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Why Writers Should Listen to Kids (Also: Why I’m Going to Hell)

I’m just gonna say it: all kids are retarded. They are! And you know it! Yes, “retarded” is a totally un-PC term (do spank me for it later) and some very kindhearted liberal types want us to stop using it, and eventually I will, because I’m not a total asswipe. I have nothing against the mentally challenged. I may be mentally challenged. But for the last little while until it becomes unforgivably rude, I’ll use it. I’m a wordsmith, and it’s a fun word. OK? Besides, I’m not saying it doesn’t apply to me. I, who (according to all empirical evidence) was never a kid, who was born a 7 pound 30yr old capable of peering at the delivery nurses with utter disdain, who spent my childhood as a 3 foot tall 40yr old kicking my parent’s butts at Scrabble and Balderdash … even a child who was never a child did or said something during those years–likely a lot of somethings–that made the grown ups stop in the act of spooning soup in their mouths and think “holy shit, that kid makes my head hurt.”

My kids do this to mealllll the time, more so when they were little, but still, on occasion, I feel that ever-growing wrinkle between my eyebrows pucker hard and that spot the psychics call the Third Eye (cuz psychics need an extra eye to watch you fuck their brains up) starts to throb.

Today I thought I’d share some of the surprising Kid Facts I’ve learned from my children. I can’t make this shit up. Well, I could. But anyone who knows me, and knows my weirdo children, will know I haven’t had to; whether by nature or nurture, I have managed to raise some odd little beings … allow me to introduce them.

Little Miss is going to be a SciFi writer by the sounds of it, as she has schooled me (and my family and friends) many a time in scientific “facts”. “Facts”, she says with a disparaging scowl, that I should have learned when I was at Brock University becoming a “mad scientist”. She says I have three jobs: working at the book store, writing, and being a lunatic. Motherhood isn’t a job, she says, it’s a game we play with our genes; for 11, she’s alarmingly perceptive. Also, did I mention she’s part animal? She spends more time loping around on all fours (with frightening agility, I might add) than she does on two feet. Now, I have been known to drink to the point of insensibility, I don’t think I was impregnated by a wolfman 11 years ago … though conclusive evidence certainly does support this hypothesis, should anyone care to make the claim.

My boy, little D (AKA Sputtergotch, AKA Angelbutt) weighs about as much as a box of matches now, but evidently will be a 600 pound gun totin’ chocolate addicted pilot. Or a musclebound soccer thug. Or a psychic-priest-pimp, if his current interests hold true.  I’m not particularly religious myself, but I’ve taught my children the “heavenly” idea of life after death for the same reason I carry on with the Santa thing: because magical thinking is fun while it lasts. Little D has taken this a step further. He tells me what his last lifetimes were, and what God wants him to do this time around: He says God wants him to become a fireman … so he can set fires. When I informed him that firemen put out fires, he corrected me sternly. Not to be outsmarted by an 8 yr old, I looked it up to show him. Turns out the word “fireman” originated as a job title for those men who started fires in fireplaces at an inn or tavern. But he couldn’t have known that from, like, a past life or anything … right? Heh. Heh.

Here are a few wonderful things I’ve been taught by my wee ones, who are no longer quite so wee, and who continue to inspire me.

Lesson 1: Pigs Don’t Have Teeth

(at the breakfast bar, over bowls of  Honey Nut Cheerios)

Me: Honey, stop making that awful, rude noise and eat your cereal.

Little Miss: But mom, I’m not a girl, I’m a boy today.

Me: What does that matter?

LM: Boys are allowed to be gross.

Me: Not at my table, they’re not.

Sputtergotch: I need muscles bigger-bigger like Dad. Do Cheerios build the mostest muscle?

Me: Since you’ve already poured half a liter of milk on ’em, I’m gonna go with yes! Now eat.

Little Miss: Fine, I’m not a girl or a boy, I’m a pig.

