"Oh, Now I get it"
by Janet Konttinen,
San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 1997
I remember seeing a kid in the grocery store with dirt and old food on
his face, wearing a filthy T-shirt, barefoot and eating a two-pound
candy bar. I couldn't imagine why his mother had brought him to the
store looking that way and why she would give him a candy bar at 10 in
the morning. That was before I had four kids. Now I know why.
His face was dirty because he was going through a phase in which
having his face wiped seemed worse to him than getting beaten. She
chose not to do either. His T-shirt was filthy becasuse it was his
favorite one. He wore it every day and every night. Just as they
were walking out the door to go to the store, he had pulled it out of
the clothes hamper and surpised her with it at the front door. By
then she didn't dare risk interrupting the momentum she'd built toward
the car by going back into the house to get a clean one. He had shoes
on when they left for the store, but he took them of in the car and
threw one out the window on the freeway. She was relieved it was the
left shoe, since he'd thrown a right one out the window the week
before. He was eating a big candy bar because she had promised him he
could pick out his own treat at the store if he didn't throw the cat
into the pool for a whole week. She was desperate because it was the
neighbor's cat and couldn't swim.
I used to think that my children would eat only fresh, organic fruits
and vegetables and free-range chicken. Now I look forward to our
semiweekly luncheon at McDonald's. I have acquired a genuine love for
secret sauce, and relish the fact that my kids can't do anything wrong
there. This includes drenching their french fries in ketchup, then
spitting their cola out on top of the fries, molding the whole mess
into a big ball, then throwing it at one another.
Before, when I would see a woman wheeling a kid around in a dirty
stroller, I'd ask myself, "Why did she give birth to that child if she
didn't plan to keep the stroller clean?" The other week at my annual
stroller washing party, I found ground cover growing in the storage
compartment of one of mine.
When I would see children throwing fits in public, I would wonder why
the parents didn't just tie the kids' arms and legs toegether and put
them in the trunk of the car until they had finished shopping. Now I
know it's because they left the rope at home.
When several children were screaming in an airplane, I'd wonder why
there wasn't a separate airplane, and a separate planet, for kids. I
know now that their parents wish the same thing and that they had to
take the kids to attend the family reunion at Aunt Lois' so they could
see Uncle George before he kicked the bucket.
The kids were crying because their parents wouldn't let them eat the
headset, stick their fingers in the ear of the lady in front of them,
or press the attendant call button for the 100th time. The parents
were preoccupied with trying to decide where to change the really
smelly diaper. Should they change it on the seat next to the couple
on their honeymoon, or on the floor in the back where five perky
flight attendants were playing bumper cars with those one-ton food
carts? Forget the bathroom. They were designed to hold one person
with short legs. The parents feared that the smell would cause a
panicky passenger to pull open the emergency exit in order to trigger
the release of the oxygen masks, and they'd all be sucked out of the
Now when I see a little girl wearing cowboy boots on the wrong feet,
a pink bathing suit on backward and Army helmet, I think "She IS
absolutely sure that her shoes are on the right feet, and she likes
the way the helmet looks with the swimsuit. And, no, she doesn't want
to wear a jacket because 'she likes to be cold'. She is happy."
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