Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Baby's Banjo

My dear friends Rob and Vicki went to a couples' retreat before they got married. It was one of those retreats in which a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and/or a church deacon gets up in front of you and a bunch of other couples, and over the course of 2 days, finds about 700 different ways to tell you that the key to a happy, successful marriage is listening. Listening and patience. The patience of a guy who spends his whole life sending messages to aliens and waiting to receive messages back. I'll get back to this in just a sec.

Anyway, Vicki and Rob have a toddler just exactly Odessa's age, and today Vicki and I were standing in a parking lot bitching about how confoundedly difficult it is to reason with someone who poops in their own pants. And I was also belly-aching about how Bryan and I can never agree on exactly how to put Odessa to bed, and as a result, she knows that if she cries in her crib for long enough, someone will eventually end up snuggling her to sleep in the grown-up bed.

[I'm going to pause a moment here so you can have time to make a disapproving face and maybe say "nuh-uh, girl--when I have kids, them babies gonna sleep in they OWN bed." And for me to wish you luck with that.]

Back to the couples' retreat. So, today Vicki was standing in the parking lot of the grocery store, listening to my whining, smiling serenely like she does when she's about to tell you exactly what she thinks. When I was finished she said, "Remember that time Rob and I went to that couples' retreat? The only thing I remember about that whole weekend is when some church deacon got up and said 'Once ya'll have kids, if ya'll ain't on the same team, THEM-KIDS-GONNA-PLAY-YOU-LIKE-A-BANJO!'"

The last time Vicki told me that story, I was pregnant with Odessa, and I was like "Oh, hee hee hee ha ha--that's funny to think about a cute little baby playing a banjo." And today, I was like "Oh shit. I'm getting PLAYED. Like a BANJO."

Friends, there are reasons for horror movies about creepy little children. It's because little kids have basically no conscience. My friend Jane's dad has been a pediatrician for like 87 years and he insists that babies are the world's greatest extortionists. It's not their fault--it's just developmentally inappropriate for a toddler to think, "If I cry like I'm being attacked by hornets between the hours of 2:00 and 4:30 in the morning, Mama will be sad and very sleepy tomorrow. So I'd better just roll over, catch some shut-eye and see Mama in the morning." What's going through their heads is something more like "OHMYGODI'MALONE!!!!!THEHORROR!!!!!MAAAMAAAA

I'm just sayin'--it's stressful.

Well, last night Bryan and I were engaging in some heated discourse concerning the fact that it's hard to raise a toddler and it's probably all your fault, etc. So, it was my turn at the podium, I had removed my shoe, and I think I was really getting my point across (in case you were wondering, it was that he--my sweet husband--was actually a Stalinesque oppressor/despot). There was some chin trembling and glassy, brimming eyes. Anyway, just as I was carefully choosing which scandalizing expletive was going to make my point most elegantly, Odessa appeared in the doorway wearing her purple footie pajamas zipped down to her naval (she likes to suck her thumb and dig around in her belly button at the same time--there's really no accounting for taste), grinning like a fool because she had successfully escaped from our bed. And she found us! Her favorite people! And the kitty was there! Oh holy crap, this is so awesome!

And you know what? I laughed. We both did, and that was the end of the argument.

It turns out a banjo can be played for good or for evil.

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