The Humor and Life, in Particular Web site
author:  Margie Culbertson

October/November '02 Humor Writing Contest Winner
Best "Short" Humor!

The Parent Trap


Nathan Hartswick

Pod people took over my child this weekend.

As a rule, my five–year–old daughter is an unusually good child. And I am fully aware that most parents like to claim their child is an "unusually good" child. This practice begins immediately after childbirth.

"We're so blessed," they always say. "She's such a good baby."

This, of course, can be translated to other parents as:

"Your baby is a colicky screaming mess who won't let you sleep more than three consecutive minutes without piercing the night air with his ear shattering Infant Air Raid Siren, whereas our baby sleeps four whole hours a night and, although the doctor keeps insisting it's due to a gastrointestinal order, smiles constantly. This means, of course, that our baby is inherently better than yours."

But this is not what I am talking about. Every kid has a different disposition, and though I appreciate that we had a baby who was so mellow we could take her to college parties and she would sleep through Def Leopard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me," I wouldn't have thought a screaming, highly strung baby any less "good."

What I mean is that Marie's learned behavior is impressive. As sensitive, involved, morally grounded parents, Fred, Ann and I have provided a stable lifestyle for Marie (within the confines of a three–parent household living in a one–bedroom apartment with the approximate square footage of a window–washer's cart). She has manners. She does what she's told. She knows the consequences of breaking rules. She's very close to developing a formula for cold fusion.

This weekend, without warning, it all went out the window. She pulled out her entire arsenal of weaponry, from the whine that would break a torture victim to the simultaneous bawling–and–repeating–what–she–wants–7,834–times technique. (A five year old has the conscience of a skipping record. It may drive the listener to want to bathe in battery acid, but the record can skip happily for an entire day without giving it a second thought.)

Marie also has some teenage qualities (obsession with makeup, the opinion that one must look exactly like Barbie to be a good person, the innate belief that she owns and controls the entire known Universe, etc.) that have me wondering if she will spontaneously combust in a cloud of estrogen when she hits puberty, or pull a complete reversal and become a truck driver with a mullet. In any case, this premature adolescence causes a lot of eye rolling around the house, which makes me feel less like a hip 25–year old dad with a five year old than it does a middle aged stooge who tries to relate to his 16–year old daughter by pulling out his Doobie Brothers records and talking about how he once tried marijuana (it made him cough, darn it, and he never did it again).

The day began on Saturday with Marie's refusal to go to the doctor. I can't say I blame her. If my morbid fear of the medical community wasn't passed on to her genetically, she certainly developed her own after the nine rabies shots she had this summer.

The summary, for those who missed it: Family goes on vacation. Vacation goes awry several times. Vacation culminates in an encounter with several bats. Family goes to the local hospital to be inoculated against the Evil Possibly Rabid Mutant Oversize Nocturnal Moth Creatures.

Naturally, then, Marie is distrustful of doctors because the only ones she has come into contact with recently have jammed needles into her little arms and made her frightened of any wildlife that's not in a skillet. ("Mommy, if a bee stings me, will I have to get shots?") So this Saturday, she didn't care if the doctor wanted to give her a bowl of ice cream the size of a Mack truck. The only way she was going there was over our shoulder, swinging every limb spastically and screaming like a Mongolian warrior on angel dust.

So we lied. We told her the doctor called and made a mistake, and asked if we could come another time. This prevented us from having to wrestle this little Tasmanian devil onto a slippery steel table, but also prevented her from thinking her antics had gotten her out of going.

You want to judge my parenting? Call a lawyer and sue me.

Okay, so maybe she didn't fall for it. Maybe she saw that her behavior got her what she wanted, and decided she'd been a little too agreeable lately. It was time to put Mom, Dad and Dad through the paces.


"What, Marie?"


"First of all, you know how to ask nicely. Secondly, I'm not bothering you guys here."

I'm calm. Rational. You always are, to begin with.


I am now officially irritating her.

"So, am I in your way?"




"No, I don't."

"DO IT!"

"You know how to ask nicely."


"Why, Marie?"


And so it begins. I truly believe if we had stairs, she would have stomped up them huffily, sighing audibly, until she got to the top and shouted,


Then she would have slammed her bedroom door dramatically and blared her "Cinderella Sing–Along" tape as loudly as possible.

The rest of the weekend went on much the same way, with Marie taking turns at each of us. She tried everything. She tried to play the parents against each other by being sweet to Fred and rude to Ann. She yelled at all of us. She giggled when we disciplined her. She cried in the middle of a sentence if we weren't responding the way she wanted us to. She spent hours at a time in the bathroom. (When she emerged, she was wearing a pink mini–skirt and her mother's high–heeled, leather boots. Try telling me she's not a teenager.) She whined so much I wanted to soundproof her room and send her to it until Monday.

Mercifully, Monday finally came. The day broke, the pod people who took over appeared to have been exorcised, and she was back to her old self again, just in time to go back to school and charm the hell out of her kindergarten teacher. Let's hope it lasts when she comes home; otherwise, it's going to be a tough week or two. But we'll be okay; we just have to keep in mind that the way we've always treated her is the reason she's turned into such an "unusually good" child. And she'll be fine, as long as we continue to show the kind of patience, understanding, and support we always have.

And as long as we never utter the word "shots" again as long as we live.

©Nathan Hartswick

Nathan Hartswick is a writer and director currently living in the New York City area. He grew up in Vermont, a beautiful, mystical wonderland with a romanticism diminished only by the fact that he was consistently beaten up by rednecks. He currently works as a advertising copywriter, but he may soon move into a more ethical career, such as Professional Torturer.

See more of Nathan's work at:

Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking Sites.
It helps give the page "votes” and it helps you find this page later on!

©Margie Culbertson

Home Back to The Humor and Life, in Particular Home Page