Sunday, October 22, 2006

Striking A Bargain

We went to the museum yesterday. It was wet and snowy and awful out and the kids were getting a little cagey at home. So, we went and saw the I-Max movie about bears, which the kids loved. I liked it too but I'm still a little haunted by Grizzly Man.

Then we did some crafts and looked at case after case of taxidermied animals--because this is what the Hastings Museum consists mostly of -- taxidermied animals and not just mounted deer. Oh, no. We're talking stuffed polar bears posed to be ripping open stuffed seals. This was all put together long before there was any taboo about clubbing baby seals. There's a stuffed mama seal and stuffed baby nursing seal--actually in the act of nursing. Phoebe a year or so ago put together that someone had to have killed that baby. Yup. It's fascinating and awfully creepy.

But this is not the point of my story.

The point of my story is that we were in the children's activity area which has a groundwater exhibit (where water runs through a chute that looks like a river surrounded by farmland and you can set up houses and crops and then put in dams and flood it out, filling up irrigation resevoirs or just knock down the houses and race little boats), a frontier cabin (an actual cabin that someone donated. It's the size of my bathroom and a family of eight actually lived in it), a teepee and an archeological dig. The dig is dionsaur bones burried in this rubber fake sand. You put on a big hat and use brushes to push aside the sand and find the bones. It's pretty cool.

After we'd been in that room a while and the kids had already exhausted each exhibits intended purpose, Moses started filling up one of the archeologists hats with the fake sand. Another boy saw what Mo was doing and decided to do it as well. This boy had already taken off his shoes and dipped his feet in the groundwater exhibit, not to mention climbing on top of it and generally running amok. So he sits down and starts filling up another hat.

The mom says, "Just don't put it on your head."

"Hmmm..." the kid thinks, "that's sounds like a good idea." And, of course, starts to raise the hat up, but so far has not started tipping it. From now on I'll call him Billy.

"Billy," she says in a louder but not threatening voice, "I'll give you a dollar not to pour that on your head."

Billy's eyebrows go up--interested--but keeps raising the hat.

"I'll give you two dollars to not do it!" She says more excitedly, getting out of her chair. "Come on, Billy, please....two dollars!"

As he very slowly starts to tip it he says, "Make it five and you've got a deal."

Now, to her credit, she took the hat out of his hands and dumped the fake sand back atop the fake dinosaur bones. But I am 100% convinced that if he had stopped, she would have opened her purse and given him $2.

You should have seen the look on Mo's face. It was part wonder that this was even a possibility in the world. She was going to give him money?! And part wariness--like he knew there was something strange and not quite right about that. I thought about asking them what they thought about that later, but since Phoebe's going to sit with this kid in class on Monday, I thought I'd just let it go and talk about it if they brought it up. They didn't.

I just keep projecting the outcome of that strategy into the future. How much can you pay a kid not to drink and drive? Not to get his girlfriend pregnant? Not to drop out of college?

Phoebe is taking piano lessons and she is supposed to practice five times a week. Her teacher said if she gets all her practice in, "Maybe your parents can give you a reward." Of course I said, "Phoebe, you know what the reward is for practicing the piano? Knowing how to play the piano!" Maybe I'm stingy. I don't know. But I hate the idea of teaching kids to what they should not because it's their job or it's right or anything noble like that, but because they'll get a dollar or a candybar or something....ugh.

The otherside of the museum story is that I sat there and let Moses dump the hat full of fake sand on his head...because he's five and it's fake sand in the children's room at the museum and what do I care? But Billy's mom is probably writing on her blog on about those sloppy Dunbar kids and my parenting skills, or lack there of. Maybe I can give her a dollar not to say bad things about me.

5 comments:

jill said...

Of course she is. But you're still the coolest Mom in Hastings. And your kids get to walk to school barefoot! (Which, by the way, thanks to your bloig, happened with K just the other day!) Besides, I bet SHE didn't get to play her own cool music at the Kool-Aid fest and the Pumpkin Patch!

emdunbar said...

My pumpkin patch gig got cancelled due to weather. Too bad. They said they'd call me next year as there is only one more weekend left in pumpkin patch season and I guess they've got it booked.

I hope the going barefoot trick worked. My kids just got their craft supplies back. They dissappeared for a week after the craft table was left a disaster area (consistently for a week or so). Mo woke up at 6:45 this morning and before his eyes were open he said, "we get the craft table back today." They love them some crafts (where do they get that?) We'll see if facing the consequences worked.

Anonymous said...

Damn. I just wrote a good, long comment, and blogger made me log in and it went to a different page and my comment got lost. Agh.

Highlights were something like this: 1. you are a fabulous mom. 2. i need to let my kids pour their rubber sand-filled hats on their heads more often. 3. who cares what that woman is blogging about you somewhere, i need to know there are other moms out there who have their heads on straight about this parenting stuff. and 4. OHMYGOSH about the blatant nature of bribery and concession of power to a child! unbelievable. i wonder what it costs to keep your junior in h.s. from getting a dui? the mind reels.

Hope said...

As I commented in other blogs, I am in awe of your handle on parenting because it just doesn't come to me easily. I probably am more like the briber than you partly because my parents were totally hands off and pretty much let me fail in anything- if I didn't practice, then I didn't and I never got better. They let me choose my below average destiny in school and I rode that one into the sunset. What do I do with a kid who doesn't care? What do I do with Sammy when he 95% of the time flatly refuses to pray or talk about God? I know I'm not allowed to get all legal on him and I'm supposed to wait it out, but if he's anything like me (and his bad side is all me) then do I just let his little sinful self make mistake after mistake that I made because it would be wrong to put my foot down and say "you're doing your homework because that's your job as a student". Like I said, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I wish I could be OK with the idea that perhaps my kid won't choose to finish school and will sell Tshirts at Phish concerts or start a band and live in his car, but I still want something more for him. Maybe that's where I've got to start changing my thinking- be OK with whatever it is he does at three or at 33.

emdunbar said...

mel,
blogger has been wierd to me lately, too.
i'm glad you're back on and i'm so glad you get to go to a game!

hopi,
do not be in awe of me, for the love of sense. the problem may be that i'm a better writer than parent and i can wrap these stories in to nice little postings, and omit all the times when i'm a wretch to my children.

i always kind of wanted to drop out of school and sell t-shirts at concerts, but that would not have flown at home, and i pretty much did what my parents said. so while most people want to live vicariously through their kids' huge successes, i have a tendancy to want to live vicariously through some crazy artistic bohemian existant. they'll probably all be accountants.

any parenting knowhow I have, seriously, came from love & logic. am i making it sound like some sort of culty panasea? it has just really influenced my thinking about parenting.