Someone please explain to me how a perfectly pleasant and kid-centered evening with your children can turn wretched in a matter of minutes. At dinner we civilly discussed Little Women and the upcoming school board election and two of three kids ate their weight in broccoli. We concluded with the kids eating dessert in front of the classic kids show “wizards of waverly place” while I chit-chatted on the phone. (take that sugar lady. by the way I happily give my kids dessert on a regular basis). Later, long after the mythical ‘sugar rush’ should have occurred, all hell broke loose. I’m not sure what happened except that Eli was running around with a broom and a lite saber, Jonathan somehow thought both weapons actually belonged to him, everyone was screaming and crying, and someone hit someone with something. I’m not exaggerating when I say we switched from a Norman Rockwell painting to surrealist depiction of hell in about three seconds. In one of those moments of parental desperation I think sent Rebecca to read in my bed and forbade the boys from reading or being read to which resulted in more screaming and crying to the point where it seemed possible that we might have two pukers. In between screams they threatened to “smite me” “write mean things on my tombstone” and a few nominations for meanest mommy ever.
Finally after twenty minutes of serious noise everyone calmed down. I decided to process the evening’s event with Jonathan. I thought we could talk about resisting the temptation to smack the little brother. For some reason I decided to talk about Odysseus and the sirens. Why on earth in that weak moment did I go for the sirens? As a feminist musicologist who writes on early modern Europe I’ve been asked to write enough essays about sirens that I could have a whole third book project and I’ve never once taken the bite. First I was informed “he put wax in his ears and the sirens were beautiful women. My ears are already full of wax and Eli is not a beautiful women. He is a horrific creature from the underworld.” The led Rebecca to a long discourse about how maybe she would be a siren because she loves to sing. And “oh don’t forget about Pandora.” Then she invoked Artemis. Jonathan finished the story by saying “well what’s his name was tempted to look at her at her bathing and was turned into a stag. He was then torn apart by his hounds.” So in the grand tradition of cautionary tales I said “see what happens when you succumb to the temptation to hit your brother.”
And, by the way, Rebecca is having second thoughts about being Demeter for Halloween; a costume her grandmother labored over. She worries that she might come across a supporting Antiochus because he wanted people to pray to the Greek Gods. Manuel argued that dressing up as a Greek God did not mean supporting all the attendant theology. She was unconvinced. We may be in for sartorial trouble on that front.