by Kersten Campbell
Creativity is an excellent character trait to cultivate in yourself. In fact, most, if not all of my fulfillment as a mother comes from inventing new and exciting ways to foil my children’s attempts to steal all of the bubble gum out of my purse. Why, without creativity, we would now be living without one of the most vital and important inventions of the twentieth century: cocktail wieners. Imagine a party without those!
The only time creativity becomes a problem is when you add “pro” in front of the word. This is because somehow, during the procreative process, all of your precious creativity leaks out of you and seeps into your little creations. You think I’m making this up, but it’s true. It’s the only way I can explain why I get more spacey and less innovative and productive after each child is born. One by one, my children inherit all of my creativity and sap my inventiveness until finally, after five children, I am left with the ingenuity of a Lima bean. This puts me at a decided disadvantage when my children use this pirated resourcefulness to sneak taco shells under each other’s pillows at night, or to trick me into paying them more allowance. And it starts to become really expensive when they invent couch cushion sleds to slide down the stairs.
The one bright spot in this dilemma is that the more creative your kids are, the better they will be able to support you in your old age. I tell my children this often, even up to eight times a day, because:
1. I am not creative enough anymore to come up with any other method, and
2. They will be motivated to start training for a career when they are young.
This is possibly why my son has already zeroed in on a lucrative and exciting career as a computer hacker. He has already started his job training by cracking every computer and television code intended to keep him away from video games and junk TV.
I complained about this to my friend, April, one afternoon at the park.
“My son is going to jail by the time he’s twelve, I just know it,” I said, morosely pushing my toddler in the swing.
Always one to cheer and comfort, April doled out words of comfort intended to help me see reason. “Don’t worry! They don’t put twelve year olds in jail, they send them to juvenile delinquent homes. You’ve got plenty of time to turn him around.”
I nodded. “Maybe you’re right. I just get discouraged when I see other children who are so obedient. Look at that woman over there,” I said, pointing at a woman pushing a stroller. “Why can’t my son be like that child? His mother tells him to sit and he sits. She tells him to eat vegetables and he eats his vegetables.”
April cleared her throat. “That’s because he’s six months old,” she said. “He eats baby food. Strained peas are pretty good compared to rice cereal that tastes like cardboard. Besides,” she whispered, “You’ve just got to use your wits. Outsmart the little devil into using his talents for non-criminal activities.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” I wailed. “You’ve only got three children. You’ve still got some of your wits left.”
April stared at me and pulled on her ear, something she does when she’s trying to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.
I gave my toddler an underdog push, and came over to where April was pushing her daughter. “What I mean is…I’ve tried everything. There is no code my son can’t crack. I’ll think up the most obscure phone numbers or letter combinations….and within hours he’s sitting in front of the television with all his siblings watching cartoons. He spends hours working out code-cracking algorithms in his bed. I’ve found notebooks filled with possible letter and word combinations. I’m telling you, he’s brilliant. How am I supposed to raise a child … when I can’t protect him from himself?”
April patted me on the back and tried to put a positive spin on things. “Look on the bright side. If he turns into a criminal, maybe they’ll make a movie about him someday…like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. Then he’ll be famous!”
I raised an eyebrow.
“You’re so lucky!” she smiled brightly, “My husband and I always wished we had a famous child. Why, when we were dating…” Suddenly she stopped. Her face lit up. “Wait a minute…that’s it. I’ve got it!”
“Got what?” I asked, in Eeyore-like moping tones.
“A code he’ll never be able to figure out.”
I raised my head, daring to hope. “Really? It’s got to be simple enough for me to remember…” I said.
She grinned. “You’ll never forget this one. And he’ll never figure it out.” Then she dragged me over to a park bench. “Okay listen,” she said, sitting me down. “Your mistake is that you’re using code words from the present…things that he knows about. You’ve got to go back to before he was born. We use this one on our computer. I can’t believe I never thought to tell you about it.”
She paused. My interest was piqued. “Well? Go on,” I said.
“Nicknames,” she said.
“Huh?” I said.
“You know,” she flipped one side of her hair behind her shoulder. “Like the nicknames you and your husband called each other when you were dating. Your son wasn’t around then. He’ll never guess what you used to call each other.”
I laughed. “You called each other nicknames? Like what? Poochie Woochie?”
“Ha ha,” said April. “No. We only called each other respectable things, like ‘Tiger’ and ‘Cowboy’.”
“Respectable,” I nodded, swallowing my mirth. “Which one did your husband call you?”
April glared. “Very funny.” Then a soft smile stole across her lips. “He used to call me Tiger, because I growled at him a lot.”
I tapped my chin with my finger, suddenly overcome with nostalgia for my own special nickname. “You know…you just might have something there. I bet my son would never guess what my husband used to call me in our more tender moments.”
April smiled benevolently. “I love to hear these sweet stories. What did he call you?”
“Fatso,” I said, staring up at the sky in fond remembrance.
April stared at me in horror. “What? He called you Fatso?”
I nodded. “He was studying Spanish, and he mistook the word, ‘gordito’, for a term of endearment. He didn’t realize what the literal translation was.” I shook my head. “I never did have the heart to tell him what it really meant.”
April was quick to agree that my son would never be able to guess my old nickname. That night I had a chance to test out our theory.
I felt like a secret service agent as I closed all the curtains, checked for spy equipment, and felt around the lampshades for wire taps before I told my husband what to type in the computer.
“He’ll never guess what you used to call me,” I chuckled, whispering the word to him in Spanish, just in case.
The next morning my son called his little brother a name at breakfast. It was the Spanish word for ‘fatso’.
“Aaaaargh!” I cried, slapping my forehead. “How did you guess the code? It hasn’t even been in effect for 24 hours…and you weren’t even alive at the time your dad called me that! What are you? Some sort of ESP…alien intelligence that stole my son from me at birth? Where is my son?” I said, shaking him by the shoulders. “Where has he gone, and what have you done with him?”
My son pushed me away and stared at me like I was nuts. Then he tapped his chin, like I always do when I’m thinking, clearly proving that he stole all his ingenuity from me. “Is that what the code was?” he said, finally. “No wonder I couldn’t crack it. Thanks Mom! What a coincidence. I heard someone say that word in Spanish club yesterday. I think it’s a term of endearment. I was using it on Moo. Babies like foreign languages.”
Hmmm. It looked like my son had leeched some of his dad’s intelligence as well. Oh well…back to the drawing board for more obscure nicknames. Maybe I’d better start growling, I thought, so my husband can start calling me something more respectable and harder to figure out like ‘Tiger.’