Parenting like a genius

Published 11:24 pm Saturday, April 9, 2011

“Confidence in nonsense is a requirement for the creative process.” ~ Anon.

We’ve all heard the expression that goes like this: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” That means, of course, that when things get tough, we humans, especially parents, are prone to brainstorm far-fetched solutions. I’ve never invented much of anything — my brain is not tuned that way — but parenting seems to bring out the Einstein in folks, and I have known quite a few who displayed sheer genius with solutions to tricky problems.

Hubby G-Man and I were discussing this very subject the other night, and he recalled a “necessity – is – the – mother – of – invention” tale from his childhood.

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Seems as a wee tot G-Man refused to take his vitamins, little chewable tablets that most kids gobble. His mama tried everything — stirring the tablet in with his food, making a game of it (“Open wide like a birdie!”), everything she could think to do.

Remember, that wonderful wit, Erma Bombeck, advised that “in general, children refuse to eat anything that hasn’t danced on television.”

Just as G-Man’s mama was about to give up and let her child develop a good case of beriberi, she had a thought: He crawls around on the floor and puts everything he can find in his mouth, sooooooo…

She mopped the floor and, when it was clean and dry, she put the vitamin right where Baby G-Man would find it. Of course, her scheme worked. He scooted around, spotted the tablet, promptly put it in his mouth, chewed it up, and from that moment the problem was solved.

Thereafter, all disliked meds and foods — vitamins, English peas, broccoli, cauliflower – were served on the kitchen linoleum, and he ate with gusto.

I have actually had my own moments of parental genius over the years, in spite of the fact, as the bumper sticker goes, “being a parent often feels like a bowling alley is installed in the brain.”

I give you this example: A little over 20 years ago, our son Will attended Governor’s School at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus. He called one day to tell me he was totally out of underwear and tee shirts. The dorm, he said, had washing machines and dryers, but he had no detergent and no transportation to get any. The boy had legs for walking blocks to a grocery store, but he was busy busy busy in classes all day learning fascinating things and, anyway, there were strict rules about leaving campus. Unfortunately for him, I couldn’t jump in the car and drive across state to deliver a box of detergent.

What’s a mother to do?

After our conversation, I pondered the problem. Rather quickly, I had a brilliant idea. I picked up the phone and called my florist.

“Janie,” I said, “I want to send Will a balloon-a-gram.”

She said sure . . . and what would I like attached to the balloon ribbons? Candy bars? A big pack of M&Ms? A stuffed animal?

“No, none of that,” I said. “Tell them to tie the balloons to a jug of Tide.”

Well, Janie made the call. The jug of Tide, festively adorned with several colorful, beribboned balloons, was delivered to the dorm lobby. An embarrassed Will claimed his prize and tackled his pile of dirty tee shirts and underwear, no doubt hogging a washer and dryer for the rest of the evening.

That may have been one of my proudest moments as a parent.

And so it goes. Parenting, no matter how smoothly the household appears to run, is a challenge. Mothers and fathers must think outside the box to keep one step ahead of the kids.

So, brand new parents, heed my advice. For the next 20 years you must think creatively. When necessity calls, you must invent . . . and do it fast. Good luck!