Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Some Kinds of Help

The children have been allegedly helping me get ready for Thanksgiving. I say "allegedly" because much of the time it would actually be more efficient if I completed whatever it is they are helping with by myself. This kind of assistance always reminds me of the song, "Helping" from "Free to Be...You and Me," that great piece of propaganda masquerading as children's entertainment.

Don't get me wrong, as a child I loved listening to "Free to Be" on my record player and rocking out to the music. I also definitely believe that little girls should be allowed to grow up to be firemen and boys should be allowed to grow up to be cocktail waitresses. What do I care, as long as the girl can put out a fire and the boy can bring me a drink. It just seems a little heavy-handed in retrospect in that every single skit or song hammered away at the same message: boys can cry and have dolls, girls can play sports and are faking their love of housework. Okay, okay Marlo Thomas and friends, point well taken!

The "Helping" song is one of the few that doesn't reiterate the equal rights for women theme, probably because it's from a poem by Shel Silverstein, whose poetry is more scatological than didactic. (How's about them big words?) The lyrics to "Helping" are:

Agatha Fry, she made a pie
And Christopher John helped bake it.
Christopher John, he mowed the lawn
And Agatha Fry helped rake it.

Now, Zachary Zugg took out the rug
And Jennifer Joy helped shake it.
Then Jennifer Joy, she made a toy
And Zachary Zugg helped break it.

And some kind of help is the kind of help
That helping's all about,
And some kind of help is the kind of help
We all can do without.

Yes, folks that does appear to be a Missing Piece tattoo. I mean, if you're going to get a tat of a Shel Silverstein picture, you'd think you would try for something less minimalist. Maybe this one:

Wow! That is!

In any case, Shel had it right about helping. When the Baby "helps" me clean the antique dining room table by spraying it with Formula 409, thereby destroying the finish, that's the kind of help I could do without. The girls helped today by cleaning up the yard. They actually did rake up a lot of the leaves, but then we didn't have any lawn bags, so they got every paper bag that we had in the house, and filled them, so that there were probably eight or nine smallish paper bags of leaves littering the backyard. Plus, during the raking project, they got warm and tossed their coats on the deck. The boy's coat was there too, not because he was helping, though. He was playing Big Win Football on the iPad all day. I think that the Boy is so accustomed to making a mess that he just threw his coat on the girls' coats out of habit.

The Baby's most favorite thing is helping me cook. Today she wanted to help me roll out the pie crust for the pumpkin pie. Now, I don't mind baking, but rolling out pie dough is super nerve-wracking to me because I can't ever get it rolled out into a shape that remotely resembles a circle. My dough ends up looking more like that Missing Piece tattoo. I told the Baby that this was a Mommy job, so she provided running critique of my rolling technique, which was totally not irritating. "That doesn't look good, Mommy. I think it's too big, Mommy. Why is there a hole in that part, Mommy? I think you might have to start over again, Mommy." Grrrr. In the end, I probably should have let her do the rolling because she couldn't have done much worse.

I do understand that I need to let them help me do things because this is how they will learn to be self-sufficient and move out of the house some day. I have confidence that the girls will manage, but, to be honest I worry about the Boy sometimes. Recently, I sent him down to the basement where we keep extra paper goods and canned food, to get me a roll of paper towels. He was downstairs for an oddly long time and came up with a roll of toilet paper instead.
Me: What's that?
The Boy: Paper towels.
Me: No, that's toilet paper.
The Boy: What's the difference?
Me: For real? To begin with, a roll of paper towels is twice the size of a roll of toilet paper.
The Boy: (shrugging) Who notices that kind of thing?
Sigh. Apologies to the Boy's future spouse. I tried, I honestly tried.

If you're hosting Thanksgiving, I hope you get the kind of help that helping's all about! Happy Thanksgiving!

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