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Puppy Training

C: I want a puppy because I never had a puppy.
D: But, we’re getting puppies. This weekend we are going to dig out your puppy costumes to dress you up in. Then, you could be Fisher’s Cory Pup, and he could be your Fisher Pup. Problem solved.
C: No, Daddy, I want a real puppy.
D: Are you sure? Real puppies take a lot of work. Do you know the first thing is that you have to teach a puppy?
F/C: No.
C: What, Daddy?
D: Where to go potty. Puppies can’t use a toilet. So, you have to teach them where to go potty outside. Do you know where they go until they learn?
F/C: Where?
D (pointing to the floor): Right there. (Pointing to another spot on the floor.) And there!
C (Fisher laughing): What?!
D: That’s right. They don’t know to go potty outside until you teach them.
F: They just poop right on the floor. That’s so funny!
C: How do you teach them?
D: You take them outside all the time, and when they poop in the right spot, you say, “Good doggy! Good puppy! Way to go, puppy dog! Good job!” And they like to hear that, so they learn that they like to go poop outside.
F: What do you do when the puppy just goes poop right there on the floor?
D: Well, either Cory or Fisher will have to pick it up.
F/C: Eeeeewwwww!


D: Are you sure you don’t want to just dress up in your puppy costumes and be a puppy for each other?
F (without pondering): Yah. I want to see that puppy poop on the floor.
C (pondering a little): I’m sure. I want a real puppy. (Pause.) But, Daddy, can you please clean up the poop on the floor? Because that’s a lot of poop, and you are better at that than we are. We might mess it up more.

She smiles, probably just looking a little bit like she knows that she’s right.

Singing Anyway

F: Daddy, I can’t sing.
D (surprised): Why do you say that, Fisher? I love hearing you sing.
F: I don’t sing as good as you do, Daddy.
D (laughing): Well, that’s not true, Fisher. But, that doesn’t mean that you *can’t* sing. Of course, you can sing. Anyone with a voice can sing. And, it just so happens that you have a better singing voice than I do. Much better, Fisher.
F: No, I don’t.

Bowles Elementary had “special chorus” back in the seventies, a singing group that would put on shows for parents a few times a year. I was a part of it in fourth and fifth grades. In the first regular music class at the beginning of sixth, the teacher (I can’t remember what her name was) passed around a clipboard for kids to sign up for special chorus for the year. She explained when the shows would be, what practicing would entail, that participation was completely voluntary, etc. But as the clipboard moved down my row, she interjected firmly, “Except for you, Wickey. It’s voluntary for everyone but you.” She smiled, but I felt weird. Huh? I didn’t understand. Was she trying to be funny? Was this some acknowledgement that I had a nice voice? That she liked me? Had my Mom and Dad been involved somehow? Just huh. I signed up.

I sang in all of those sixth-grade performances, but puberty hit shortly after that year. I remember recording myself singing on a cassette tape at some point during the aftermath. Playing myself back, I was horrified. If she (it bugs me that I can’t remember her name) had been the seventh grade music teacher, I feel pretty confident that she wouldn’t have been pressing me to sign up for the chorus again. More like, “Now, Wickey, don’t hog the clipboard, move it along, you can’t be involved in everything.” Bye bye, singing voice.

At some point in college, I picked up and read my sister’s copy of The Revolution Within by Gloria Steinem. She has some section in there about changing one’s perspective. In my memory, it went something like this: too many people too often say, “I can’t sing” or “I can’t dance” or “I can’t draw”, when what they really mean is that thousands of other people probably wouldn’t pay to listen to them sing or watch them dance or view their artwork. So what. Of course, you can sing. Of course, you can dance. Of course, you can draw. Quit saying that you can’t. And you should never stop doing any of those things just because of what other people think of the results. Something about this simple point clicked for me: drop the negativity and stop missing the point.

Years later, although I still don’t do any of them as much as I should, I sing and dance and write and draw more now that I’m a parent. My future will never involve a stage, of course, at least for that purpose. But, almost every night I sing two or three songs to my kids, usually non-lullabies given the lullaby treatment. And, almost every time, they listen, quiet and riveted in the dark. Sometimes, they sing a few of the words from the first song, even fewer of the words from the second one, and almost never, a sound or two from the third. (It helps that the third song is in German.) Sleep then takes them.

One day, Daddy brings the cellphone (the modern cassette tape recorder) in for “lay down two minutes.”

F: What’s that for, Daddy?
D (hitting the record button, phone face down on the floor): Oh, nothing. Just in-casers. So, guys…

Later, after they’re in bed, Daddy downloads the file, stares at a black rectangle, and listens to lullabies sung in a voice that has not improved with age. Smiling. Tearing up a little actually, thinking of Cory and Fisher listening, years (hopefully, many, many, many years) from now, to a singing voice that only the two of them could love. Smiling (and cringing) even more, Daddy shuts it off after about thirty seconds.

Back to the (later) “lay down two minutes,” during which Fisher had announced an inability to sing…

D: Yes, Fisher, I’ve heard both you and Cory sing. Your voices are beautiful. More beautiful than mine, but, that’s okay. I like to sing to you anyway.
C: And you know so many songs, Daddy.
F: Your voice is better than mine, Daddy. It’s better than Bruno Mars does.
D (tickling them): What!? Have you gone pluuuummmmm crazy? Maybe if I stretch things out just right [thinking, and I have a few drinks], I could put out the dance moves to sway behind Bruno Mars for a verse, maybe two, but sing!? Come on! Guys, my voice is nowhere near…
C: Daddy, I think you’re right. Bruno Mars can sing better, but…
F: No, Daddy, I think you sing better than Bruno Mars.
D: Well, on that point, Fisher, we’re going to have to agree to disagree, but you know what?
F/C: What?
D: Bruno Mars isn’t here right now. All you have is your daddy, so…”Limited. Just look at me. I’m limited. And just look at you, you can do all I couldn’t do…”

All the stage needed.

(It still really bothers me that I can’t remember that music teacher’s name…)

Nitriled Dental Love

Fisher brings home two latex (nitrile?) gloves as part of some after-school Y project.

He disentangles one of them from the popsicle sticks and other doohickies and walks around the house for days with the glove on his hand and a finger in his mouth. On the up side, the glove is attached to a finger, making it is less likely to be swallowed than a balloon, which they both used to try to chew like gum.

F (latexed finger in his mouth): Daddy, are we going to the dentist today?
D (looking at him): No, it’s Saturday, silly. We are going next week.
F (in faux disappointment while chomping on his finger and turning back to Cory’s Lego project): Oh! I like going to the dentist.

Daddy shakes his head. A couple of days later, the appointments have to be changed.

F (in real disappointment while chomping on his nitriled finger): Ooooooh! Why, Daddy? I like going to the dentist!

At the actual dentist, his enthusiasm is tamped down a bit. There are other people around, but…

F (in the car on the way home): I like going to the dentist, Cory! Do you?
C (playing with her bouncy ball from Dr. Nola’s prize box): Uh huh.
F: What was your favorite part? My favorite part is that sucky thing. The thing that sucks in your mouth. What was your favorite part?
C (obviously not as interested): That’s my favorite part, too.
F: And spitting. The spitting part is funny, right, Cory?
C: Uh huh.
F: You looked funny when you were spitting in that cup, right, Cory?
C: Uh huh.
F: I love going to the dentist!

Thinking “wait ’til your first cavity,” Daddy adjusts the rearview mirror to watch him for a sec.

F: Going to the dentist is just fun.

There’re no gloves in the backseat, so the smile and all this, um, dental love seem relatively normal.