Thursday, June 27, 2013

Breakdown in Communication

We've been pretty lucky, as parents of a teenage daughter go.

Here we are, almost sixteen years into this parenting experiment, and we all appear to love each other and get along fairly well. Our Daughter is sweet-natured, doesn't like foul language, dotes on her younger brothers (whether or not they want her to -- although they usually want her to), earns excellent grades at school, stays active in music and dance, doesn't talk back to her parents, and still laughs at my fart jokes.

What more could a parent ask for?

Okay, maybe the ability to communicate and share information utilizing complex sentence structures and multisyllabic words when texting. And also the ability to read simple text messages and fully understand them before responding. For example, here is a brief conversation from April:

    Me: "I can pick you up at 3:45 from school or from the rink later."

    Our Daughter: "I get out of school at 3:45."

    Me: "Okay. I will pick you up at 3:45."

    Our Daughter: "Um why?"

    Me: "I though you were asking me to. Just let me know when you want me to pick you up."

    Our Daughter: We will be at the rink around 5:45."

    Me: "Okay. Now. Do you want me to pick you up from the rink at 5:45?"

    Our Daughter: "Yes!!!!!"

For the record, adding seventeen exclamation points does not convey any more meaning to me than one exclamation point. I'm also not a huge fan of emoticons -- those little smily, winky faces that are supposed to let me know how you feel at any given moment in time. That's what words are for. Long ago, by which I mean the early 1990s, people knew how to express disappointment without book-ending the word "sad" with matching frowny-face emoticons.

At least we have moved beyond the days of the one-letter answer. Having graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree in English, I'm always thrilled when my children respond to a lengthy, multiple choice question with the moronically simple, unhelpful, uncapitalized and unpunctuated response: "k." If I'm planning dinner and I send a text to ask if you prefer corn on the cob or broccoli with your grilled chicken, "k" is not a valid response. If I ask whether your boyfriend is eating dinner with us or going home to eat with his parents, "k" is a relatively answer-free return message.

Some day soon, when I find myself babysitting my grandchildren and Our Daughter texts from some fancy dinner across town to ask if her offspring have been fed and bathed and put to bed on time, I will wait a full thirty minutes to respond with a simple "k!!!!!!!!!"

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Intestinal Fortitude

When I was a kid, I had the average kid's relationship with the green, bitter, leafy plant known as spinach. There was no preparation that made it palatable. Even our dogs wouldn't eat it when I dangled a spoonful at them under the table. If an animal that regularly eats its own poop turns its nose up at a food, how can anyone possibly expect a kid to eat it?

At some point during my early adulthood, I discovered I liked spinach.

Creamed mega-laxative in a pot.
Spinach with garlic and lemon. Spinach in vegetable lasagna. Spinach and ricotta in that all-the-rage, 1990s, faux-bread substitute pita pocket. And creamed spinach. Some certified genius took this outrageously healthy and unpopular vegetable and served it Alfredo! They award Nobel Peace prizes for lesser accomplishments.

But over the last few years, in spite of my growing fondness for all things spinach, spinach has decided it does not like me. And I have learned through direct experience that when spinach chooses to do nasty things to your inner workings, it does not have the common courtesy to provide advance notice. One day you're scarfing it down like Popeye prepping to take on all of China in a cage match, and the next day a single mouthful sets you rumbling on the toilet louder than a launching rocket and gripping tight to the porcelain to keep from lifting off.

Although I've had enough time to come to terms with this new dietary restriction, there are moments when the will is weak and I tempt fate with a serving or two, heedless of My Lovely Wife's warnings and usually when there's a big bowl of creamed spinach before me on the table.

The first sign I've made a mistake is that false sense of security I get after I've eaten more than my share without my body immediately vomiting it back out. Stands to reason if my body can't tolerate spinach, it wouldn't allow it in. But it does, and before the plates are cleared and my belt loosened to aid digestion, the power of that dark-green mega-laxative is already being unleashed.

I might as well not even own a pancreas for all the good its enzymes do in breaking down the spinach on its way along my digestive tract. Like a freight train running off the rails, spinach barrels through my upper and lower intestines, not sparing a second to admire the scenery. By the time it gets through the colon -- carrying along with it the flushed out remnants of every cheeseburger I've eaten since 1977 and every spare bit of vitamin K in my body -- I'm fully cognizant of the fact I should never be more than a pants-dropping away from any one of the three toilets in our house.

The next morning, after the smoke has cleared and several rolls of toilet paper have mysteriously vanished, I make a solemn promise to my reflection in the mirror never to eat so much as a single shred of spinach.

But then there is all that leftover creamed spinach in the fridge...

© 2013 Mark Feggeler