I believe in making marriage into a sit-com. Camera Girl has said on any number of occasions that I need to write new material because she’s bored with the old stuff. And she’s right. But what I have in abundance is mockery. I mock everything around me because that is how I think. It’s a family trait that is probably our defining one. That is how we analyze the world around us. And because of her proximity Camera Girl is my favorite target. I mock her choice in books, tv shows, talk shows, her frugality, her ideas about pets, her family, her friends, her rudimentary political ideas, her lack of knowledge about science, history, religion, philosophy and technology. I make it such a regular practice to call her a poor ignorant peasant girl that she has started saying it about herself to save me the time.
What I never mock are her domestic skills. Her ability to organize, schedule and maintain a home is remarkable. Her cooking has kept me fat for decades and her ability to raise and entertain children is well-nigh magical. And it’s this child-herding skill I want to write about.
This week we are entertaining the two younger grandsons and the granddaughter. The boys are ten and seven and the girl is almost three. Someone who doesn’t know kids might not know how hard it is to keep this combination of ages and sexes busy and happy at the same time. Suffice it to say it’s like juggling chainsaws. But she does it effortlessly. She’s even able to integrate me into the trick when she thinks I can be trusted. For instance, at one point, the next event was ninety minutes in the swimming pool. But right before the time, the two boys got involved in a race to see who would grab hold of a toy they both wanted, some kind of remote-controlled car. The little guy ran a little too fast and fell, skinning both his knees badly on the driveway. After first aid and bandaging was performed Camera Girl informed me that out of necessity I would be drafted into service. Since the little guy couldn’t go in the pool in his wounded condition, he would be watching a movie about tyrannosaurs (his favorite subject) and I would keep him company. And she had made the right call. Whereas I could have taken the other two kids to the pool, what she realized was that if I provided my nerd-like knowledge of prehistoric creatures as a way to occupy him, then my grandson wouldn’t feel so bad about missing the swimming pool which was a sore disappointment to a little boy. We sat there and talked about the latest research on the most probable speed that a T. rex could run. We discussed whether the T. rex was really the apex predator of all time and really the greatest creature to ever walk the face of planet Earth. And even though I might have some theories on T. rex that differed from this dinosaur enthusiast’s I listened very respectfully and tried to enrich the discussion with some other scientific and general interest items. And when his brother and cousin returned from the pool there wasn’t a single sad face or harsh word from him. I had performed adequately and hadn’t dropped a chainsaw.
And later on, when the two younger ones were going to play some board game (I think Candyland) I was entrusted with taking the older guy outside for a baseball catch. It was pretty hot out there but the hour went by like a flash as we tossed around the ball and talked about whatever was on his mind. And once again I completed my task without incident and tossed the chain saw back to the master juggler.
And so it goes. Minding a toddler and keeping her safe, soothing a little boy with sore knees and keeping a ten-year-old from getting bored all while cooking breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, cleaning the dishes, doing the shopping, washing the clothes and dealing with all my complaints without dropping a stitch. Then bathing the baby and putting her to bed and before collapsing into bed herself she tries to read a few pages out of one of her books. I honestly don’t know where her energy and work ethic come from.
But rather than think Camera Girl is a goddess, which she is, I think all women should be like her. Raising kids is the greatest responsibility any human can undertake. Sharing their lives and teaching them how to be people like Camera Girl does is mothering. Plugging them into the television or the computer is what you expect from a zoo attendant or prison guard. If the human race doesn’t get back to the old standard for mothers we’re doomed.
So, here’s to Camera Girl. Long may her super power thrive. I hope to see her someday plying her trade with her great grandchildren. But I do wish she would do a better job training her dogs. They’re all spoiled. And she knows it.