Sunday, October 03, 2010

How not to cultivate cousins

If you ever want your toddler to have awesome little first cousins to play with, you should probably shield your childless, fun-after-7pm-having siblings from the everyday horrors of parenthood. Of course, you probably won’t recognize these horrors when they are occurring, because your child will have desensitized you to a wide array of aromas, mucks and oozes that would make the stomach of a regular person somersault right out the door, and into a seat at a restaurant that doesn’t have any highchairs.

“What’s that smell?” my sister Amy asked last week, after getting into the backseat of our car. Amy and her wife Jaime have been mulling over their procreative possibilities lately, and my wife Kara and I have been trying to encourage them by making parenthood look as fun as possible.

“Oh, Evan barfed cheese puffs back there yesterday. Sorry, we tried to clean it,” I replied.

Amy nodded, then leaned over to check the spot where she was sitting.

If Kara and I had been more strategic, we probably wouldn’t have put Amy in the backseat for the four-hour drive back to our house, where she’d be visiting for a couple of days. Evan was still getting over a bug, and his usual sunny disposition hadn’t been in the forecast for days.

“Are you getting too much wind back there? We can switch to A/C,” I said.

“No, no. Ventilation is a good thing right now,” Amy replied.

Evan cried and chucked his pacifier overboard so that it rattled against the car door on its way to the floorboard. His screamhole uncorked, he proceeded to unleash a series of wails so loud that cars in front pulled over to let us pass.

Amy frantically unlatched her seatbelt and clambered over Evan’s seat to retrieve the precious scream stopper. After she’d given it back to him, Evan quieted down for a few moments. We all took a deep breath, reveling in the silence. Then the binky hit the car door again, and the process repeated.

After four hours of this, Amy’s initial excitement at spending quality time with her nephew seemed to have dissipated slightly.

“Did we just set back your child-rearing ambitions for a few years?” I asked between screams, as we pulled into our driveway.

“Yes,” Amy said, her head leaning against the window. She may have been joking, but all the noise had forced my brain into standby mode 100 miles prior, so it was unable to process levity.

The next day, Evan felt better and started lobbying hard to erase the previous day’s transgressions. Amy and I took a nice long walk in the woods with Evan contentedly babbling to us from his backpack, while our dog Memphis trotted along in front.

We chatted for hours as we tromped, catching up on everything from our relationships and our family to our spiritual beliefs, which led to a brief foray into ghost stories on the drive home.

“But wouldn’t it be reassuring to see one?” I asked.

“You’d have to ask Jennifer Love Hewitt,” Amy replied, referring to the star of Ghost Whisperer. Memphis poked her head between us from the backseat, panting.

All of a sudden, a hot spray hit me from my shoulder to my hip, splattering all over the center console. I veered for a split second, regaining control of the car as I tried to figure out what sort of woodland creature had just exploded on me.

Then I saw the crunched-up dog treat on my elbow.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Amy said, leaning against her door. “All I did was say ‘Jennifer Love Hew—’.”

And then Memphis leaned forward and barfed on the center console again.

“Okay, I’m never saying that name around your dog again,” Amy said, mortified.

On the plus side, I think the dog successfully one-upped the baby.

You can cork Mike Todd’s screamhole at


  1. I think I probably find this a LOT more humorous than Amy would. I can't stop laughing!

  2. Knowing all parties involved, I find this column to be a total scream...Good job!

  3. Thanks, anonymous homepeople!

  4. Ummm, I almost barfed just reading this story. Thanks, Mike. Amy and I have not talked about children since...JK.