That’s a bitter pill (so I’ll need a mocha)

Categorized as 06/08/09 Goshen News column

“It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out.”

Alright, so it wasn’t stormy, but it was dark, and the way the conversation was going, it was getting darker.

You know how it goes. You finally have your husband to yourself, and because you’re a mom and you never entirely leave the crumb crunchers at home, the topic of the kids comes up. Or more specifically, something that’s bugging you about one of the kids.

That was the setting I found myself in recently.

As a mom, I’m the Tom Brokaw of our family. Thus, I was only doing my job that night, reporting about a hot spot that was flaring again in a certain sector. To my chagrin, he began a left-brain analysis laced with psychological insights that traced the roots of the matter back to me.

I stiffened. Was this an office? Was he a Ph.D.? Was I lying on a couch? No, no, and no.

Perhaps he heard the indignant spluttering from my side of the truck, because he added, “Oh, I don’t deny that I had a hand in it,” before blithely continuing his commentary.

“A hand?” I wanted to say. “How about a foot, a leg, and a whole arm?” I thought it, but I didn’t say it.

Admitting that an undesirable trait in a child can be traced to your DNA is a bitter pill to swallow. It ranks right up there with a root canal or a lobotomy for fun and hilarity. However, every now and then, the origins of certain behaviors become so clear that even you can’t deny it.

One of our sons, for instance, came packaged with a strong-willed temperament. He doesn’t give up easily. When he sets his mind on something, he hangs on with every fingernail, toenail, and molar he’s got. He can literally argue a person under the table, which is where I can be found, banging my head.

I can see how such singlemindedness and persistence could be very useful down the road, but it escapes me entirely when he’s using it on me. It makes me nuts.

Which is why it galls me to admit that I may know something about where he gets it. You see, I’d rather think of my own teenage conversations with my mother as “debating” or “passionate reasoning,” but I doubt she’d remember it like that.

Now, if I were walking in the flesh, I would indulge in some sweet revenge by doing a DNA analysis myself, tracking certain foibles up the other side of the family tree. I would point out, if I were being carnal, that Someone Else is – um, “determined” and “focused” himself. He’s just quieter about it. But since I don’t believe in being petty, I’ll just keep that to myself.

I won’t mention, either, that I know why a couple of kids around here know nothing of delayed gratification and why certain chocolate Easter bunnies have been KIA before Grandma’s back tires have cleared the drive. When Someone Else has a patent inability to make his chocolate last or to stay out of the brownies, it’s really no surprise.

It’s good I’m too mature to mention it.

It would be low of me to divulge the source of all the wrestling and pounding around here. All I’ll say is that I’m not the instigator of matches that skew the furniture and cause rug burns. That leaves exactly half of the family tree on which to hang the blame.

You know who you are.

Pain tolerance is another pill that goes down sideways. Two of the boys are off the charts, one down in the basement and one hovering in the rafters. That’s probably because their parents are off the charts, one in the basement and one in the rafters. I’d guess the air is thin up there, but I’ll never know.

And take the boys’ penchant for practical jokes. What a relief that I can pass that one right on up the line and chuck it in my father’s lap. With his history of spitting through the keyhole into his sister’s eye and putting burning bags of fresh manure on people’s porches, you can’t pin this on me. Throw in his current fondness for tricks involving a stuffed skunk, and it sounds suspiciously similar to some stunts his grandsons have pulled.

Really. I’m not the one scaring innocent people at campouts by telling fireside stories of a supposed “recent rash of rabid skunks” and then sneaking it onto a buddy’s sleeping bag, holding him captive, afraid to move for 2-1/2 hours. And I’m certainly not the one with the upcoming surgery who’s planning to slip a fake tarantula underneath his bandage before calling for a nurse. If she goes nuts and whacks it with a broom, he can’t say I didn’t warn him.

Now, about those shots I mentioned? That would be two – shots of espresso, that is, in the mocha I’m heading out the door to get right now. I have to wash that bitter taste out of my mouth with something.

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