Friday, March 18, 2011

Wee Mr. McMurphy's Magic

Having kids in your life brings the magic back into your world. Take, for example, Wee Mr. McMurphy.

Now, I like to tell friends of mine that are about to have a baby that there's no real secret to parenting. I say, "For thousands of years, far less capable people than you have been having kids, kids who turn out just fine, so try not to worry about it too much." After all, if you care even a bit about that kid, you'll do just fine. There is no magic potion or secret to raising kids. 'Feed, care, love - repeat' is pretty much the mantra.

But as the care-givers and providers in the relationship, we're all too often bogged down with taking care of the kidlets (and keeping up with mortgages, battling our all-consuming email In Box, rushing off to make our troga (treadmill yoga) class, and all the accompanying drudgeries of the modern American full-time parental home owner) to stop for a moment and see the magic that they see everywhere. It's far too easy to just stay head-down, buried in the minute-to-minute-to-minute constant tasks of what's next: Are the girls up? Yes, check. Get them fed, check. Find suitable clothes, check. Make them wear said suitable clothes, check. Hair and teeth? Brushed, so check. Get them into car...

On the surface, the days can blend into a never-ending series of menial tasks to be completed, only to all return the next day, Sisyphus-like, to be completed all over again.

But as your kids get a little older, they start to bring a new joy back into many things that, as an adult, long ago lost their specialness. Yesterday, St. Patrick's Day, for example.

Now, I'll admit I'm personally more than a little baffled at the whole St. Patty's Day thing. If I recall correctly, the day is hardly even noted in Ireland, but in the U.S. it's a pretty significant celebration (and huge if you live in such places as Boston, New York, or Chicago), wether or not you, like so many Americans, can actually claim to be a quarter or an eight or a sixteenth Irish, or not. As you get older though, you start to see it as nothing more than a rather odd anachronism back to days when Irish immigrants needed something to celebrate, but that now has degraded into not much more than an excuse to go out, get plastered, and pretend to like some American's attempt at 'corned beef & cabbage'.

But then our girls started coming home from school, talking about 'McMurphy', the leprechaun that (thanks to our girls having great and very engaged teachers) started visiting their classrooms. As the days counted down to St. Patty's day, McMurphy started visiting their classroom more and more each night and getting into more and more mischief. He apparently moved various items in the classroom, messed up projects they had completed (just slightly of course), kept losing his hat or his shoes or other little items around the room, and - most laughably - would apparently pee (green of course) in the potty at night, leaving it there for the kids to discover.

Lillian's utter joy at all these events was palpable. She would rant on, rapid-fire, with hardly a breath between sentences, to tell us all that McMurphy had been up to the night before, how leprechauns sneak into rooms, how fast they are, what kind of jigs they dance, and all the very latest on leprechaun culture.

So, the night before St. Patty's Day (and with Sally out of town on business), I realized that Wee Mr. McMurphy needed to make a visit here as well.

With all things parental though, a great idea immediately started to go south. After the girls were down, I immediately fell asleep too, instead of staying up to plot out McMurphy's doings. I got up early to take care of this, but then so did Sylvia, pattering her way into my office at 5:30 AM. I brought her back upstairs to try to put her to bed, but she only flopped and tossed and turned. Finally, I admitted defeat, took her downstairs and made her some breakfast (the term 'breakfast' for Sylvia being used in only the loosest terms as lately we can't get much more in her than a sippy cup of chocolate milk). It seemed McMurphy's chances to visit our house were disappearing faster than green beer at a Boston bar.

But then, an unheralded miracle: Sylvia walked herself back upstairs and went back to bed.

I didn't miss the opportunity, immediately springing to action to do SOMETHING for St. Patty's day (above and beyond the greenish outfits or meager accessories that I'd found for the girls to wear later that day). But I was stumped. What to actually DO? I hadn't had any time to think things through. Then it hit me - the green pee!

I quickly went to the cupboard and grabbed the #1 best possible weapon in the 'Parent's Arsenal of Duplicitous Tricks': food coloring.

I grabbed the green one and went straight to the bathroom. Soon two drops of green food coloring were suspended in the bowl's water, slowing dispersing in a dark, VERY green cloud. I stared at it a moment. 'Too green?,' I wondered, then pushed it out of my mind. What next? What do leprechaun's DO?

I remembered the #2 best possible weapon in the 'Parent's Arsenal of Duplicitous Tricks': glitter.

Off to the basement's craft bin to find the glitter. I found the three vials; silver, gold, and red but then was stumped. 'Did I use gold for the Tooth Fairy? Or was that silver?' McMurphy's glitter would have to be different and we had no green... 'I think the Tooth Fairy was gold...' I grabbed the silver.