Me: Judging by the state of your bedroom, this appears to be a fair assessment. Finish up and go brush your teeth, please.

LM: But pigs don’t have teeth!

Sputtergotch: Ya, cuz when you eat bacon you don’t see teeth in it, do you?

Both children look at me like I might be crushingly stupid. No good can come from trying to explain the techniques of the modern butcher, here, so I am left rubbing my forehead and wishing there was Bailey’s Irish Cream on my Cheerios.

 Lesson 2: Temperature Controls Noise

(this past February, a still frosty morning, getting in the car to drive to school)

Little Miss: Mom, listen.

Me: *stops scraping windshield, listens*

LM: Wait, don’t even breathe! *holds imperious hand up for silence* …. I thought so. It’s too cold for sound today. *gets in the car with a sage nod*

 How cold would that be, exactly? Like 700 degrees below zero? One wonders how we survived it …

Lesson 3: Love Is In The Air

(driving home from early-morning Tim Horton’s run)

Little D: Mom, I know why the ladies love me.

(It took me a solid minute to swallow back what threatened to come out as a full belly laugh)

Me: Oh? Ladies love you, eh?

D: (sighing like a man overburdened) Yes. They all do. All the time.

Me: And why’s that, bud?

D: Because girls love boys, and boys love girls.

Me: Oh, I see.

D: AND boys can love boys and girls can love girls. That’s all the types of love there is.

Me: Do you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend?

D: Boys climb buildings with their bare hands and play soccer and build muscles playing Bayblades. That’s not for loving.

Mom: Hunh. Pardon me while I attempt to wrap my brain around your intrepid brand of  logic, babe.

D: It’s OK. You’re just slow.

Me: Gee thanks. So do you have a girlfriend, then?

D: Are you kidding? *goggles at his mother in the rear-view mirror, horrified* Girlfriends are a’sponsibility!

Me: They’re WHAT?

D: A’sponsability! Except on Balentine’s Day … then they’re just a’spensive.

While I choked on my tongue, it occurred to me that this child has been having deep chats about girls and/or money with his father again.

 Lesson 4: Will Pimp Mom For Chocolate

Little D: Mom, for my birfday I want a chocolate bar just like yours and maybe I’ll share it.

Me: Oh, maybe, eh? Nice of you, after you ate 3/4 of my Toblerone.

D: And I want mine biggerbiggerbigger than yours.

Me: Yeah, well, we’ll see.

D: I want one big as our house. How much does that big of chocolate bar cost at the store, Mom?

Me: After shipping and handling? Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

D: Soooo … we just have to wait for pay day, right?

Me: *snort-laughs* I’d have to work a few more shifts at work, bud. Or get a sugar daddy. Or a pimp.

D: Well …. can you call today?

Me: Call where?

D: Work. Or the pimp store. You really need one of those before my birfday.

Nice to know my son thinks I could make enough as a hooker in one week to buy him a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar chocolate bar. Even if I could swing 3 or 4  johns per hour, 24 hours in a day, times 7 days, that’s 168 hours in the week times a conservative estimate of 3 men that’s 504 guys a week, into 250k, I’d still have to charge … sweet Jesus, why the fuck am I doing this math?!

Lesson 5: Multi-Shooter Guns

(back home taking off our snowy boots)

D: I want a three-gun for my birfday too.

Me: What’s a three-gun, Angelbutt?

D: You know, the gun with three shooters.

Me: So, a tipsy gun.

D: It’s called a three-gun. There’s one with five shooters too.

Me: That would be a drunk gun.

D: No, it’s a five-gun. Guns don’t just have one shooter y’know.

Me: This is news to me. Tell me, in your world, what are shooters?

D: Where the balls come out.

Me: Trust me, son. Men don’t need shooters for the balls to come out.

D: Yes, they do (uber-serious). And they’re not balls, Mom, they’re called bullets.

Me: Thanks for clearing that up, Teach. Don’t know what I’d do without you.

