Weasel’s Guide To Parenting!
 
2008
 
(This is the first installment of many Weasel's Guides)

            For true enjoyment of this story the reader must have consumed at least a six-pack of Bud (or if you're desperate, Bud Lite) in the last hour, be able to read fast and think the words in a deep southern drawl (or at least fake it reeel good like you’re doin' NASCAR karaoke) and last, have zero kids. For the rest of us, well… good luck.

            Welcome to the Weasel’s guide to parenting. This story comes from the heart - and a recent trip. Mi familia embarked upon a vacation to what is sometimes advertised as, “The Happiest Place On Earth!” Five days of park hoppin' bliss. Wandering through the man made wonders of magic, and rides, and candy, and toys, and trinkets, and candy, and cartoon caricatures come to life, and ice cream, and, did I fail to mention, candy? Yes candy. A hundred thousand ways to prepare this wonderful confection of joy and oral bliss and they had every one of them covered; hard, soft, liquid, spun, crystallized, caramelized, chocolate-ized, and rainbow colored and rainbow flavored just to mention a fraction of the list. It was a world of wonder where no childhood whim is left un-sated. Where at the finish of each and every ride your small bundle of drooling joy is dumped into a store flashing high-rez-gotta-have-it digital pics of their most recent thrill, incredible fright or look of wide-eyed wonder. Each picture framed and enhanced by every form of toy that could possibly be associated with said thrill and at least ten different t-shirts, all designed to make your little precious scream, “I want!” Just try gettin' out'a there fer under fifty bucks… I dare y'all! A place where the world of fantasy starts at 9 AM and goes on and on and on way past midnight. Where it’s hot, it’s humid, it’s crowded, and… well, friggin' miserable.  

            Having said that, it’s truly fun and exciting to see the wonder in a kid’s eyes as he beholds all there is to see and experience. They quiver, they gush and they screech. They coo, they ooh and ahh. They point and yell in delight. And they sit on the edge of their stroller just waiting to be cut loose. All in all it’s an unrivaled parenting challenge. One certainly not for the faint of heart, frail of constitution or weak of mind.

            Enter stage right; five to seven thousand families with cash in their fists and a determination that this will be the best damned vacation any of them ever had. Ahhh… it's Summer.

            At this point I must digress just a bit. I know you’re wondering and don’t tell me you aren’t; why? Why the Weasel? It’s a long story, but one I will boil down to just a few simple sentences. Oddly enough I am not JUST a writer; perhaps after reading this you’ll agree that I "ain’t even a writer". I have a regular job that I attend diligently every day and one of my duties is to converse to the press on behalf of my employer. One fine spring morning I was asked to go on camera for a local TV station. My purpose? To opine on a particularly touchy and unpopular regulatory issue. The TV station wished to stage the event to the utmost effect by having me stand next to my employer’s marquee thus provide a certain gravitas to the situation. The problem for me was that the sign was all of five feet from the ground and I stand six foot two, four when in my official go-to-work cowboy boots. So to accomplish the shot, the camera was put on a stand a lofty seven feet in the air, its lens shooting down upon my glowing face as I looked up in wide-eyed wonder diligently explaining the nuances and reasons why the law sez what the law sez!

            Let’s just say the opinions expressed by this author were not exactly shared by a local radio host who will remain nameless. ( Albuquerque’s own Jim Villanucci. Thanks, Jim!) You, sir, have made me famous; at least around work… After seeing the above mentioned story on the 10:00 news, Jim took me to task the following day, and though I didn’t personally hear the comment, it went something like, “Who is this short little weasel?” My staff was greatly amused at my distress and many many Weasel jokes ensued. Weasel I was and Weasel I remain. Such was the level of ridicule that I may have taken some small exception. Back at the salt mine they now know it’s not ever safe to "Taunt the Weasel".

            So much for digression, though at my age the mind tends to wander. I now refer my audience back to our previous situation; theme park, hot day, thousands of families. Determination to have fun. Kids on overload. And the purpose of this prose, the first in a long line of Weasel’s Guides, Weasel’s Guide To Parenting.

