With the holidays barreling down upon us faster than a cheetah on an unsuspecting, lame gazelle (forgive me, I just watched one of those emotionally-scarring Animal Planet survival-of-the-fittest shows) my husband and I have been attending a steady stream of holiday concerts due to our two sons’ enthusiasm for high school band.
As you (dear reader) and I get to know each other better you will quickly learn that band runs our household. At the risk of repeating myself if you’ve read my book, Confessions of a Band Geek Mom (and I know, of course, that you all have—or will), my two teen sons combined play all the following instruments: piano, trombone, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, oboe, drums, and all the saxes (soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone). This is what happens when they practice—they get handed more instruments by band teachers in desperate need of, for example, that weird sound a bassoon makes. Which if you never heard it resembles a water buffalo giving birth to butt-first breached twins. Just saw that on Animal Planet, too. Ugh. Messy.
Anyway, this year while witnessing my perfectly poised offspring pull off one Benny Goodman solo after another, I couldn’t help but remember some of the less-than-perfect concerts we’ve attended over the years. One in particular sticks in my memory like gum in a toddler’s hair.
It was a piano recital. My older son, who was six at the time, was in this recital, which was at the local Lutheran church. Number Two Son was three and because we were naive parents who didn’t know any better, we dragged him along, even though he would rather stick pins in his eyes than endure 27 kids playing watered down versions of every Christmas tune from hit-makers such as A Charlie Brown Christmas to Handel’s Messiah.
After each kid had had the opportunity to musically embarrass him- or herself we all retired to the church’s bonus room for a rip-roaring round of cheese doodles, Costco fruitcake and punch so sweet I need an insulin shot just writing about it.
We got in line to partake in this fare, and when we finally got to the front I ladled out what looked like radioactive red liquid into my three-year-old’s Dixie cup. He politely thanked me, took one sip, made a face, and then with all the seriousness of a wine connoisseur dumped the remaining contents of his cup BACK INTO THE PUNCH BOWL—in front of God and everybody.
Suddenly the 50 or so people crowded around the table looked at us as if we’d just infected them all with rabies. I glared down at my son with wide, maniacal eyes, and he confidently shot back, “What? I didn’t like it. And you told me never to waste food.”
Well, he had me there. I returned my blank start to the collective dagger-eyes of the crowd and simply uttered, “Um, he’s not sick…and he’s had all his shots.”
“That’s it. We’re outta here,” mumbled my mortified husband.
We zipped out in such a rush, that once everyone was buckled into their car seats, I realized that we’d forgotten my son’s music.
“I am NOT going back in there,” my husband proclaimed. As usual, it was up to me to clean up after the elephants, so to speak. I snuck back into the church unnoticed just in time to see a five-old-dump his punch cup into the baptismal font. But of course, NO ONE saw that little maneuver.
When I returned to the car with the music, both kids were gleefully chanting, “Daddy said a bad word! Daddy said a bad word.” Apparently Daddy had backed into a pole in his attempt to hide from anyone coming out of the church. Nothing says “Don’t look at me” like the sound of crunching car metal.
I was so angry at my husband for cursing in front of the kids, not because he said a bad word, but because he got to say a bad word. Due to the kids, I had been dialing back my potty mouth to the point at which I’d just about had a stroke every time I happened to stub my toe. And here he was blurting out colorful prose like he was channeling George Carlin. Not fair! I wanted to let loose a stream of F-bombs just to make it even.
But I didn’t.
Instead I turned around and looked in the backseat at two little smiling faces that were so proud of themselves for catching Daddy “saying a bad word.” Thinking back they were just like that cheetah I’d just seen on Animal Planet. And my husband was the lame gazelle. Fortunately, I had been cunning enough that day to outsmart my little cheetahs’ ego-busting hunt for superiority, and thus I lived to do battle yet another day…at least this time.
Stacy Dymalski is a stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.