Remember those patronizing books we used to receive as children about hygiene and manners. They often rhymed and had bland drawings of Dick and Jane types smiling and speaking “Oh so respectfully.” We knew they weren’t real people and would not model ourselves after their pablum personalities. We also suspected the kids on Father Knows Best were just in it for the money.
Today’s kids have the opposite, with Bart Simpson, Family Guy, South Park, and Robert Munch’s best seller about farts. The kids still know these people aren’t real, but model them anyway. I do admit that Bart Simpson didn’t invent, “I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault.” but he has certainly helped to perpetuate it.
That’s why it was so much fun to recommend Piggyback. The title is a double play on “piggyback.” In a clever and intriguing (Find Waldo technique), Browne shows us what happens to three chauvinist pigs, daddy and two sons, when mommy has had enough.
Appropriate behaviour in a pluralistic society, inundated by our corporate giant to the south, is harder and harder to pinpoint. It depends, of course, if you are talking to kids or adults. Adults tend to be more divided on the subject, although far too many agree on one thing. Whatever the neighbour’s kid does could be inappropriate, but whatever their kid does never is inappropriate.
All is not serious, though. Sometimes you just have to laugh at what kids think is normal. Here are some behaviours I have watched over the years.
1. When brushing your teeth, try to avoid making foam as much as possible. Take at least three minutes to get the paste on the brush. Whisk the brush over your teeth, contacting the enamel as little as possible. Be sure to spit the paste down the side of the sink to create glue-line streaks. Don’t worry if you accidentally drop some into the drain hole. It will eventually build up and create a block the size of the Hoover dam. (Of course, it would be easier to squeeze the paste directly from the tube into the sink, but not nearly as creative.)
2. Try to leave the bathroom without washing your hands. If you’re sent back, settle for second best and leave the tap dripping. Make sure it is the hot water.
3. If your mother forces you to wear a jacket to school when it is merely 5 degrees celsius, don’t argue. It makes a great first base.
4. If it moves, chase it. If it sits, collect it. Store it in an unlabelled box under your bed. No one will dare touch it.
5. Everything tastes better with whipped cream. Even a cookie.
6. Everything tastes better with a cherry. Even pop.
7. Everything tastes better with a straw. Even pudding.
8. If you can eat it with a straw, a cherry, and whipped cream, you should run for Prime Minister.
9. Girls are annoying and should be avoided at all costs. Mom is not a girl.
10. Live by the motto of Robert Benchley, who was a grown up, but understood children. “Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.” Stick to your Lego task, Sega challenge, or hockey card sorting if it takes all day, but sigh and groan if cleaning your room, doing your homework corrections, or writing a thank you note takes longer than a Canadian commercial break.
March 29, 2010