            Weasel’s Parenting Rule Number 1 - Know you’re the boss. Or in this case remember you’re the boss. And even if your young-un pops off and says, “You ain’t the boss a me!” Really son, you still are.

             I submit for your consideration the following observation. Mother - middle aged, child 7 - 8, father – staring off into space as if wishing God would finally send his promised thousand plagues and grant him peace. Some shade (though this is merely another illusion carefully wroth by the ingenious and insidious profiteering minds), a line to the ride with more switchbacks than a long steep mountain trail. Humidity so thick the drink stand just out of arms reach seems to shimmer and fade like a mirage, beckoning like Isis, calling like the Sirens of Titan. And me. (It should be noted that my own very lovely bride and sixteen year old young-un were in line as well) And of course, a hundred families like the one I just described above. One of particular interest to our study. A specimen if you will.

             Ahead of us by three switchbacks they round the curve, heading toward us at a rate that shall never exceed rampaging escargot on a cold and windy night. As they come abreast, mother is in the process of grabbing 7 – 8 year old and shaking vigorously, shouting in a most quiet voice, her words forced through gritted teeth, “Ah mean it. One more time and we’re leavin'!” Small child crying and swaying ready to swoon. It’s as if his young knees could no longer support his pitifully emaciated and confection starved frame. What real or imagined infraction had caused this small outburst will forever remain between him and his mother. We saw it naught. Nor evidently, did his father. Too busy observing the oh so clever manner in which the architect had bonded two tons of metal with a bolt the size of a paperclip. Or perhaps he was simply ignoring "mother".

            “Ah,” me sez to me self. “There’s one young scudder destined for a short trip to the parking lot.” I shake my head in sorrow. What wonders he shall miss? I silently implore him, Just keep your head about ya… It’ll all be ok. Did I happen to miss his puckish little grin?

            Fast forward three switchbacks and twenty heat and humidity filled minutes. Same family creeping painfully in our direction. Another commotion, its noise barely contained by the quiet murmur of the thousands around us. I place a hand over my mouth. My eyes wide in disbelief. What’s this? Mother shaking kid (again or continuously I never knew), her face even more red, “Ah mean it, one more time and we’re leavin'!”

            Three more switchbacks; “Ah mean it, one more time and we’re leavin'!”

            Three more. My god, does the wench have no other words to fill out her prodigious vernacular? Three more. And so on. The father still oblivious and the kid needing hydration from spent tears (lucky for him there is a drink stand selling $4 cokes just ahead).

             Eureka! They never went to the parking lot… I believe by now you get the point. Carefully observe Weasel’s Rule Number 1. Mom and dad are the boss, a rule seemingly lost on this family. This is my number one and most important rule. Admittedly, largely ignored by every race, creed and nationality we observed that day and in the many to follow.

             Weasel’s Rule Number 2 – Speak in clear concise sentences in whatever native tongue God decided to grace you with.

            I could wax poetic a couple of hours on this one. Observe… “Boy! You wan' a woopin'?” This is perhaps the world’s most stupid question. “I’m gona tan yer tail!” Idle threat. “Ah mean it. Jes' one more…” More like ten. “Y'all wanna leave? Zat whatch y’all want?” It’s most certainly what I want. Little chance. Less hope. “Moma… take the boy. Needs ta poop.” Not sure about this one. Last I checked, my ‘moma’ was a few states away (wise woman), and I hadn’t married her. Perhaps the problem here is that young Johnny’s a bit confused as well. The kid had that confused look on his face, ‘She’s your moma too?’ he thinks. Though it could be a result of his urgent need, completely ignored by daddy for the last forty minutes as he ogled every woman in view except of course, ‘Moma’.

            Or… might this be a breakthrough in the study of ancient foreign linguistics? I believe I may have found the root of the phrase, ‘Yo mama!’ Long hidden here in the arcane and incredibly difficult to learn dialect of the old south. If it weren’t for time honored Rosetta Stones; such oracles as ‘The Cable Guy’, a million and one “You might be a redneck if…” jokes, and NASCAR, I couldn’t even get this far. Or is it ‘git’ this ‘fer’. I git a tech CONfounded and CONfused.

            Yet the word ‘git’ is really a most versatile word. As is the word ‘fer’.
 
