Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Delenda est Carthago

Finally there are those impossibly silly question and comments a parent must contend with, such as" "How come none of your children look like you?"
This is usually addressed to a father while he is hunkered down wiping drool off his demonstratively living spit. If the questioner seemed honestly inane, my husband had the habit of answering cheerfully, "Yes, isn't it a blessing?" However, if he detected overtones of malice, he replied, with an air of convivial secrecy, "It's because they all have different mothers." [ This, I might add, was a more shocking concept then than it is today.]
My children tended to be born with about as much fuzz as a very worn teddy bear, which seemed to produce the observation "He doesn't have much hair does he?" - in tones that acidly implied that this was Not Normal and offered by someone pushing past with their own version of the Hairy Manmmoth in an umbrella stroller. That competitive jibe can be deflected by bright and guileless agreement. "No, and you don't know how much trouble it is, shaving his head every morning, either."
"Your baby will catch her death of cold."
This gem is accompanied by a disapproving glare. The temperature is over 80, and you, you silly woman, thought baby would be more comfortable in a shady hat and cotton playsuit, rather than a woolen carriage set, bonnet and bootees.
Tell them gently that baby has a peculiar medical problem: she gets sick if her body temperature is pushed above 98.6 degrees. They already think you're an idiot anyway.
"How come your baby has blue eyes?"
Asked only if your eyes are green and you're husband's brown. Believe me, they check these things. I have been known to snap, "Because they don't come in plaid." No use mentioning blue-eyed grandpa and recessives. This sort have their genetic theories mixed up and are fifty years behind the times. Of course, they may be just plain stupid.
"Doesn't your baby have any teeth?"
You have just discovered that that some people equate the presence of teeth with mental ability. Your baby is therefore retarded. Doesn't matter if the infant is only 4 weeks old. They will proceed to inform you, if they get the chance, of all their various brilliant relatives, cousins, nieces and nephews, and neighbours, who were born with a full set of teeth, naturally. Some may even have finished high school.
Don't let them get started. Give full smile, with teeth (after you unclench them) and say, "Oh yes, he does have teeth - but only when the moon is full."
And God help you if you must take a baby out in public bearing mild evidence of a reaction to orange juice or some other innocuous adjustment to new foods. Invariable someone will point out to you in a strident-the-great-plague-is-among-us- voice, "Your baby has a rash."
Gee, how about that, you never noticed. You can always suggest, "Naw, it's acne. She's a dwarf."
There are many people, bless them, who know how to pass a parent and child with such words or smiles that settle a golden nimbus around our often frazzled heads and put a crown on our babes' receeding brows.
And there are others who seem seized by an uncontrollable urge to be obnoxious, to reprove and correct, who feel divinely appointed to lay bare our perceived deficiencies as parents. At best they only steal a little brightness from the miracle; at worst they settle like ravens on a stoop, and you are fully justified, even obligated to tell them to "Keep your damned hands off my child."
Don't let the buggers grind you down.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...
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jason evans said...

Bernita, you really had me chuckling at this one! People are so uncouth.

Ric said...

Bernita, a cheerful way to start the morning. Some of those were just darling.
A friend was in public with his red haired baby. Someone asked where the red hair came from. Without missing a beat, he replied, "My wife and I don't have sex often. It's rust."

Bernita said...

Glad I made you laugh, Jason.
Wrote this years ago as a cartharsis. Don't think I sent it anywhere. It wouldn't have been well received in any event. Parents were expected to be more la-la docile and compliant then, and not acerbic.
Ric, that's priceless! Perfect! Please congratulate him. Obviously he belongs to my tribe.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Oh, Bernita that was great. You should have a daily column(oh, you do!) in like a newspaper or something. You could be the next Erma Bomerbock (I don't know if I spelled that right) You are a hoot!

ali said...

I think you'd get on well with my sociology teacher :). She has six children, and is frequently asked: are they all yours?

Mark Pettus said...

With my blonde wife and kids, and my dark hair and cow-brown eyes, I would love to have read this ten years ago.

Laugh out-loud funny, Bernita.

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