Back upstairs, I sprinkled it around the potty. 'Too much? Did I over do how much a leprechaun would REALLY leave? Stop over-thinking this man!' The girls would be up in a few minutes and the mad rush to get to school would be on.

'WHAT do leprechauns DO??? Tricks! They play tricks on people!'

I saw the girls shoes by the door and immediately tied them together, sprinkling leprechaun dust all around them. ('Leprechaun dust? Do Leprechaun's have 'dust'? Stop over-thinking this man!') Three balls of socks left on the couch, normally a nuisance, presented a new opportunity. I un-balled them all and then re-balled them in mismatched pairs. Genius! Leprechaun dust marked the scene of the crime.

'What else!?!?'

Too late... my alarm went off and it was absolutely time to get the girls up, or else we'd never get to school on time.

I went upstairs, and pretty much pulled the girls out of bed. Sometimes this is a major fight, but at least this time I had the 'ace in the hole' of being able to at least mention it was St. Patty's Day, the mention alone of which would provide some impetus and energy to get them up. Ever so slowly they emerged from the sleepy cocoons of blankets (Sylvia, as always, especially slowly). And with Sylvia still groggy from her early morning wake up, things again quickly started to go south.

I knew, were this a normal morning, it would immediately take a downturn into fighting, crying, uneaten breakfast and tangled, misshapen hair. But not this day, not this glorious St. Patrick's Day!

Sylvia, in my arms, was whimpering and Lillian was already bossily complaining. But I just smiled... and waited. Lillian said, "I need to use the potty." I blurted out, "Don't forget to turn on the light!" which was asinine, since she always does.

She did.

And she screamed.


"What?" I asked, blithe-fully ignorant.

"He came to our house! He peed in the potty!"

"WHAT!?!?" I hammed, running to the bathroom.

"Look, look! Green pee! He PEED in our POTTY! He came to our house!"

Immediately the morning took on a new excitement and energy, as the girls ran around the house looking for other traces of Mr. McMurphy. They found the shoes and squealed. They found the socks and their voices reached such a pitch that I feared windows might shatter. And then they started to run around the house, looking for more.

"Daddy, my book! He read my book!"

"Uh, what?" I hadn't touched a book...

"My 'Where's Waldo?' book! I always shut it but now it's open. He read my book!"

"Uh, okay..."

They ran upstairs to search their rooms for more mischief from Mr. McMurphy as I recalled her teacher having made green milk. As I dropped a few drops of green food coloring into a half-full cup of milk, I heard, "My slippers! He messed up my slippers!" That was followed by peals of laughter too. There was something about Sylvia's room that they said he changed, and then more back in Lillian's, the back to Sylvia's. They were accruing a list of leprechaun deeds that I hadn't even thought of, much less done.

I set the milk on the counter and waited for them to come back downstairs for their breakfasts. Soon they did, and they squealed again at the discovery. "He drank green milk and left some!" That inspired more running around to find more traces of Mr. McMurphy.

I thought, 'Green milk? Why not green apple juice?' and set about creating another half-empty cup. This scene ended up being like something out of a bad sit-com though, as I snuck out the apple juice, then hid it behind my back as they tore through the kitchen. Then I pulled out the cup and nearly poured the juice as Sylvia stumped in, asking, "Da-dee, when McMurfee coming to my class at big girl school?" I replied something like, "I think today honey," then went back to trying to pour the juice as she walked out. I poured it quickly, feeling like a safecracker or jewel thief, then again hid the juice as they both tore through the kitchen again, seeking out more leprechaun traces. Soon I managed to get the green food coloring in the cup and get the juice bottle put away.

Then, as if scripted, Sylvia asked to be picked up. I nonchalantly picked her up and went about my business with breakfast, waiting. Soon she said, "What dat?" and pointed to the green juice. I called Lillian back into the kitchen and again screams of excitement filled the house.

Eventually, I was able to get them dressed, fed (partially at least), combed & brushed, into the car, and off to school. Apparently, I later heard, they told each and every classmate and teacher every single detail of Mr. McMurphy's romp through our home.

But I started to realize that there was a time when, as a wee lad myself, I believed in leprechauns too, when St. Patrick's Day wasn't about idiots of various and random heritages in a drunken stupor on a non-holiday that even the Irish don't care much about, when it was about magic; about dancing leprechauns, rainbows and pots of gold.

'Oh yeah,' I remembered. 'I used to like St. Patrick's Day too.'

So, while there isn't a lot of magic that goes into parenting, there's certainly a hell of a lot of magic that comes back out from being a parent.

And I haven't even STARTED on Christmas yet... :-)

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