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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Napoleon Parasite

From the moment we saw him we knew he was trouble. Even in the ultrasound images his profile resembled a dictator's by the name of Napoleon. Perhaps we unjustly stereotyped him with the bad reputation of the second child and gave him no choice but to grow into it but after looking at some baby videos I said, naaah. He really is bad to the bone.

The trouble is I can see the fiendish gears in his mind grinding away and yet I still fall into his traps. He's too smart for his own good. Like the time his big brother asked me to explain the word "gnaw."

"Ooh, I know what it means!" The little tyrant exclaimed.

"You do?"

"Yeah," he said, "it's like when I ask you a question and you gnaw me."

"No, that word is IGNORE."

"Yah. That's what you do when I ask you a question."

Smart ass, that's all I got to say. But I have to watch it because should I say it out loud, guess who would be calling his big brother that in public? That's right - Napoleon Parasite.

I see he's got everybody wrapped around his little finger. For instance, I know he's only learning to speak Japanese so he can butter up my mother into buying him things by asking for it in her native language. He knows exactly what he's doing and from time to time, I too fall victim to his little schemes.

On the way home the other day, I overheard him say this to his big brother. "Mommy always says no to everything. Watch.

"Mommy, can we buy a toy today?"

"No," I replied.

"Then can we go to Target and look at some toys?"

"No," I said again.

"Can we buy a car?"

"Nooo." He was making it tough to beat him at this game. I saw big brother was impressed with his little brother's capacity to make me do his monkey dance. I'd have to wait for that million-dollar question. The little slip that would allow me to answer yes without finding I've sold my soul to the devil.

He went full tilt like the Subway commercial.

Can I eat gummy-worms for dinner? No. Could we get a pet snake? No. Will you take us to Aruba tomorrow? No. Can we plant a tree?


"Can we - did you say, yes?"

Yes. Again.

"Yay!" He jumped up and down, "We can plant a tree!"

Big brother jerked his head back, obviously disappointed. On his face, he had the expression, "You wore her down so we could plant a tree?"

But I was smiling. The game was over and all I had to do was say yes to plant a tree. I figured he would forget about it as soon as he got something flashy. Or a piece of gum.

A few days passed and I picked him up from school. His teacher - a Saint in my book - called him to the door and passed him along with a "take-him-take-him-PLEASE" look in her eyes. He must have been in rare form because he was a chatterbox as soon as he walked out the door. I don't what came over me, perhaps the sunny weather was confusing my gray hairs into having a blond moment but I asked him what he'd like to do today.

"Well, first we have to go home and get lots of money." He said.

"For what?"

"We have to buy something." He said.

Judging from the way he said something, I knew he had no idea what we needed to buy. What ever it was, it was going to be bought if he had anything to do with it.

"Oh, I know!" He said and I saw the conniving light bulb turn on because it was right next to the fiendish gears. "We have to get those rubber lizards. Lots of them. Like a hundred."

I promised I'd let him play at the park after I finished some chores but I couldn't promise that we could go shopping for a hundred rubber lizards due to recent budget cuts.

"Okay," he agreed much too easily.

Phew, I thought. Got off that  debate fairly easy.

Then he turned up that innocent face towards mine and asked through a broad smile, "But we're going to plant a tree, right?"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kidnapping And Potatoes

A group of children stood in line boarding their school bus. One mother placed her son in line, turned around and made her way back to the sidewalk to watch the school bus go. Everything seemed normal. She never suspected that her son hadn't boarded the bus. She found out later on that somewhere in between her leaving him in line and the bus' departure, he had been abducted.

It was the "every-parents-nightmare" that happened to one of our neighbors when I was a kid. Sadly, he was never found, as far as I know. How the child was taken was a mystery but knowing how it happened wouldn't change the fact that it did. Nor would it ever abate the constant concern of a parent that their child could be kidnapped anywhere, anytime.

Because of that experience, I might be overly cautious about keeping the boys in view but I can't imagine it's by much. The times they run off far enough to push my panic button, they know what to expect after I catch up. Huffing and puffing, I go Full Metal Jacket on them. The boys look at me as if I'm a coupon distributor in a chicken suit and vow they'll never do it again.

But they forget their vows as time goes on and I'm chasing them down the block once again.

They run, I yell "freeze," they ignore me and before I know it, I'm sprinting with three knapsacks and bag of potatoes. It's like being in some kind of absurd Olympic sport but at least this has a goal - I can't figure out the point of Curling.

So the last time, I had to do the pound-of-potatoes-run, it seemed to me that the consequences of running out of view were not effectively striking a chord. I mean the idea of abduction, kidnapping, being taken away - may sound scary to a child but like the boogey man the reality is limited to their imagination. I've used the "you'll never see Mommy or Daddy again," line but realized that depending on our popularity rating at the time, that could sound like a vacation.

I took it a step further and asked, "Do you know what kidnappers do to children after they take them?"

They both pondered in silence.

"Put them in the trunk of a car," one of my boys guessed.

It was a good guess but not scary enough. If an idiot of a woman winds up on Youtube for stashing three kids in the trunk with the penalty of a ticket, then apparently this act is more entertaining than terrifying.

And then I thought of the rash of kidnappings at a new Asian super center about ten years ago. Shoppers flocked from all over - they fought for parking spaces, shopping carts - it was a mad house. And it was the perfect mix of mayhem to steal children. Kids between three and five perusing in the aisles were simply escorted to the bathroom where their clothes were changed, their hair spray painted a different color and the kidnappers simply walked out with them under the surveillance cameras. The only article of clothing that could not be swapped were their shoes. Made me wonder if kids shoes could be installed with a homing device.

But getting back to being stuffed in the trunk of a car, my answer was, "Yeah, no. Kidnappers don't just put you in the trunk of their car. They do much, much worse."

At this point, both boys gave me their full attention. Amazing how a little gore and terror can spike a boy's interest.

Without giving them details, they were told that many children who are abducted die very lonely deaths that are worse than any nightmare they've ever had.

"Now, do you want that to happen to you?" I asked.

"No," they solemnly replied.

We walked in silence. I hoped it was the last time we would have to have this talk about them running out of view. Even if they remain in sight, abduction is a parental paradox that will never truly be out of view. After all, how can I expect my four-year old to understand that it's okay to say good morning to the school crossing guard, if I'm also telling him not to talk to strangers?

Predators who feed on children have their bait down so perfectly, that the only way a kid is going to have enough street smarts to weed them out, is to actually encounter one. That scares me. But in hindsight, it's how I learned. Believe me, if you think I was scared then, I'm even more disturbed by it now. Counter in the fact that a majority of kidnappings are usually committed by people the victims knew, and I'm ready to ask for a background check with every "nice-to-meet-you".

For the time being, I'm just not buying a pound of potatoes until I know for sure that the "Silence Of The Lambs" lecture thoroughly soaked in.