Santa hat-less, with what looks like an aroused walrus atop her head.


Next time I'll spring for the Santa hat.