Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Of Girls and Bobby Pins

I have three daughters. And so my life is filled with bobby pins. Bobby pins everywhere. Bobby pins lying on the floor. Bobby pins lying on the arm of the couch. Bobby pins lying on the kitchen counter. Bobby pins lying on the bookcase. Bobby pins lying in my shoes. 

So I would do what any parent would do; I asked my daughters to put away their booby pins when they pulled them from their hair. It seemed straight-forward enough. You take the bobby pins out of your hair and you put them wherever it is young girls keep bobby pins. A fancy bobby pin receptacle in the bathroom? I don’t know.

But for whatever reason – an inability to hear certain frequencies in my voice or an inability to use fine-tuned motor skills – they never picked them up. They never put them away.

It seemed I needed to up my game. The temptation was just to start picking them up and putting them away myself. But that would make me an enabler and we all know I’m no enabler*. For starters I’m too lazy. But also, I can’t teach them to pick after themselves if I do all the picking up after themselves.

No, what I did was I told girls that any bobby pins I found laying around I’d pick up and keep. If they wanted them back, they would have to buy them from me.

The reaction was predictably muted. I don’t think they believed me. Or, at the least, they figured it was one of those parental pronouncements that pop out in the heat of the moment and are just as quickly forgotten.

But this pronouncement would not be so quickly forgotten.  

That evening I grabbed a glass jar from the kitchen and started putting all the bobby pins I found laying around the house into the jar. And it was a lot. Like hundreds after just a few days. I kept it quiet and kept the jar relatively out of sight. It wasn’t long until my girls had seemingly forgotten about the whole thing. And I certainly wasn’t talking about it.

After a couple weeks the discovery of bobby pins around the house dropped off and the girls, it appeared, had started to run low on their bobby pin reserves. Yes, that's how many bobby pins they had: enough that I could collect countless pins for two solid weeks and the girls never noticed a drop-off. Finally, my oldest – and arguably the worst offender – asked if we could run to the store to buy a package of bobby pins. It seemed she was out.

This, dear readers, was the moment I had been waiting for.

I told her we didn’t need to go to the store, that we had plenty of bobby pins. I went to my room and grabbed the jar. I came back and told her she could buy as many as she needed.

She was not impressed. And I was wholly and completely pleased with myself. She huffed a little and went back to the bathroom, saying she still had enough bobby pins to do her hair that morning.
It was pretty satisfying. But the real win was I found no more bobby pins lying around the house. The scant few that remained in the girls’ possession where now being diligently put away and reverently cared for like the precious metal they were. The girls were picking up their bobby pins. 

And then it all came to a head a few weeks later.

My oldest is a busy high-schooler. She attends an early morning religion class before school each day, plays in the band, sings in the choir, runs in cross country and works most days after school. Throw in the occasional bout of teenage-girl friend-drama and sometimes life gets a little overwhelming.
It was on one of those mornings that she was running late, assignments were due, the day was packed and life seemed to be more than she could handle. And in the bathroom she couldn’t find any bobby pins.

She came and found me in the kitchen, holding a handful of her hard-earned money and said she needed bobby pins. She was near tears and told me she’d pay whatever it was, she just needed to get ready.

Yeah, that broke me. I went and got the jar of bobby pins and told her she could just keep it. I wasn’t going to make her pay. I saw a little of the stress lift and she finished getting ready**.

After that, the whole buy-back-your-bobby-pins program kind of went by the wayside. I didn’t really tease them about it anymore and the jar stays in the bathroom.

But here’s the thing, the jar stays in the bathroom because I don’t need it. The girls don’t leave their bobby pins out anymore. That’s right, in the end the plan worked because I’m a genius parent.

*I’m totally an enabler.

**I told you, I’m an enabler.

Friday, October 23, 2015

How do you mend a broken heart?

If we're going to get back into this a full year-and-a-half after my last entry, it's probably best we do it with an Elsa story.

