A very special Christmas

(scene opens in quiet Christmas dinning room, Carrot at table, opening some forgotten mail)

Me: (opens letter, reads frowns)

(Beta enters from kitchen)

Me: Beta? Are you familiar with the concept of the ‘Parent’s Curse’?

Beta: Is that where they swear at you really loud?

Me: No. Its when a kid’s parent looks at them dead in the eye and says “I hope you have one just like you.” so the kid will one day experience the hell you’re putting them through.

Beta: And?

(Carrot passes letter over)

Beta: (reads aloud) Based on test scores, we recommend you take the following classes next year…. (looks up) AP English Literature?

Me: AP. Advanced placement. Based on your scores, you apparently rate for college classes.

Beta: But isn’t English the class I’m getting a D in?

Me: (throws up hands) AND THE CURSE HAS BEEN FULFILLED!

Beta: You got Ds in English?

Me: Math. I did pretty good in English, but was never invited to the AP club. My grades and scores were so mismatched that I was accused of cheating on my SATs. I’m a designated “Does Not Live up to Potential”.

Beta: Merry Christmas, mom.

Me: Merry Christmas, sweetie.

Experiential Wisdom

(scene opens in Christmas mall, Carrot wandering between Alpha and Gamma)

Me: This was the mall that I used to hang out at as a kid.

(Alpha and Gamma side eye Carrot)

Me: When I was your age (pokes Alpha) our parents would drop us off at a particular door, tells us to be back there at a certain hour, and just leave us here with our friends to wander, hang out, and shop. It was like teenage day care.

Gamma: (excitedly) Did you ever buy anything?

Me: (snorts) With what money? No, it was mostly hanging out. At Christmas, before internet, you’d make lists of things you wanted and shared them with the family. Then the whole family would go to the mall, you’d get your list, and then separate to go buy things for everyone.

Alpha: (confused) Why don’t we do that?

Me: What kid had enough money to buy everyone presents? Presents that were “good enough”? It used to make your Auntie K and I so anxious with the pressure of getting the “right thing”. I never wanted that for you, that expectation that you have to buy people gifts just because. So I never pressed you guys to buy gifts for one another. I want you guys to grow up giving gifts because you like the person and want to do something nice. Something special. The holidays are stressful enough as is. And you kinda need a source of income before you can do that anyway.

Gamma: Can we hang out at the mall anyway? (shock and awe) Did you see the food court?!

Alpha: (skeptical) What’s fun about hanging out at a shopping place?

Me: (sighs) It was a different time.

Alpha: Your childhood was wierd.

Life Advice, Not Beer Commercial

(scene opens in frosty min-van)

Gamma: Mom, what’s 6th grade like?

Me: Oh. Well, my 6th grade was part of the Jr. High building and so we’d swap classrooms with 7th and 8th graders for different classes. Like for science or math…

Gamma: (interrupting) No, I mean the social part. Like popular kids and stuff.

Me: I hate to break it to you, but I wasn’t a popular kid.

Gamma: That much was obvious.

Me: Ouch, that hurts. (thinks) Okay, well, what’s the point of being popular?

Gamma: To have a lot of friends.

Me: Fair. But sometimes people are friends with you only because you’re popular. By whatever metric they’re using to scale that. If you stop being popular, they’ll find someone else to be friends with.

Gamma: Oh.

Me: In 7th grade, I realized I would never be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the tallest, strongest, fastest, most talented at anything. There would always be someone who was any or all of those things better than me. So I decided then and there to be the most interesting. If I was the most interesting person in the room, people would want to hang out with me. So. Read a lot of books. Listen to a lot of music –

Gamma: (interrupts) Got that covered.

Me: Learn a wide variety of strange and random skills that serve no real purpose save that you want to learn how to do it. Constantly make people amazed at your unexpected know-how on something. Trust me, it is way more fun to be interesting than it is to be popular. Popularity is fleeting. Interesting is forever.

(mini van pulls into drop off)

Me: Okay kids! (starts to sing) Have the best day ever!

Gamma: Please don’t.

What Are You Even

(scene opens in dim foyar)

Gamma: (skipping downstairs) Mom! I lost a tooth!

Me: (frazzled) Well, give it to me so I can put it in the Tooth Fairy Box.

Gamma: (stops, startled) I don’t know where it is.

Me: What do you mean? Go back upstairs and get it.

Gamma: I woke up without it.

Me: You lost it in your sleep?

Gamma: Yeah, I think I swallowed it.

Me: Seriously. (suspicious) Did you go to bed with the tooth and wake up without it?

Gamma: (confused) No, I didn’t have it before bed last night. Maybe it’s down here.

Me: (headache starts) So, you wiggled it and it fell out last night before you went to bed. Do you remember where you were when it fell out?

Gamma: I might have been at school.

Me: Why do you only loose teeth at school? Did you drop it? Did you leave it in your desk?

Gamma: (vacantly) I don’t know. I think it just fell out.

