We're Just Like You, Only Prettier Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle
By Celia Rivenbark
St. Martin's Griffin Copyright © 2005 Celia Rivenbark
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780312312442
Chapter One Your Kid's Fever's So High, the Others are Standing Around Her With Marshmallows on Sticks
Last August marked my 4-year-old's first foray into formal education, where, presumably, she would learn how to use words like "foray." At first, the preschool experience provided loads of "me time." While my daughter attentively studied one letter per week, I finally had time to get my roots done and eat lunch with friends in the kind of restaurants where there's no changing table in the restroom, foods ending in the word "fingers" or a menu that can also be worn as a hat.
My newfound freedom was short-lived because by Week 8 (the week of "H" as in "hacking cough") Sophie had already had two colds, a stomach virus, an ear infection and a mysterious rash. The Doogie working at the local "urgent" clinic-urgent being somewhat optimistic as we spent two and a half hours with the only reading material a breast self-exam pamphlet which some funster had added nipple hair to-said the rash was "kinda gross." We left before he could proclaim my daughter's sore throat "gnarly."
Out the door and prescriptions in hand, I shookmy head sadly and realized that I could've been a great doctor, much better than Doogie. I had always planned to attend medical school but there was just one thing I couldn't get past. I could not do ass work.
Every time I thought about helping and healing the sick, I felt a surge of pleasure until I reminded myself that there would inevitably be ass work.
Driving out of the clinic's parking lot, I wondered, for the bazillioneth time why I couldn't have just specified "no ass work" on my med school application if things had gotten that far.
The truth is, preschool diseases-all diseases-fascinate me. I've watched enough medical shows on The Learning Channel to easily pass the boards in a number of sub-specialties.
Heart, lung, brain stuff, I would've been terrific, no doubt. But anything below the navel, well ...
"You'll need someone else if you want to show me your ass," I would say, looking compassionate but firm in my starched white lab coat and serious-but-hip doctor glasses.
I know what you're thinking: Why not psychiatry or dermatology? Well, dermatology still offered the threat of a stubborn pimple on the ass. Unless, I could have opened a "Just Faces!" practice, like those vets who only do cats and small birds.
As for psychiatry, there's probably no ass work per se but you have a bunch of whiny asses coming in all day long. Nope, too close to the metaphorical rectal region for comfort.
I have tremendous respect for those who do ass work. What bravery to hang one's shingle out proclaiming "Practice restricted to diseases of the head, foot, throat and ass."
As we headed into the drug store to fill Doog's prescription, I wondered just how much this was going to set me back. The big pharmaceutical companies are reporting record profits while drug-poor seniors pop tops on cans of Alpo every night for supper. What do they DO with all that money? They say it's all about R&D, research and development, that is, which is not to be confused with R&B or B&D, both of which are infinitely more fun.
I also remembered early warnings from friends who said that preschool would set us up for all sorts of sorts of contagious ailments that would lay the kids out like tiny Old Navy-clad dominoes.
One mom told me that a mean strain of an intestinal bug was making the rounds, apparently spread by kids who didn't wash their hands after making doody. She said it just like that, "making doody." She's 42 and flies her own airplane. God help us all.
Because this bug could keep kids home for a week or more, I decided to spy on my daughter's classmates to make sure they were washing their nasty little mitts with soap and warm water.
Sure, the staff asked me to vacate the premises after the first three weeks but I must tell you that my research revealed that you should probably never hold hands with little boys whose first initial is TYLER .
Back at the drugstore, the line was long. Everybody was sick, it seemed. It reminded me of the lines at the grocery store last year when all the docs ran out of flu shots, but, strangely, you could get still get one at the Piggly Wiggly.
I still haven't gotten past the whole grocery store as health care center trend. I don't want to have a glaucoma screening, blood pressure or diabetes check at the supermarket. What's next? Pap smears beside the succotash? Cardiac catheterizations sharing an aisle with the canned sausage?
After another half-hour or so, we got the prescriptions filled and Sophie managed to make it to the letter "M" week without another ailment. But then ...
Let's just say it: There should be a reserved seat in hell-where "Thomas the Tank Engine" starring Peter Fonda in the worst children's movie of all time plays on all 16 screens at Satan's Sin-a-plex- for parents who bring a kid with a 102-degree fever to school. ("What? She looks pale and clammy to you? Oh, she gets that from her father. Toodles!")
Don't they know they'll be summoned back to school by the stern voice of the principal on the answering machine? ("Could you please pick up Tonya Sue? Her fever's so high, the other kids are standing around her with marshmallows on sticks.")
Meanwhile, every kid at school is incubating the latest butt-kickin' virus and spreading it to the grownups at home.
The way I see it, thanks to some inconsiderate hussy who didn't want to cancel her seaweed wrap, I have wicked pinkeye and sound as if I'm going to cough up a Passat. Wagon.
My daughter announced during "Q" week that her friend had missed three days of school because she had "the Romeo."
It took some digging to discover that what she meant was pneumonia. Frankly, I liked Romeo much better and intend to use it if I ever feel my lungs rapidly filling with fluid. ("C'mon, Doc, don't sugarcoat it; you and I both know I've got the Romeo.")
It's funny how when you try to correct kids, they can get downright belligerent considering that you basically control 100 percent of the Ring-Pop distribution in the household.
"It's pneumonia, honey," I said.
(Loudly) "No, Mommie, you must mean Ru-monia." And, then, apparently in full preschool teacher mode, she added: "Now watch my face and say it after me, ru-moan-ee-ya."
To which I just sighed deeply, suddenly very sad to have finished my wine, and dutifully recited: "Rumonia." Which can also be spelled u-n-c-l-e.
Some parents have told me that, practically speaking, it's actually a good thing to get these diseases out of the way now so the kids will be immune to them by the time they start Real School . That makes sense. I think I'll just crash my car to make sure the airbags are working, too. Who are these M-is-for-mo-rons?
Of course alphabets and diseases aren't the only things you learn at preschool. Last week, my daughter shocked me by asking for help settling a playground debate: Did babies come out of your belly button or from Nordstrom's?
Sex talk? At 4? Oh, holy hell. I hadn't planned this for at least eight more years.
Hadn't I done the best I could do? Didn't I yank Legally Blonde out of the VCR mere seconds after my daughter asked me softly, "Mommie, what's a bastard?"
I launched a rambling 10-minute, age-appropriate discussion about how babies are a gift from heaven. So sue me. The exact details can come later, on the school bus or under the bleachers where every kid learns them.
If the Romeo doesn't get 'em, that is.
Excerpted from We're Just Like You, Only Prettier by Celia Rivenbark Copyright © 2005 by Celia Rivenbark. Excerpted by permission.
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