There comes a point in every parent’s life when you realize that for however prim and proper you think you’ve raised your kids to be, there will still be times when they do obnoxiously vile things to amuse themselves. And the cat.
I had that moment – it was years ago – but I remember it vividly because it was the day I gave up on the notion that having girls meant I was going to be raising dainty little flowers. Oh yeah, and my daughters would die if they knew I was telling you this story.
It would be hard to exaggerate the amount of glee I felt when I had two baby girls. Ohhh, the lacy things, the bows in their hair, the cute little shoes… I couldn’t wait to swathe them in the girliest stuff I could find. If it had ruffles I bought it. If it was pink I bought it. And if I couldn’t find anything girly enough I sewed it. We had tea parties. We watched musicals together. I curled their hair. I was in – hook, line, and sinker – on the Disney princess model for raising feminine little darlings.
Along with this came my sage teachings about table manners, polite behavior, and, of course, how we never burp – or make other bodily noises – in public settings, or solely for the purpose of amusement. I was determined to have two perfect little ladies, but there was only one problem: they thought that idea was stupid.
My paper doll-festooned illusions about having created delicate creatures came crashing down one day when I was in the bathroom upstairs getting ready to go somewhere and one of my daughters – I won’t say which one – came running excitedly into the room with a story.
The girls, eight and ten at the time, had been downstairs playing – doing what, I didn’t know, but I could hear gales of laughter coming from below. They were being supervised by my very old, very imperial cat, Sherwood, who would lie on the arm of the couch and watch us with bored disinterest as we went to and fro in her kingdom.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!,” my daughter said breathlessly, “I was downstairs doing this crazy monkey walk across the family room and I was farting on each step…” She shows me her crouching monkey hop and my face is registering horror. “And Mom, I swear Sherwood looked and me and said, ‘Wowwww.’”
I stood there utterly speechless. I had two problems–one, my daughters thought this was really funny when it was actually completely disgusting, and two, they thought the cat approved. Actually I guess I had three problems, because they also seemed to think the cat could talk.
I thought through my battles at that point and realized I was outgunned against the bodily noises thing, because proper can’t beat funny. I could only pray my daughters had the good sense to never do such a thing in public. And I realized from my daughter’s wide-eyed face that I was never going to convince her that the cat couldn’t really talk. So I went for the only thing left, a last little stab at dignity. “No she didn’t,” I said matter-of-factly, “because Sherwood is not impressed by stuff like that.”
As an epilogue, years later, Sherwood is long gone and so are the ruffles. My daughters don’t wear much pink anymore either, but I gave up on those silly ideas long ago and let them choose for themselves. More importantly, they seem to have a firm grasp on what we do and don’t do in public, and I doubt there have been any monkey walks lately. But maybe it’s better if I don’t know.