Me: (flatly) It just fell out. It fell out of your mouth without you noticing.

Gamma: Maybe?

Me: Or was there suddenly this weird thing in your mouth and you just swallowed it?

Gamma: (disinterested) I might have done that.

Carrot’s Inner Voice: Child, I am seriously starting to doubt your intellectual capacity.

Me: (out loud) Well, I can’t help you then. Get your shoes on and let’s get to school.

Gamma: (recovered) I can just write a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining.

Me: You write a lot of notes to the Tooth Fairy.

The Old Tongue

(scene opens in mini van, sound of something rolling around)

Gamma: (in hypersensitive) What is that noise?!

Me: (focusing on road) Check the ash tray.

Gamma: (pause) Ash tray?

Me: (opens recessed drawer, reveals car adapter)

Gamma: Oh, its a stylus for the touch screen! (picks it up and touches end to screen)

Me: No, it’s a car charger. You plug it into the cigarette lighter and it charges your electronics.

Gamma: (longer pause) Cigarette lighter?

Me: Damnit. Okay – back when everyone and their mother used to smoke, there was this thing in the car that you would push in to turn on and it would heat up and then you could touch it to the end of your cigarette to light it. Now they use them as car outlets because it’s just an electrical contact point inside.

Gamma: (side eye) Oh. Okay. That was weird.

Me: The more I have to explain it to you, the weirder my childhood gets.

0/10 Not Recommend

(scene opens in detritus laden dinning room, Carrot sorting through a school year’s worth of papers)

Me: Gamma? Can you come here and fill out your memory book for the school year?

Gamma: (slinks to the table, picks up pen) No field trips. No cafeteria. No classrooms. No playground. Guess I’m done.

Me: Wait! Get back here! (dumps twenty half used notebooks in recycling) What’s on the next page?

Gamma: (looks at choices) Goals for next year.

(camera close up on scribble reading “See people”)

Gamma: Am I done?

Me: Go ahead. (sighs, picks up Delta’s book as Gamma flees stage left) Delta? What was your favorite game?

Delta: Nothing.

Me: On the playground?

Delta: Nothing

Me: Favorite story?

Delta: Nothing.

Me: Favorite color? Favorite teacher? Names of your friends?

Delta: Black. None. I don’t have any.

Me: Damn, kid. Do you like anything?

Delta: I like XBox.

Me: (writes that down) The parenting books did not have a chapter on this.

Bard From Another Timeline

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Alpha: (stares angrily into space)

Me: (notices this, takes off headphones) What can I help you with?

Alpha: (frustrated) I’m supposed to read these short stories and write something about culture and how it defines us. You can’t help me.

Me: (sips coffee) Tell me about one of the stories. Maybe I can help you break down some thoughts.

Alpha: You can’t!

Me: Try me.

Alpha: Well, one is about this girl who’s embarrassed to stand in front of a 14 year old man and her dad burps when he eats fish. See? You can’t help me.

Me: (sips more coffee) By any chance is the 14 yr old boy the son of the pastor? A boy she has a crush on? When they come over for dinner, she’s totally embarrassed by the way her Chinese family is eating, and about dies when her dad offers her fish cheeks as the best part of the meal?

Alpha: (stares)

Me: So, yeah, that story is called “Fish Cheeks” and I read it when I was in school. A hundred years ago.

Alpha: (stares louder)

Me: (slurps coffee) Wanna tell me about the other two?

Alpha: (pouts, gets up, collects headphones) I’m going to join the Zoom classroom and ask questions.

Devil’s Details

(scene opens at breakfast table)

Me: (wearily drinking coffee)
Beta: (off screen, sounds of animal outrage)
Me: (sighs) Beta. Slither hither, please.
Beta: (stalks into the room, hunched in pouty outrage)
Me: What’s going….
Beta: (interrupts, begins a twenty minute rant of the evils of little sisters, exceptionally and unnecessarily detailed, beginning with unimportant side stories of happenings that started a week ago)
Me: And then she threw rock, you threw paper.
Beta: …wut?
Me: (sighs, puts down coffee) Hey Beta, did you have any homework you needed to finish?
Beta: (pauses uncertainly) I think so? Maybe? I don’t remember.
Me: (voice hardens) Don’t you think its a little odd that you can accurately detail every single supposed crime of Gamma – down to the expression on her face – and the immense torture you’ve been under the entire time, but you can’t remember if you did your homework last night?
Beta: (starts to crumble, sheepish grin) Uh…
Me: Get out. You’re not allowed to talk for the next 20 minutes.

Out of Control Thursday

Found myself re-enacting childhood scenarios of making the children quail in table-flipping house cleaning because the mess was a clear indication that we had fallen into barbarism and they were going to grow up living like hoarders thus I had failed them as a parent. All before school. Need to get my Early Childhood Programing in check before I set fire to the bedrooms. If exterior applications of order are meant to quell inner chaos, the problem is within. Coffee first. Then loud music. Then dish washing. The rest will follow.