1) I’m not actually incontinent. But I can see where you would get that impression.
Every weekday morning I drink hot tea. I make one cup to get me through waking up Daughter, arguing about brushing her teeth and whether she needs to wear her formal Easter dress to school. Just as we are finishing the last bits of morning junk, I make a second cup to take with me in the car. This is to give me the energy to hold up my side of the “why can’t the class rat stay with us this weekend?” debate.
Someone once pointed out that if my car were to be rear-ended, the piping-hot beverage in the cup holder would catapult between the seats and might very possibly splash into Daughter’s face. I’m not comfortable with my daughter needing progressive skin grafts because I like to drink and drive, so every weekday morning I put the travel cup of tea between my knees while we drive to school. And every weekday morning, while making my first left-hand turn, I hit the cup with my elbow and knock the tea into my lap.
I have yet to drop Daughter off at school where I am not frantically trying to air out the lap of my pants. I carry the now half-full cup of tea into school with me so when people stare at me with pity and concern, I can smile weakly and wave the cup as if to say, “It’s OK. Not urine. Just scalding hot liquid.”
2) On weekends, Daughter has free rein with her wardrobe. For anyone who might have seen us today, it is imperative you understand that I didn’t say “Gosh, honey, you know what would go really well with pink and orange Madras Capri pants? Your black cowboy boots! Now, let’s just put a green bow in your hair and slip on a faded USC t-shirt (colors: cardinal and gold), and we’re off! Nordstrom’s will crown you their queen!” I was able to veto the purple sequined dress-up purse. Nevertheless, she was very pleased with the overall effect so for most of the day I tried to give the impression of being a kindly stranger helping this little girl back to her real family of carny-folk.
3) Contrary to a rumor going around, Daughter and I do not live out of my car. But, I must admit, we do keep enough inventory in there to stock a modest tract house. First, there are foodstuffs and beverages of varying kinds. In an emergency, I suspect we could invert Daughter’s car seat and, shaking it vigorously, reclaim about 1,500 calories in crumbs, raisins and naturally aged morsels of string cheese.
I have four changes of clothing for Daughter, and one for myself. Nothing suitable for presentation at Court, I’m sure, but we could go a couple of days dressing from the contents of the back seat before people started to talk.
I have books and magazines for Daughter as well as myself. These tend multiply like fruit flies and collect in the foot well of the back seat. This can be explained by the fact that we both have a habit of walking out of the house reading something, and no complimentary habit of walking back in to the house reading something.
Because Daughter doesn’t like to be in any environment where a scratch only visible to an electron microscope cannot be covered, I have Band-aids. Five hundred thousand band-aids.
I have about ten empty glass bottles rolling around because I cannot throw away a perfectly recyclable ice-tea bottle; yet as with the books, I cannot seem to remember to take it back inside. As we drive around, the bottles tend to roll back and forth into each other creating a low-rent alternative to wind chimes.
I even have something resembling an outdoor play area in the back seat. No matter how thoroughly I brush her off before we get back in the car, Daughter deposits six ounces of playground sand on the floor every day. Sometimes, at long stop lights, I can relax by getting down on the floor and making sand angels.
In short, Daughter and I are one rooftop rocking-chair away from becoming the Clampetts.
4) If you ever hear me saying to Daughter, “Do that again and there will be consequences”, it means that while I don’t like the current behavior, it’s relatively new, and I don’t know yet whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony. Sometimes, just uttering the word “Consequences” stops the behavior in its tracks; or at least buys me a few minutes to decide whether the punishment is going to warrant the pediatric version of community service or hard time.
Lately, Daughter has been threading her own snare. She’ll squint up at me and say “What kind of consequences?” as in, “Is the punishment worth the sensation of throwing the bag of flour one more time?”
I stare at her levelly and say coolly, “What do you think I mean?”
She gets nervous and blurts out whatever luxury happens to be in the front of her mind. I will then nod sagely and say “Yes, that is what you will lose”. It’s like some maternal martial art, where I use her love of Barbie against her.
My understanding of karma tells me that about thirty years from now Daughter will be saying to me, just as icily, “Which nursing home do you think I mean when I say ‘consequences’?”
And don’t you just know I’ll be so busy blotting tea out of my lap that I’ll tell her?