The girl, who is now 9, has an obscene number of stuffed animals. And sure, we're definitely the ones to blame. It's not like she's sneaking out on Friday afternoons to score more Build-a-Bears at the mall. She has a supplier and it's us. 

Still, it's an impossible number of animals. Where some kids grow out or move past and even use up their stuffed animal collection, Elsa has preserved, curated and guarded her menagerie with the fastidiousness of a 73-year-old Beanie Babies collector. 

And for this, more than any reason, we knew it was time to take action. Over the last couple weeks, the two nets we have strung across the corner of her bedroom both ripped out of the wall sending the billion or so stuffed animals that resided there tumbling to the floor where they completely buried Elsa's laundry hamper. 

Becky and I talked it over and decided five animals could stay in her bedroom and the rest we'd transition downstairs to the basement storage room. It's a Becky signature move, one she's used on every member of the family. Remove clutter from sight and when it's not noticed and then forgotten about, throw it away. 

It was the perfect plan for the stuffed animals. Outta sight, outta mind. And then gone for good. 

I made sure to prepare Elsa for it. When she got home from school earlier this week we talked about all the stuffed animals and how they needed a better place. We then moved to talking about picking her favorites and keeping those really fun ones on her bed and taking the rest downstairs and out of the way. 

She threw no fits at the plan. She seemed to take it more like I was asking her clean her room. It was all quiet resignation and moderate annoyance. So after snacks and homework, I sent her off to her room with a big box to move her collection through. 

And that was it. For 30 or 45 minutes she stayed in her room going through all her stuffed animals. In fact, she was so on-task, I'd almost forgotten she was out there working on it. That's when I heard quiet sniffles from the kitchen. 

Elsa was done with the dirty business I had tasked her with and had quietly -- and slowly, with the most downcast, hangdog expression -- left her room and wandered back to where we were. I looked at her and my heart broke. She was clearly devastated. I hugged her and we talked about her feelings. 

Turns out, she had been sobbing the entire time. Sobbing as she picked up animals and placed them on the bed. Sobbing as she picked up animals and placed them in the box. Sobbing as she sat and contemplated which animals would stay and which would leave her room forever, merging with the infinite. 

So I explained to her the animals we were taking downstairs weren't going for good. They would just be downstairs and she could go see them and play with them anytime she wanted. But she's 9. And smart. 

"But when we move them downstairs," she said, tears still dripping down her face, "we forget about them."

Yeah, I know. Brutal.

But I wanted to hold strong. Like when we weened her from her blanket. Steadfast and immovable. So I stuck to the five-animal rule and told her that pretty soon she would get along just fine.

When I began telling the tale to Becky later that night, she looked at me asked, "Obviously, you let her keep her stuffed animals?"

Was it that obvious? Maybe it was. So Elsa and I sat down the next day and I told her that her mom was pretty sure she needed to keep a few more stuffed animals in her room, that only the ugly and mean ones had to go downstairs.

And that's how Build-a-Bear Twilight Sparkle came to live in the storage closet in our basement.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Of entertainments and infuriations

The girls and I were watching "Aladdin" yesterday and when the movie finished and I went to turn it off, Elsa -- who, I will remind you, is now almost 8 -- let loose with this unholy wail, screaming about how it was not time to turn off the television.

The clear reaction to this -- the only reaction if we're being honest -- was to laugh. It was so absurd and so out of the blue. And so we all started to laugh. Really hard. Which only made Elsa angrier, leading to more yelling. Which in turn made us laugh even harder. Seriously, I hadn't laughed that hard in days.

Elsa is easily our most challenging child, but by the same token, she's also our most entertaining. Well, most entertaining in the sense that her behavior is often unexpected, over the top and overtly dramatic. Claire and Leigh are certainly just as entertaining. But not in that same unexpected way:

Yes, that's Elsa, who wandered into the display window at The Gap earlier this year and struck a pose while Becky was with the cashier. What I love about this incident SO MUCH is that Elsa did it to entertain just herself. Because she's 7. And the world clearly revolves around just her. The actual photo was snapped by some lady walking by. Who was accidentally entertained by Elsa's self-pleasing stunt.

