Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Attractive Nuisance by Diane LeBleu

We attended my son Travis’ football game this past Saturday morning at Westwood High School in Austin. It was a beautiful fall morning – the real reason why we all live in Texas and suffer the sweltering temps the rest of the year. It was cool enough for a sweater with the sun shining in a clear blue sky unmarred by any clouds. Tom went ahead early with Travis and I arrived just in time for kickoff (well, they don’t actually kick off, they just start their offensive drive) with the little girls. I groaned as soon as I saw it – the dreaded standing water in the grass just off the track and football field - I knew where I’d be spending a majority of the time at the game.

We had to pass it to get to the bleachers – I tried to distract Caroline so she wouldn’t notice. “Airplane” I cried pointing up at the sky. She usually falls for that one – she loves to spot planes or helicopters in the sky. No. “Water” Caroline exclaimed excitedly pointing at the muddy puddle. I pushed the stroller up to the bottom of the ramp that led up to the stands where all the parents from both teams were sitting. No no. There was a ramp. At least that got her attention diverted from the siren cry of a long trough of watery trouble– she could run up and down the ramp during the game so I could watch Travis for a play or two. She wiggled out of the seat belt holding her in the front of the tandem stroller going under rather than over and ran to the metal ramp. Morning dew had made it very slippery and Caroline slid once, twice and picked herself up as she ascended. Wow, that looks like fun. She turned and tried to walk down slipping again. She got her footing and ran straight down, mightily pleased with herself.

I managed to get her back up the ramp and opened up my big mom purse of goodies (bribes) to coerce her to sit for more than five minutes, like all the other younger siblings of the players on the football team. I found her Color Wonder Nemo activity book and got out one of the magic ink markers that leave no color except on the special paper. Those chemists and product developers at Crayola labs are truly amazing. Except she didn’t want the no-color maker. She wanted the sharpie she spotted at the bottom of my purse that I keep for Danielle's swim meets. No no no. Permanent ink all over her hands and perhaps her clothing and mine or wicked 2-year -old tantrum in front of all the other parents and no chance in heck of watching Travis play. Easy choice – she got the sharpie. She sat in my lap content to color black lines all over her book for the entire first half of the game. I was coaxed into a lull by her relaxed attitude. Finally, she got up off my lap and the marker fell straight through the bleachers to the ground several yards below completely out of reach. The ramp once again caught her eye and there she goes with me in hot pursuit in our daily game of The Chase.

Truly, there was nothing I could do. Once she got her feet and the bottom of her pants wet, what’s the point of dragging her out in a crying, screaming rage? Especially since I could watch the game from this vantage point and she was somewhat contained for a time. And her splashing and jumping provided great comic entertainment for the football team awaiting the field for the next game. Mothers and grandmothers smiled in bemusement and shook their heads. Men got the biggest kick out of it – especially the coaches from the other football teams. One remarked that he had never seen a girl get that wet and muddy before and another got some video of Caroline in all her wet, grassy glory. ‘Cheese!’ she cried gleefully and then putting her hands on her face ‘It’s cold!’

The list of attractive nuisances for Caroline is great and varied. Here are some things she MUST have if she spots them:

Sharpies – she couldn’t care less about crayons and washable markers are just ok. If she spots a sharpie, it’s all over.

Food on the ground – need I say more?

My makeup bag pushed far back on the counter but still somehow within her clutches.

Animals of any kind – especially big dogs at the park or being walked by their owner. Cats are ok too but harder to catch. She chased a horse and rider a quarter mile down the beach one time before she had to be stopped. She has even been banned from all petting yards such as those at church, neighborhood, and birthday party functions for cruelty to the bunnies.

Swimming pools – the original attractive nuisance and cause of many a lawsuit by homeowners who install pools without adequate safety fences around the perimeter to keep out the Curious Georges like our Caroline. Since Danielle is a year round club swimmer, our exposure to the pool nuisance is frequent. She is not allowed out of hands reach at the Nitro pool, since she has made the jump in one too many times.

The litter box – it finally had to go. Same with the cat food. The cats have to fend for themselves – lizards and birds make a great meal OUTSIDE the house.

An unattended cup of coffee. FYI, OxyClean DOES remove stains from carpet, if caught before it dries.

A full bath tub – clothing optional.

Caroline is our fourth child and thank heavens our last – I’m getting way too old for ‘Pick Your Battles’. Except that Danielle is 10 and soon we will be playing the adolescent version of this classic parenting strategy soon enough. I suppose it will be great training for us as Caroline graduates onto bigger and better temptations. For now, because I know better, I pack an extra change of clothing for both girls and keep a sharpie in my car. And – our backyard remains free of standing water.

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