Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Anyone who has raised children knows that there is no way to do so while retaining one's dignity. Just consider the kinds of ailments children always manage to suffer from. For example, there are pinworms. There is no way you can retain your pride when your children have pinworms. It's impossible. Just hang your head in shame and admit you are a terrible parent and have it over with!

Once, years ago, when it was discovered that one of my boys suffered from pinworms, it was not enough to dose him with curative substances. Oh, no. The entire family had to swallow huge tablespoons filled with a red, inedible substance. Getting this down the gullets of recalcitrant children was not easy. It may as well have been a dollop of Jim Jones' KoolAid, what with all of the wailing and complaints. But, we survived it, and the lesson I learned is this. You cannot be dignified around children.

One of my boys, two years old, stuffed a bean up his nose. The bean, as beans are wont to do, swelled into magnificent proportions and lodged itself in his nasal canal. It took a doctor with forceps and a uncooperative patient to get it out.

His next foray into the question of just what fits nicely up a nostril involved a peanut, just a few days after the first incident. This time, the doctor was amused, and removed the peanut without comment.

However, he was not so polite when I appeared a scant week later with a child sporting an aspirin up his nose. He had a few choice words about my parenting skills and the discipline my son deserved. This was my second lesson in loss of face while childrearing. If I had been Oriental, I'd have done away with myself.

Another strange habit children can have is swallowing objects. If they can't toss it or poke it into a light socket, they swallow it. My grandson, Shannon, swallowed a nickel one time and it took heroic exploits by my husband to remove it from his throat. After tossing Shannon back and forth like a football in our panic, my husband ignored the Heimlich Maneuver and pounded Shannon on the back with the force of a balpeen hammer weilded by a lumberjack. The nickel flew across the room and frightened the cat into a hasty retreat under the couch.

Another choice humiliation children like to impose upon their parents is head lice. You can't include the fact that your child is riddled with head lice in the conversations taking place at a Club Luncheon. It will cause your sister members to studiously avoid you until lunch is over, moving their chairs a few feet away from yours. Your best bet is to quietly douse that child with every concoction available guaranteed to annihilate lice or grizzly bears. Even so, you are left with the "nits".

Nits are the reason we have the word "nitpicking" in our vocabulary. It is a meticulously painstaking chore as you try to rid a head of unruly hair of the tiny nits clinging to each strand. A nit here, a nit there, and there are still hundreds of nits to go. You are guaranteed to have Nit Nightmares that night. Parents have been known to suffer flashbacks for years afterward.

This loss of dignity always reminds me of life in Michigan as compared to life in the warmer Southwestern states. In the Southwest, people sign contracts with exterminating companies who visit regularly, wearing protective suits and looking like aliens from Mars, to protect their homes from cockroaches and other pesky creatures. It is a sign of affluence if you are able to afford this reliable monthly service.

In Michigan, and other Midwestern states, if your home is infested with any bug, it is considered a shameful thing. The exterminators arrive in dark, unmarked cars, sneak into the house with their equipment, and you have to warn the kids NOT to blabber to the neighbors about the bedbugs or the cockroaches.

But they will! You can count on it! If there is anything you consider embarrassing, they will spread it around like gossipmongers. For this is another ailment kids have....big mouths! If you are trying to impress an acquaintance, you can be assured that your kid will spout off...."Guess what? I've got inpetigo from my dirty hands!"....or..."Know what? Daddy found fleas in our carpeting!"

You see pictures of attractive, serene, parents surrounded by their scrubbed, well-dressed children. Those are actors or puppets, one or the other. Real parents are easy to spot. Mama always looks a bit frazzled and has a spaghetti stain on her blouse, and Dad is blusteringly sociable, while refusing to look anyone in the eye. Of course children are a blessing. They are blessedly troublesome and don't move out until they are nearing forty. Even then, they need supervision. In the meantime, they continue to strip you of dignity with their yucky ailments, which leaves you with no Pride.

My advice. Forget Pride. Buy Tide. You'll never retain the former, and you sure will need the latter.