A large part of parenting involves saying very sweet things about your kid: the unconditional love, the perfect-just-the-way-you-are song and dance, the absolute and unfaltering acceptance of your bundle of joy from the word ‘push’. Your first lesson as mother is to love whatever you get. Big or small, pleasant or colicky, gorgeous or otherwise fugly, you will treasure that little him or her for eternity. If this adoration is displayed in huge proportions and with enough regularity, you will also prove to the masses your success in the role of dedicated parent.
About two weeks after my son’s grand entrance, I felt I’d mastered the art of I’ll-Eat-You-Up-I-Love-You-So. Always the avid student in search for the next big lesson, I forged ahead in parenting as I had breezed through textbook chapters years before. We would waste little time, I informed the squishy baby, and he’d be ready for the world before the neighbor’s kids had so much as learned to control their poop shoots.
We started simple enough, a supermarket outing serving as a field-trip class on How To Woo People. I took a few moments walking the infant through the process of being desirable. I batted eyelashes, flipped hair, and unveiled a coy smile beneath finely lip balm-ed lips before turning to my prodigy and announcing a pop quiz. Show me what you’ve learned today, I challenged the boy. He sat still and wide-eyed in the carrier. A little drool flooded his chin. Before I could properly shame him with a “You fail. You fail HARD“, swarms of elderly shoppers, stay-at-home mothers, and deli workers flocked to cart’s side. Their faces lit up as they delicately touched his perfect hands, his slobbery face. “Whatever,” I told him, “Teachers never like a too-smart student”. But I did like him. It was a lesson I’d already learned, and now I looked about to see his effect outside of me. The world was smitten.
Since then, I’ve formulated curriculum for the wee one based around the principle of not letting him look smarter than me. He learned to watch reality TV like a champ. He showed appropriate disgust when programs like “Kate Plus 8” came on. I taught him of worldly things like french fries. The written word was easy. A few weeks of acting out the plot line to The Very Poky Puppy and he seemed to get it. He was all, “Children’s literature? Bleh. So childish“. Nearing his second birthday, the young son has cruised through Pampers Cruisers and prerequisites without breaking a sweat. And as any good teacher knows, a talented pupil demands a constant challenge. It was time to up the ante on these little life courses if he was to speak four languages fluently while practicing law, medicine, Eastern religions, and ribbon dancing before the age of four.
Battery-powered scooter purchased, we took to the open road to teach my toddler how to drive. Potty training seemed like it could messy and maneuvering a vehicle is so easy just about anyone can do it.
BASIC THEORY OF OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE PRIOR TO BIOLOGICALLY DEVELOPED MOTOR SKILLS
1. Pay attention: Looking in the direction in which you are moving is typically helpful. Ask my mailbox. She knows.
2. Passive Aggressive is for lovers. Aggressive Aggressive is for glocks. Because I made you, son, I already know what fiery fury a road of dumb drivers will fill you with. You will curse. You will wave a sassy neck while angrily snapping and repeating threats you picked up from watching too many episodes of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. I encourage you to seek comfort in the squishy mass of a stress ball. Let your anger spill from fingernails into plush sand balloon while keeping a mild-mannered face. Mom went to college in Memphis, drove furiously furious down city streets, and only learned the benefits to hiding one’s emotions after a tense encounter with a hairy woman sporting a head of curlers and what appeared to be a death-inducing weapon.
3. If at first you are pulled over, cry cry again. Perhaps I wrecked your grandmother’s new car into a stranger’s newer car because I was chatting with my high school boyfriend about what’s hotter, golden tan or crispy tan. Perhaps I sat atop a classmates lap in the driver’s seat of a sedan and drove eight, sloppy-drunk classmates to their respective homes. Maybe during that “perhaps” I missed the memo about wearing a seat belt or packing teenagers into a car like vodka-soaked sardines or the necessity of having a driver’s license. Then there was that concrete pillar that sneaked up on me, the dog that had no business walking on the grass right next to the road, and that time I stopped to pat myself on the back for managing to fix my hair, makeup, and pantyhose during a frantic drive to work only to spot a few maimed bushes, buildings, and pedestrians in the rear view mirror. Regardless of the laws broken, there is a standard method to schmoozing law enforcement. Cry. Cry a lot, and then more. Keep crying. Extra points awarded if your crying can unravel into a chronic hiccup, a snotty chaos in which the police officers can’t remember if they arrived in order to arrest you or call an ambulance.
4. Try not to hit things. Wait. Correction. Try not to hit most things.
5. Avoid Curbs: Like little bowling alley bumpers… that will rip a rim of a Range Rover.
Midway through my tutorial on proper stereo volume and the correct bass-to-bloody-eardrum ratio, my son grew flustered with the lecture. In his tearful pouting I remembered that for all his talents, his wooing skills and tests passed day in and day out, he is a toddler. He flipped the red plaything into a ditch, stood up and decided it was a better day for laying in the grass and staring at trees. I realized that the smallest student was tugging on my shirt, instructing me. Through scraped knees and sing-along scooters, he’ll teach me how to be a teacher.