            Git, as in fetch. ‘Bubba, ya’ll git me a Bud.’ Git, as in leave. ‘Bes gitcyer butt outa here.’ Git, as in progeny. ‘That boy shor' gots sum butt ugly git.’
 
            Fer, as in, ‘I’m a gonna' giv' tha boy wha' fer!’ Fer, as in distance. ‘Boy tha' ride shor' looks a fer piece’ (Man gazing out over a two hundred pound beer gut. His vast tribute to ‘Body by Bud’). Of course fer piece could also mean a coon skin cap or several flavors of road kill. Depends on the lisp or an inflection on the key word, ‘piece’.

                        Then there’s;

                                                What fer?

                                                Fer god’s sake.

                                                Just fer grunts & giggles.

            And then there are other words. Words like Sugar, Sugar Foot, Sugar Tit (Whoa… I mean the kids pacifier, not what you were thinking), and my all time favorite, Baby Girl. I had one guy exclaiming “Baby Girl” with every breath. “I want Baby Girl to see this. Baby Girl you see it? Wonder if Baby Girl likes that. What you think Baby Girl. Pass Baby Girl over. Baby Girl likes it, see!” Gag me with a fully barbequed baby back rib. But at least this Baby Girl really was one. All of three years old. I saw similar behavior with girls from the age of ‘just escaped the womb’ to ‘can’t possibly count the wrinkles’. Sigh

            At this moment I in my dissertation I must distinguish one fairly salient point. There truly is a difference between, for lack of better terms, ‘High NASCAR’ and ‘Low NASCAR’. Sometimes it felt like I was listening to old time plantation owners and sometimes it was like hearing a man with a mouth chock full a good southern rocks. Some so slurred (even without beer) I could make no sense of the windy utterances whatsoever. Evidently this was also a problem for their kids. If the poor little dahlins couldn’t git it the fer's time, mama would simply shout it louder. Didn’t seem to have much impact on lil Johnny either way. Yet far more than unpleasant for us innocent and captive line-bound observers though.

            At some point I have become numb to it all and foolishly I ask a question of one such native. I don’t remember what, something about alligators or Jeff Davis or perhaps where I might find an outhouse. What followed was, to my dismay, a stream of consciousness type of an answer;

            “Well naw. Tha’s a good quesion. Shorely is. I do recoll; nea’r September twas. 79, maybe 80. Bad yea’r. Bolin' hot. Skeeters bad bad that yea’ so musta been 80. Wors' I ever seen. Yup. 80 shor' 'nuff. Sum the wors' heat I eva' did see.” His eyes were glass, seeing far off places a man from the west couldn’t possibly imagine. Slowly I back away, thinking it rude to interrupt such thoughtful reverie. Funny thing is, as I recall I was coming back from some errand or another and the same gentleman was still there. Eyes to the distance, still providing the answer to a question neither he nor I could possibly remember.

            I think I got off on a bit of a tangent. (For those of you from the south, this means “Ah ain’t no longer trakin') Bottom line, whether you speak English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Creole, British (Couldn’t understand some of these folks any better than I could the Chinese family that rattled off words faster than a mini-gun), or southern NASCAR redneck, don’t confuse your youngsters, speak in clear short yet complete sentences. Make yourself very clear, and, in the vernacular on my southern friends, “don eva' let em a’gue.”  

            Weasel’s Rule Number 3 – It’s ok to apply a small hand to the rear end of an unruly child. (Not much opportunity for humor here, though I’ll give 'er a shot.)

            Admittedly, if this isn’t done by age 18 months it’s mostly a lost cause. And if not comported well, may possibly contribute to or otherwise result in the many of the other behaviors I witnessed at the “Happiest Place On Earth.” Above I mentioned shaking of a child. Big no no. Then there’s the pulling of hair. The yanking on whatever appendage is closest. The threatened backhand (hand raised as if to strike, child shying away making it certain this is no idle threat). The follow through backhand. The indignant dragging by the arm or ear. The plopping back into the stroller (these are usually colorfully themed strollers “rented” from the park 'cuz Johnny don’t want same ol!) As if they don’t have enough of my money. Then there is the threatened woopin', whippin', smackin', beatin'; all followed by, “yer butt” And that’s just the siblings! When the parents get involved, watch out. As the saying goes, belt em in the car, whoop em on soccer field, whip em at basketball, smack em with a high-five and beat em at checkers. Nuf said, y’all.