D: Don’t you write stories with guns? You should know about bullets.

Me: I’ll get right on that.

D: Can I have a for-real three-gun?

Me: Why, are ya pullin’ a bank job?

D: Youhave a for-real gun.

Me: I do? Wow, if you can find it, you can totally have it. Be sure to write mommy from prison.

D: Mom, you make no sense.

M: I make no dollars either, I thought that’s why you’re pulling the bank job for me.

D: When I get upstairs, I’m gonna build a’ eight-gun! That’s the most you can build. Guns can’t have more than eight shooters.

Me: You could shoot eight Webkinz at once! Oooh, woe to the stuffies!! Who will suffer my son’s unholy wrath?

D: Mom, why would I build a hole-y-raft? That would sink.

The poor boy wandered off thinking his mother knows nothing about physics–which is a fair assumption–to build deadly weapons out of Lego blocks and skulk around my bedroom looking for a “for-real” gun, though no one in their right mind would ever allow me to own a gun.

 Lesson 6: Holy Sex!

Little Miss: So, Mom, Mary was married to Joseph, riiiiight?

Me: My best answer to that would be: anything’s possible.

Little Miss: And married people have sex a lot, riiiiiiight?

D: Jenny said sex!

Me: Yeah, I heard it. She also said “a lot” … and while both induced toe-curling horror coming from the mouth of my 11 yr old, I also find both to be hysterical, so I’m gonna let it go.

LM: Why do they call her the virgin Mary?

Me: Honey, I’m so not the one to answer Bible questions. Maybe they weren’t married. Maybe she was frigid. But really, to get all the facts, wouldn’t you have to ask Mary?

D: Like fly to Mary’s house and just ask her *nodding as if this makes perfect sense* I can probably fly a plane real-real faster without even learning.

Me: No, but you could crash a plane real-real faster without even learning, Angelbutt. 

LM: My point is: it makes more sense that Joseph was the secret father of Jesus.

Me: I can’t say any more things now. *agnostic throws hands up in careful surrender* And please don’t say that around your grandparents.

LM: Well why would Mary cheat on Joseph and have sex with God?

Me: (gobsmacked, stammering) Because … God was really smooth?

LM: Oh. *lightbulb-moment face* Cuz God invented sex.

Me: Uh …

LM: So he’s the best at it.

Me: No! Shit–what?

D: Mom, you said a bad word.

LM: I get it. *crooked grin of someone who has figured out one of life’s dirty secrets* God’s the mastah playah.

 Me: Welp, I’m goin’ to hell.

D: You can see Mary there, cuz she cheats and that’s real bad, right mom?

LM: Derek, she gave God sex. That means he’ll do anything to rescue her. Like in the movies.

Me: *pointing with alarm* You watch too much TV, young lady!

LM: Everyone knows how guys are, mom. Major duh.

Me: Please stop melting mommy’s brains. Please stop melting mommy’s brains ….

It’s a damned good thing I have kids to teach me things like: God’s got serious moves–his real identity might be Lance Romance, Captain of the SS Swinging Dick– that guns always must have more than one shooter for their “balls” but no more than eight, that I’m little more than a chocolate mule, that temperature dictates sound on a frigid suckhole of a February morning, that as long as you screw around with a diety with a white knight complex you’re 100% safe from harm or hell, that there are 4 types of love but you can’t love someone who plays soccer or Bayblades, and that pigs–and bacon, and presumable ham and pork chops–don’t have teeth. Well, Amen to alllll that, then.

(AJ Aalto is not the best choice to parent two children, but does the very best she can with what she’s been given.

She appreciates the vast learning opportunities that parenthood offers. She secretly wishes she could press pause on her kid’s lives, so they stop growing up so fast. Also, she secretly wishes she could press mute on their mouths while out in public, because hearing her own words come out of their mouths–“But mom, I thought you said Mr. K the gym teacher was cute-but-stupid!”–often makes her see little black stars.)


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