Saturday, March 15, 2008

Are you done choking?

Apostrophes are my extended metaphor for child-rearing, but that's simply a grammarian's approach. I tell the kids in the classroom, "There's only one rule and one exception apiece for possessives, both singular and plural." Here they are:

--when forming singular possessive, it is always correct to add an apostrophe and an s.
--the exception: when the owner ends in s, x, z, ch, or sh, you MAY drop the final s. But here's the thing: you don't have to.

Plural possessive
--when forming plural possessive, make the owner plural. Then add an apostrophe.
--the exception: when the owner doesn't end in s, add an apostrophe and an s; i.e., the children's martinis.

See, now you never have to worry about apostrophes again. But this is not really about grammar; it's about rules. And how parenting rules apply to children, your own, of course, not others'. (Please note how the apostrophe sings. It's like Maria Callas--accuracy and inspiration.)

I used to have one child. Now I have three, because I got a two-for-one deal back in 1993. When I had the one, a perfect and delightfully easy child until she was 13, Alberta used to tell me her rule of childrearing. There was only one and here it is:

"Give them what they want, and agree with everything they say."

She didn't even give me any exceptions, so according to her twisted logic, children are easier than apostrophes. I was appalled. Was she crazy? Alberta, did you USE this when raising your own two--the Planet A alien and the CPA in an infant's body? What are we talking when you say give them what they want--a Coach bag, a knife, an Oreo, a Humvee, a nap? No guidance from Alberta; she'd finished her driving the to the boys' basketball games and play rehearsals and was lording it over an empty nest. So I blew it off, even though it came from the font of all knowledge, and returned to Dr. Spock and Judith Martin.

Then the 13-year-old ran away from home(curfew) repeatedly, and the twins began their reign of terror. They threw two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor in 12 seconds, ate their grandfather's blood pressure medicine, some silicone beads from a shoebox, and an entire bottle of Flintstones vitamins, poured Clorox in each other's eyes, worked out a strategy for getting over two baby gates stacked one on top of the other, and hacked their long blonde hair off the day before Easter. So I quit. Anybody would have.

I renounced experts, embraced the Satan that was my offspring, and simply tried to maintain a facade of civility, so then of course their less bestial natures emerged. They became their middle-school's cross country champions, made honor roll, and are now competition cheerleaders with wicked senses of humor. They're clean, can make grilled cheese sandwiches, navigate New York City subways, know the "Folsom Prison Blues'," lyrics, and have money in their ridiculous Vera Bradley purses. They're a perfectly punctuated couplet--for now.

This morning, I was in the ladies' room at a bookstore when I heard a heavily-accented woman speaking to her small child. "Are you done choking?" I think she said. It made perfect sense to me. There's a mother with more innate sense than I, who knows the value of politeness. I don't know if the child had a murder victim in the stall or almond biscotti from the cafe, and I'm not saying Alberta's right, but that woman's toddler is probably destined for the Brookings Institute.


ejm photos & Divine in the Daily said...

thanks for stopping by my photo blog... i thought i'd drop by and visit your blog.

I read this story and had to smile and laugh at several places.

"are you done choking" - priceless.


studio lolo said...

Oh jeez, this is hilarious and so well written! I've sent it along to my writer friends.(Uh no, I'm not a writer myself.)
I'm not sure who left the comment on my blog, you or your sister. It doesn't matter though because I've enoyed reading about the two of you and reading your individual posts and being thoroughly entertained! Thanks so much for stopping by.

Jean said...

I'm almost done choking on my coffee, thank you very much....

You are truly funny