           Weasel’s Rule Number 4 – don’t treat them like a princess. They just might act like one.

            Ah, there’s nothing quite like the joys brought to your life by a spoiled child. I ask you, is there anything quite like it? And we saw them in droves, coveys, pods, herds, bevys, flocks, schools and troops. The ‘I got more money than you. Just look at all the crap I bought em’ family. Kid still grasping for more, though how he’ll ever get that seven foot tall, $25 balloon (actual cost about two pesos) back to the hotel is  mystery. Bigger mystery to the kid who finds it deflated in a limp pile in the corner the next morning (about like me after a binge). Let the howling begin… along with moma’s promise to git 'nother and daddy’s, “Better quitsyer bellerin' or I’ll give ya sompin' ta beller 'bout!” Or, “I’m fixen' ta give ya what fer!” They are all interchangeable so take your pick. But yet again I digress. I do that much more frequently as I so gracefully age.

            Ok ok, back to princess. There are several stages of this phenomenon to be discussed. Dressed like a princess and treated like a princess. (I use the overt Princess Outfit here because we are at the ‘Happiest place on earth’, but at no time is a princess outfit really required. It’s all in the attitude after all. Child and parent) So, to quote the Joker, here… we… go.

            Stage One – child; no more than ten months, dressed in princess outfit and cooing to beat the band as they lay there in the stroller staring wide-eyed at the world. Cute? Absolutely. But why in hell’s single green acre is a kid that small here anyway? Time in the park – estimated at two full hours.

            Stage Two – child; self mobile (except when they want to be carried, which seems to be 24-7), probably up to three years. Dressed in a princess outfit. Cute? Well yeah, but it’s the total, ‘look at me, ain’t I special?’ package. Child is already wondering why everything in the world isn’t simply handed over on first batted eye or muted demand. Tantrums and appeasement are very evident in this stage. Time in the park – four full hours. Most of it shear hell on the rest of us.

            Stage Three – Child; from Stage Two through about twelve years. Dressed in a princess outfit. Cute? Not so much….  Are they given what they want? Usually, but not in the beginning. It takes a bit of whining or perhaps simple manipulation of dear old dad. Successful? Always.Sassy and back talking? Yupers bubba. Time in the park – all damn day and well into the night.

            Stage Four – Teenager; Dressed in a princess outfit you ask? Sometimes, though third degree slut comes to mind, and eye, many times as well. Time in the park? Till it closes if there are boys to impress, boys to drool over them, boys to  manipulate, boys to ignore, boys... Well you get the point. Spoiled? Absolutely. To their daddies I say, “You are so screwed.”

            Stage Five – Adult; possibly married. If not, whipped boyfriend in tow or following in her wake like a dingy in heavy serf. Time in the park – just as long as she wants to be. As long as it amuses her. As long as her makeup holds out. As long as she’s the center of attention, and heaven help us all when she ain’t!

            Whew, I got through it. What would my Weasel Wisdom say you may ask? Take 'em out of the princess outfit no later than Stage Two. My god… just think about what you're gong to do to someone’s son someday!

            Weasel’s Rule Number 5 – This is really the simplest rule of all and it applies directly to rules two through four. When in doubt, refer to rule number one! When all else fails, refer to rule number one! Always start with rule number one! Never forget rule number one! And most important, begin and finish with rule number one!

Other salient Weasel observations.

            A word about leashes. The other day I saw a woman walking her dog (ugly pug, and when we say the owner begins to look like their dog… Hey! I’m just sayin'). Anyway, this dog is on his leash and straining with every essence in his stout little pug body to get the next bush in need of watering. Little claws clickin' on the concrete. No amount of pain; or in this case, choking, was too much to pay for the grand opportunity to spray pug perfume all over the next Chrysothamnus Nauseosus Albicaulis. Chamesia, or rabbit bush for you NASCR folks. How this dog had any toenails left is a mystery. And did I notice a rather large bicep on the young lady, particularly on her much longer right arm. The one that held the strap attached to, ‘Feather’ the snorting snot spraying rasping pug-nosed mutt.

