The fall from grace…..we see it in our headlines and celebrate it with countless reality shows. And, if we are truthful with ourselves, we recognize how often sympathy for the hapless target is mixed with glee. It is not quite as enjoyable, however, when the plunge from the top involves us (plummeting parent) and those we have given birth to (voyeuristic offspring).
When my stepdaughter was four years old, our nuclear family consisted of three; therefore, we seldom ate at the formal dining table unless we had company. So, when my stepdaughter unabashedly let one rip during a holiday gathering, she had quite an audience. My husband, trying to handle the situation, said in a stern voice, “What do you say?” My poor stepdaughter searched each face, trying to garner the right response, finally trying, “I farted?”
Embarrassing our children…..wouldn’t you agree that that is one of parenthood’s greatest perks? Walking in on our children’s play, having them blush and squirm as if we had interrupted some covert operation? Priceless.
And, don’t even get me started on poop stories. Oh okay, just one... our son liked a private poop-time, so he would often hide behind our five-sided fish tank; resulting in multiple, magnified images of a straining, red-faced baby.
While my husband and I treasured these delightful and recyclable moments, who could have foreseen that our children were watching and waiting? Who could have predicted that these beloved spawns were merely biding their time, letting us get comfortable until they could launch a counter-attack?
It’s not so hard for me. Sure, it’s a little disconcerting when children who once praised my off-key singing and hotdog/boxed cheese macaroni suppers now hone in on my propensity for screwing up lyrics and burning pizza. And, it can be uncomfortable when my daughter shares that I gave her sherbet instead of medicine in the middle of the night or screams when she sees my underwear in the clean laundry. But, I’ve been around kids my whole life….I’m fairly tough. And, I have lots of information to use against them.
My husband is a different story. He had much farther to fall on the coolness scale. When our kids were small, he worked shift work and they saw him less than they saw me. He was more myth than man, impenetrable and flawless. Often, he would kneel on the floor, taunting our children to attack him. They would rush him from every angle, only to be thwarted with unrelenting, wrestling moves. He convinced them that he could fly and when they’d challenge him to prove it, he’d solemnly shake his head and say, “The ceilings are too low in here.” They placed him on such a pedestal that our youngest daughter whispered to me one night, “He thinks he’s my real father.” Imagine her delight when I whispered back, “He is.”
But, the tables have since turned and he is struggling to accept his place amongst us mortals. Like Samson with a haircut, my husband can no longer hide the fact that he is ticklish and vulnerable to choke holds. As our children have gained strength and stealth, there is a little less swag in his swagger as he exits the battlefield.
More than the physical, though, is the intimacy our kids now have with their dad. To his great consternation, they are able to read him and giggle when he tries to don his former celeb persona. Recently, he was invited to a rare, night-out with the guys. I came into our bedroom and noticed that he was wearing a band t-shirt. I smiled and asked, “Where’d you get that shirt?” He drew himself up and replied, “I don’t have any t-shirts so I borrowed one of the boys.” I must have chuckled because he asked, “What?” with a chagrined expression. I followed him downstairs and as he passed our daughter, she smiled and asked, “Where’d you get that shirt?” He glared at her and grumbled some reply. By the time the fourth child laughingly asked him about the shirt, he didn’t answer and left for his party with head held high. It’s a long fall from the top.