The Pedagogical Mummy and the Circus Boy

We’re late we know, but we weren’t sure what to make of this week’s installment of America’s Worst Mother&#153. On the one hand there is some childish banter with youngest daughter Formica Sue as Meghan breaks multiple traffic laws in an effort to pick up remaining children: Claritin, Sniffle, and Pernod:

“Really?” I say absently, changing lanes. She and I are late to fetch the other children from school and my eyes are doing a rapid circuit from the road to the speedometer to the rear-view mirror and back again.

“What is a houseboat?” she asks. No, no, I think with amusement, silently rewriting her dialogue, first you ask what a houseboat is, then you say you want one —

“It’s a sort of boat that people live in.”

“With carpets? In case it rains?”


“Over the boat, I mean.”

“Maybe sometimes…” I say to her, and “Come on, come on, come on — ” to the fellow in the Subaru just ahead of me who is slowing down. Doesn’t he realize that in Washington yellow traffic lights mean, “put on a burst of speed?”

Yes, as Judas Priest might have put it, she was “breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law” because the safety of strangers is nothing compared to the possibility that her kids might learn about Playstations and XBoxes and other toys that don’t suck from the other kids at the Country Day School for Precocious Anglophiles, if they have to wait too long.

Fortunately, with minimum loss of life, Meghan screeches to a halt at the school and ushers her brood into the safe and secure womb of her goobermobile mini-van where talk to turns to current events because if it doesn’t Meghan doesn’t get a check from Bill Buckley for being “timely” (not that he would know since he’s been in a coma since November…1989):

Our children have now been back at school for several days after the nonjudgmental, nondenominational “sparkle season” holiday, and it is tidier and quieter at home. I am able to get on with the carefree, exciting business of adult life, and a madcap rollercoaster it is, too, what with replacing the cracked lavatory in an upstairs bathroom, getting the front-door handle repaired, and returning to the exquisite nightly torment of packing lunchboxes. (One day, I suspect, it will emerge that Alberto Gonzales secretly empowered U.S. soldiers to break the will of al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo by presenting them, night after night, with half-empty refrigerators and bags of dried legumes and making them “Fill the Lunchbox.” Judge Gonzales’s chances of making it to the Supreme Court will be finished, of course, but after such unspeakable torture, so will the suspects.)

Packing a lunch = having a glowstick shoved up your ass. Okay, there’s a lunch I think I’d take a raincheck on.

Back to the children:

Molly turns around in the back seat. “I need to invent a name and an emblem for my class,” she calls over everyone’s heads, “it’s part of my homework.”

“Ugh,” I say, despairingly, getting back in my seat and driving us all away. “What is the pedagogical point of that? Next thing you’ll be bringing home a Vasco da Gama crossword puzzle.”

“Mummy,” she says dryly, “I already did bring home a Vasco da Gama crossword puzzle.”

“How about the American flag and a cross?” Paris suggests.

“All animals also,” Violet says, “have skin.”

“Nah. Something more exciting,” Molly says and the phrase “home schooling” scrolls unbidden across my mind like the crawl at the bottom of CNN. I shake my head to get rid of it.

When we get to the park, Paris and the Littles race off to fling themselves on the climbing equipment while Molly and I find a bench. She has brought her notebook out of the car to work on her class emblem. So far she has drawn a capital ‘T’ with what look like curly flames racing along its base.

“Gee,” I say, “What’s the ‘T’ for?”

“The Tsunamis,” she says, still penning away.

“Freak waves kill nearly 200,000 people,” I remark, “and you want to use the tsunami as the emblem for the fifth-grade class?”

“Good point,” Molly says briskly. She balls up the piece of paper, and pulls out a fresh sheet. This time she draws a heart, and mine sinks. I almost prefer the Vasco da Gama crosswords.

At this point, Paris yells for me to adjudicate a race he’s organizing with a boy who is almost his size, but evidently much younger.

“Okay!” Paris shouts, “You watch us, Mummy. We’re going to run all around the edge of the park, and the winner gets here first!” He slaps his palm down on the concrete, and makes a comical wince.

“Um, sweetheart,” I say carefully, nodding towards his competitor, “You may have an age advantage.”

“I’m four,” the smaller boy says loudly.

Whoa there, little filly.

Last we heard, young Master Pernod was like nine or something and now we learn that he’s so small that a four year-old can make him his bitch? We always thought that Pernod was…um…delicate in that Please-don’t-throw-the-baseball-like-that-because-it-makes-daddy-cry kind of way, if you know what I mean. Now we see that he’s, well, let’s just say that the scouts from Ringling Brothers have had their eye on him for quite some time.

Then there is this:

“D’oh, you beat me!” he shouts. He falls down and leaps up again, holding his backside and yelping like a cartoon wolf that just came down the three little pigs’ chimney. The other boy shrieks with laughter, and hops about grabbing his backside, too.

“Burning bottoms,” I murmur.

“Boys with burning bottoms,” Molly amplifies, coming to watch them.

“Bellowing boys, both with burning — “

“Big, bouncing bellowing boys,” she giggles, “with beastly burning — ”

Boy. If we had a nickle for every time we heard that at Abu Ghraib

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