Trust the Gene Genie

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Behind-the-Couch Post

You remember how sometimes your spouse will come up with a crazy theory to pin on you some type of bad behavior? I know. I didn't believe it ever happened either until Becky did it the other day.

She and Elsa were home after preschool, the older girls still at school. Becky went down stairs to work on the computer leaving Elsa upstairs to play on the organ. After a few minutes, Elsa calls out to Becky, sounding a little nervous and wanting her to come upstairs. Becky tells Elsa to just come down stairs. So Elsa hops down from the organ, walks to the stairs, moving a little quicker with each step until she's running down the stairs. When she reaches the bottom, she's moving at full speed and screaming.

Clearly, this girl has been genuinely frightened.

Becky gets her calmed down and asks her what happened, a little concerned. Through the 4-year-old speak, Becky puts together that Elsa was scared to be upstairs alone because she was afraid her pink, stuffed poodle and the bulk of Leigh's stuffed animals would come to life and kill her.

Now, rather than explain away this fear as simple cognitive development and anxiety phenomena that normally present themselves in toddlers and young children, Becky has the temerity -- the TEMERITY -- to suggest that this fear of her impending doom at the paws of stuffed animals awakened from their inanimate slumber was due to me. Specifically, she said, it was due to all those episodes of "Doctor Who" I had been watching with the girls.

I know, right?

So let me make a quick list of the episodes we've watched and the basic plot of each so you can see just how crazy this accusation is. I'll list them in the rough order we watched them and include some photos from the actual episodes to illustrate just how harmless this stuff is. (You can click on the pics to make them bigger, you know, if you want the full effect.)

"Blink" -- Angel statues come alive when you blink and devour what would have been the rest of your years on earth by sending you back in time.

"The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" -- Alien microgenes infect blitz-era London turning people into gas mask-wearing zombies. When the zombie-ness takes effect, the gas masks pop out of people's mouths. I might note that the episode ends on the rather up-beat note of the Doctor shouting, "Just this once, everybody lives!"

"Dalek" -- The Doctor discovers his ancient archenemy, the Dalek is still alive. The Dalek gets loose and kills a bunch of people.

"Bad Wolf/The Parting of Ways" -- Rose and the Doctor end up on a 51st century game show where the losers are killed. And then Daleks appear and start killing people.

"The Girl in the Fire Place" -- The Doctor discovers gear-driven robots are visiting 18th century France and stalking Madame De Pompadour. The robots hide under her bed and then attack her with little circular saws.

See? Pretty innocuous stuff. The idea that watching these episodes is somehow freaking Elsa out and that her fear is manifesting itself in ideas that stuffed animals could come to life and attack her is just absurd.

In fact, my solution, if we're to suppose Becky could possibly be right, is to simply explain to Elsa the reality of the situation. It's natural when you're a child to believe in monsters and to be scared of them. But, as the Doctor explained to a young Mde. De Pompadour, monsters have nightmares, too. Who do they have nightmares of, you ask? Of the Doctor. So don't be scared of monsters because you'll always have the Doctor to protect you.

Becky's not convinced that solution will do the trick.

No, if we're going to be honest with ourselves, we might have to admit Becky has a point. In England, back in the '70s and '80s, particularly frightening episodes of "Doctor Who" were called "Behing-the-Couch" episodes because the kids watching would jump behind the couch and hide when the scary parts would come on.

So really, we can all take heart. Elsa is simply taking part in the broader -- albeit distinctly British -- cultural experience of watching "Doctor Who" as a child. And the Brits totally turned out fine.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Dude, she's going to poop her pants!

Leigh remains our most interesting child. Which is a feat, considering how strange all three of our girls are.

Not to go all Baby Boomer, but she's definitely the George to Claire's and Elsa's John and Paul. No one in the family is Ringo because no one should have to be Ringo.

Leigh is old for her class and stands a head taller than most of her classmates, including the boys. Given her age and her height, she's become something of a dandy in her second grade class. Her classmates love her and when she's not totally ambivalent to it, she's happy to rally them around her to do her strange bidding. Recess usually involves games in which Leigh and her friends work on out-smarting the boys for control of favorite playground equipment. You know, sort of like the Cold War.

Well, shortly before winter break, Leigh was informed by her friend Jenna that a deal had been brokered with the boys. Leigh was to race all the boys at the next recess. If she won, the girls would take control of the playground's coveted zip line. If she lost, the boys would take it and that would be that.

Leigh shrugged her shoulders and said, "O.K." The next day she raced each of the boys and won. What was fun was to have her come home that day and tell us about it, explaining it all very matter-of-factly, as though she simply completed an assignment in class. We're not sure just what makes Leigh's world tick, but I'm pretty sure it's not recess plots to maintain control of the zip-line.

That same ambivalence makes Christmas shopping for her interesting. At one point this season she wrote a letter to Santa telling him anything he brought would be fine. You'll remember, Leigh figured out last year that Santa wasn't real because she knew there was no such thing as elves.

Anyway, a couple times leading up to the Big Day, she saw those big art easels that double as chalk boards and white boards and activity centers at the store and fell in love. That's what she wanted for Christmas. Becky never let on, even demurred a bit to throw Leigh on the scent. When we finally went to the store to buy it, Becky grabbed one, loaded it into the van and said, "Dude, she's going to poop her pants!"

Christmas morning, she tore open the gift and politely smiled when she saw what it was. She was happy to have it and has used it daily since Christmas. But she did not poop her pants.

Which is fine. She responded in a very Leigh-like manner which is why we love her. Also, it would have been messy.

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