When my brother and I were younger, we were rarely grounded. Not because we were angels, since we weren’t anything of the kind if smearing feces on our cribs and walls in unison was any indication of future development, but because my mother was smart enough to realize that if she grounded us, that meant we couldn’t go anywhere and we’d be stuck in the house 24/7. The same house in which she lived. Until the grounding period expired or we killed each other, whichever came first.
So, instead of grounding, my mother opted to become a screamer and much like anything she sets her mind to, she excelled at it. Screaming loud enough to cause tsunamis in Lake Ontario was her forté. Ask anyone in our neighborhood. Or even New York State. Hell, ask anyone who attended the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They could probably still hear the echo.
Accompanying the screaming was the eyebrow arch. That woman can raise her eyebrow so high, you can drive your Durango under it while doing a wheelie.
And then there was the gritted teeth with the underbite. When my mother was pissed, she would grind her teeth so fiercely that Tino and I would have to duck the small shards of enamel that would come shooting out of her mouth, all without turning our backs on her for fear our asses would be left vulnerable to being chewed out, one fleshy chunk at a time, by her newly sharpened canines and incisors.
So for the most part, we behaved. We were too scared not to.
As with so many of her other talents like sewing, gardening, cooking and affectation accompanied by trilling “R”s in certain words, I did not inherit all of my mother’s aptitude when it came to discipline. I am genetically incapable of arching either one of my eyebrows without my youngest interrupting me to ask if I’m having a seizure. And I cannot simulate an underbite without looking like a strung out Lhasa Apso and causing my TMJ to wig out and punch my teeth in.
I can, however, scream. Maybe not to my mother’s decibel level but enough so that the vocal chords straining out of my neck are probably on Google Earth somewhere while simultaneously causing the International Space Station to have a perpetual case of tinnitus.
However, I hate screaming. It always results in a mammoth headache and my throat feeling as if someone poured battery acid down it with a firecracker chaser. And it doesn’t work. Oh, sure … the force of it can make the skin on my kids’ faces wrap around their heads twice like some kind of weird flesh-colored chrysalis but that only lasts for a minute or so, until I take a breath. Then, my screams go in one ear, bounce around the skull for awhile and exit via the other out of sheer boredom. My kids have learned to wait until my lungs collapse at which time they emerge from their cocoons, spread their wings and fly about their merry way.
So in addition to screaming, because giving that up would be akin to giving up natural instinct altogether, I resort to grounding. I find my kids’ “currency” and garnish their wages. Fortunately for me, the currency at the moment is the same for both of them, specifically time on the computer and time with friends. This makes it very convenient and saves me the hassle of being creative with respect to individual consequences. A good thing because when the blood is gushing around my head and my eyes are protruding three feet out of their sockets, I don’t feel much like being creative. Once my lungs have reinflated, I yank the entire bag of loot away from them both quicker than you can say Bob’s Your Uncle even though I have no idea why anyone would say Bob’s Your Uncle. What if your parents had no siblings? What then?
Anyway, this is just what I did this past weekend, sans the whole Bob bit, after Nate and I discovered Erin Brokovich snooping around the girls’ bathroom. Both Zoe and Helena know that their bathroom is to be kept clean on a daily basis and is subject to spot inspections. The tile doesn’t have to glisten nor do the towels have to folded with straight edges, although a girl can dream. I simply want the counter to stop being collateral damage in toothpaste wars. Speaking of toothpaste, I want to see more of it in the tube than in the sink. I want to see my reflection in the mirror without having to use an ice scraper. I don’t want to see tampon and pad wrappers strewn about like confetti. I don’t want to see wet towels moving on the floor and find myself actually hoping there’s a rodent under them. I don’t want to look behind the shower curtain and choke on the lump of hair I just inhaled while shrieking OH MY GOD, THERE’S A MUSKRAT LIVING IN THE TUB.
And I certainly don’t want to remind the girls of these things, only to be met with rolling eyes and attitude that manifests itself in that weird chicken neck thing that kids and hip hop dancers and ancient Egyptians alike do so well.
So the girls were grounded for two days this past weekend and since being thrown out of the house and living in the snowbank at the end of the driveway was not part of the deal but only because it was subzero windchill and I was already dangerously close to being accused of child abuse by cutting them off of Facebook and Yahoo Messenger in the first place, I got to spend 48 hours of sheer bliss inside the house with them. And by sheer bliss, I’m being totally sarcastic but sarcasm doesn’t translate very well via the Internet so to be clear, IT WAS A 48 HOUR SUCKFEST minus the two hours Nate and I took to go on a dinner date because we suddenly found ourselves with a fifteen year old who had nothing better to do on a Saturday night than watch her nine year old sister.
We wound up having a very nice dinner, with the exception of my Asian salad which tasted like I imagine sweaty foot diarrhea would taste if sweaty feet actually had bowel movements. More importantly, it was two hours that didn’t consist of glares loaded with YOU ARE RUINING MY LIFE AND YOU DON’T EVEN CARE and to be honest, it’s going to be a challenge not to ground both girls every Saturday night from now on in for … oh, I don’t know … breathing too loud.
If you have kids, what’s their currency? Are they bankrupt more often than not?
Are you a screamer in dire need of a larynx transplant?
Sometimes, I wonder if the only legacy I’ll leave this world is my own echo.