            Fast forward a week and a couple thousand miles. Happiest Place and all that. Kid, wide-eyed and arms spread, straining like Moses to part the Red Sea as he wishes the crowd to disperse and allow him a straight shot to the candy apple stand. A gleam in his eye that said, "Step away from the shiny red thing and no one gets hurt". His pudgy little hand within a stretched finger of glory. Then, ‘snap!’ With a heroic yank said child is now dangling from his leash. His shoes a foot off the ground. His harness making his face as red as the object of his young thwarted desire (get used to it kid. Wait till you discover women.) Squealing in rage, little dumpling is hauled off.

            Now I ask you all. Can I get a witness! Is it really appropriate to leash your child? Perhaps the parent who feels such need simply missed - everyone say it with me now  - Weasel’s Rule Number 1.

            Meat packaging. Now I know a few of you may have minds wandering paths not strictly appropriate for this venue, but work with me a bit. The packaging I am referring to is actually a time honored competition. The rules you ask? Simple. See who can cram the most flesh into the smallest bag possible. Grease it for all it’s worth and start stuffing (again, not what you’re thinking). I’m not talking the local Food Bank or a homeless shelter. I’m talking about the beach!

            Oh lord please help me! I had the dubious pleasure to witness the competition ultimate winner. I was mistaken that day as I crested the last dune, thinking the sun glinting off my own soft white limbs was enough to blind the other bathers. I was wrong. As we cleared that last pile of sand and finally glimpsed the cool waters of the gulf coast with its million small wavelets and ripples reflecting the glory of Ra, one point in the sand, too near to be water, cast back glow of a hundred solar collectors. Dipping my hat and squeezing my eyes half shut behind my polarized lenses, (thank God for technology) I stare then scream to my young son, “Don’t look!” But it was too late. He stood there, frozen as a pillar of salt, mouth hanging slake, a small line of drool drying to a line of fine white calcium.

            Before us, parked on a towel, was the ‘Taker of the Golden Cup’. A gallon of oil (baby or crude I never found out?) shimmering and wavering from the behemoth as if another great mirage in the desert. I assume the oil was used to help ease the flesh into the sackcloth. Narrowly were we saved. Even as we arrived, her minions completed the erection of the great tent, its canvas top, red and white as a carnival pavilion and snapping like a jib sheet in a gale, finally cut the solar rays, severing the gleam like a cut umbilical. Slowly my eyes adjusted to the sudden lack of light, as if a black hole had descended to the earth.

            Around the pavilion lay many lesser such goddesses, but under the tent reclined the queen. What does this have to do with parenting? I have no idea. My mind is still a little numb, but there must be a lesson or five in there somewhere.   

            So… let’s review the Weasel’s truth and wisdom. Five simple rules that will allow you peace in your home, peace at the theme park and, dare I say it; peace on earth (at a minimum it will be a hell of a lot quieter).

            Weasel’s Rule Number 1 - Know you’re the boss. Or in this case remember you’re the boss. And even if your young-un pops off and says, “You ain’t the boss a me!” Really… You still are. (Hint if you're still confused – parent)

            Weasel’s Rule Number 2 – Speak in clear concise sentences in whatever native tongue God decided to grace you with. Yup bubba, even you can get’er done.

           Weasel’s Rule Number 3 – It’s ok to apply a small hand to the rear end of an unruly child. For Woopin', wippin', smackin', beatin' – consult your local law enforcement or child protection agency.

           Weasel’s Rule Number 4 – don’t treat them like a princess. They just might act like one. Boy do they ever! God save us from all Princesses!

           Weasel’s Rule Number 5 – when in doubt always refer to rule number one.

           Having waxed poetic I leave you with this… Say it after me (just like hypnosis). I may have to explain that to my NASCAR friends.

         The Weasel is wise!

         The Weasel is wise!

         The Weasel is wise!

         The Weasel is wise!

               Kinda echoes don’t it!

                  Greg Saunders

www.gregoryjsaunders.com

gjswriter@gregoryjsaunders.com