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Are they kids or space aliens?

Jul 13, 2017 By Clair McFarland

When you're all grown up and parenting, the question is no longer "where do babies come from?" but rather, "where the heck did these kids come from?!"

That's not a huge shift in wording, but the second question is nothing like the first. The second question says "I am pretty sure that my children have sprung from the merging of my biological timeline with that of the person whom I know best, but there's a slight chance that they're just space aliens, living in my house, eating all my food."

And, although they're not aliens (or are they? ARE THEY?!) it's useful to pretend that they are. We've heard it said that parenting gets easier when you pretend that your children are just tiny drunk people who need help, but my tiny drunk people sometimes need a higher notch than that on the visualization parenting spectrum. So I pretend that they're space aliens.

This makes sense, when you consider the culture shock that they deal with pretty much every day of their lives. They call breakfast "dinner," and flip-flops "flippin' shoes" - and they refer to the upcoming eclipse as the "Dark Day." Put it all in the machine of polite and ordinary conversation, and you find yourself deciphering something like "if we eat all our eggs at dinner, can we wear our flippin' shoes to the Dark Day?"

Now imagine that in the bronx-style accent of a 5-year-old, layered upon three other, simultaneous questions from three other sources, and there's your conversation.

The need for an alien interpreter and negotiator extends into other facets of daily life as well.

Ever taught an alien to ride a bike? It's not too bad. You just wrench his training wheels off, put him on the bike, grab hold of the seat-back, and run along with him shouting "go, go, go! Stop! We're gonna DIE!"

Just kidding. Sort of.

But while I'm kidding, they're alien-ing. They politely refuse a drink of my orange juice because they've made themselves "wine" out of bottled water, flour, and food coloring. Just know that most of what they think they know about wine is J.R.R. Tolkien's doing and not mine. And - if you ever tried reading "The Hobbit" to an alien, you too would have to answer questions like "why does everybody like wine so much?" and "when does the dragon get to eat Bilbo?"

Thus all those bold notions about bravery and camaraderie are lost to concerns about the dragon's dietary needs.

Of course, like any culture outside your own, you can learn an awful lot from the little aliens you've chosen to initiate. This week, for instance, I learned to laugh a little harder:

My second-born alien incarnation got a new bike this week, because he finally mastered the riding of a small bike without training wheels - and then he outgrew the small bike. The moment the big bike showed up, his eyes lit up, his feet sprang from the sidewalk like tentacles, and he hopped astride the bike and took off. He was doing well: giggling softly, pedaling hard. But then! He swiveled his head around - a full 180 degrees, I'm just sure of it - to see whether I was watching him. (Approval is very important to the space aliens' assimilation process.) And he wrecked.

After the wreck he looked pretty rough, and he became needy.

Please note: the space aliens need us. Even when they're pretending they don't.

I held him close and kissed his owies, which were plenteous. I rocked him in my arms and asked him where he was hurting the most.

"My head hurts," was his response.

I gasped, and went into sideline doctor mode. I am not a sideline doctor, but I have seen "Varsity Blues," so I started asking him a few basic questions to test for memory trauma (er, something).

"Honey, can you tell me how old you are?"

"What? I'm five. He's three." And he gestured toward the nearest twin.

I continued.

"OK, when's your birthday?"

"Is today my BIRTHDAY?!"

Of course he'd think that: we'd just given him a new bike.

"No, it's not your birthday. Ahem. Sorry. Do you know what day your birthday is, though?"

He totally knows what day his birthday is. But what he said was "who we talkin' about?"

And I flipped. He clearly had a concussion! He had memory loss! Get the bucket: This alien's gonna start spewing!

But he read all of these thoughts just as they appeared on my face, and he knew the depth of my worry the moment it surfaced. "Mom," he said, "it's OK. I'm kidding. Haven't you ever seen 'Chicken Little'?"

I have seen "Chicken Little." Whenever Chicken Little's dad starts asking him frantic questions, all Chicken Little can say is "who we talkin' about?"

When the humor of it finally hit me, I laughed - and laughed and laughed. The timing was terrible, but it was a pretty good joke.

I guess I know where these kids came from after all.

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2017-09-22

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