As we shift gears in the family with work schedules and at-home parenting, I'm hoping Elsa never grows out of this. It's such an endearing and entertaining (and yet infuriating) stage of life. So at the same time I'm totally hoping Elsa grows out of this. We want her to be a productive member of society and grow up to be a self-reliant adult.

Luckily (and do I feel some guilt here? Yes, yes I do), Becky's done most of the heavy lifting already. I've just got to reinforce it and not undo all of her work. And that goes for the other two girls as well. When I was home with them yesterday, I noticed just how well they've been trained to be productive and stay focused. It's like Becky knows what she's doing.

Which begs the question, do I know what I'm doing? I wonder sometimes. I'm sure Becky wonders sometimes. Luckily, she's promised to make herself available for consults and training, should I ever get stuck.

It's nice to have an expert you can call in.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We're back!

After her three-martini lunch, Barbie found herself half-naked on the roof.

At least, that's kinda what the girls claim happen. In reality, they're claiming ignorance -- but that only goes so far. Because somehow a naked Barbie doll is still sitting on the roof and she didn't climb up there. Or maybe she did. Maybe that's the part from "Toy Story" they didn't show.

Becky saw her sitting up there last week. And was obviously caught off guard. Leigh and Elsa have been playing dolls most of September and October with Ari, our next-door neighbor. Near as we can tell, at some point during their play, Barbie took a flying leap to the Barbie Great Beyond. We all blame Elsa.

What's really funny is that the doll is still up there. No one's put forth the effort to go get her, 'cause, really, what's the point? She seems happy enough.

Becky's birthday was Tuesday, which means I'm blogging again. We were sitting around late last month reading through the girls' books of photos and memorabilia and in them we'd stuck a bunch of the stories I'd written about them on the blog. Most of them were memories we'd all totally forgotten. And that's enough to inspire you to get going on something like this again. Before all memory of the girls' childhood is lost to the broken synapses of my brain.

And even though it was Becky's birthday this week, it was still somehow Leigh's week. She got her ears pierced on Thursday and then had her first basketball game on Saturday at the obnoxious hour of 8:30. Both activities were executed in classic Leigh fashion.

She was so excited to get her ears pierced that that's all she talked about for two weeks. She talked about it so much that her friends and sisters eventually told her to shut up about it. Which is amazing, because in a family of talkers, Leigh's the kid that usually keeps her thoughts to herself. The excitement didn't really turn to nervousness until she sat in the chair and the piercing girl loaded the studs into the nail gun-like device they use for piercing at the mall. The excited smile became a nervous smile, but a smile nonetheless. She tensed up a little right before the shot and that was it. No tears, no screams, no cursing (you never know what'll come out of her mouth considering how her mother speaks).

That same smile was on her face at her basketball game this morning. She was nervous for her game -- nervous, I think, that she'd do something wrong, something unacceptable. She was up at 6:30 getting ready a full two hours before the game.

The girl's got no killer instinct. She's polite, obedient and considerate to everyone around her. You can imagine what kind of basketball player that makes her. She didn't want to get to close to the other players, wasn't keen on touching the ball and just seemed to be happy moving around on the court. But players kept stealing the ball from other players -- that seemed suspect -- so near the end of the game, she asked her coach if it was okay to steal the ball from people. She got a resounding yes. And so by the end of the game Leigh was playing a little more aggressively and even managed to steal the ball once or twice.

It's been fun. And, believe it or not, it feels good to be writing again. Doing that family column at the Searchlight really burned me out. More than thought it had. But, you know, three years later, I think I'm ready again. We'll see how long it lasts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm on like Dr. John

Hey, last video post and then I'll get back to real writing. I promise. But this is really too good not to share. And by "too good" I mean absolutely epic. Grover as Ad Rock, the Grouch as MCA and Cookie Monster as Mike D. I could watch this forever.

Sesame Street breaks it down from Wonderful Creative on Vimeo.

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