Wednesday, April 27, 2005

That Ain't My Kid!

There are times in life I wish for Roadrunner-style signs to announce to the general public things I wish them to know, but would feel funny renting a bullhorn for. Like when I know my youngest is going to have a tantrum on a 2-hour plane flight, I want a sign that says, "Don't Sit Near Us Unless You Have Nerves of Steel." But inevitably someone with a fragile psyche will be in the seat or row near us, and then spend two hours glaring at me as I try to keep the 3-year-old from tearing a hole in the seat in front of us or hurling the complimentary beverage service at the flight attendants. I needed a sign this morning for a trip to the dentist. And not on behalf of my children, who were in great behavioral form today. We had packed dry cereal, green grapes, juice boxes, books, and a whole squadron of ninja turtles to help pass the time while we waited. The 3-year-old was content to sit on my lap. When we got there a little girl was the only one present in the waiting room. She seemed slightly younger than my 5-year-old, maybe 4 or barely 5 herself. But she had the presence of a movie star. She immediately greeted my kindergartener and engaged him in animated conversation about her Disney accessories. I wondered whose kid she was. She seemed young to be hanging out in a waiting area by herself. I mean, if I were a door-to-door Child Predator, I could've just grabbed her and then Fedexed her to evil people in Malaysia, or donated her to a local zoo. There was a receptionist behind the window, but she was busy answering phones and processing insurances, so I'm sure she wouldn't even have noticed. Perhaps she was related to one of the hygienists, I thought. Maybe she spends her whole day out here in the waiting area staring at the fish tank. It was a spectacular fish tank. Lots of brightly colored fish and fish furnishings. Some cool plastic plants. And to make things even more exciting for my son and his new companion, the fish didn't like each other! There was a lot of chasing, nipping and agitation going on. So this girl and my son discussed the fish for awhile, with particular emphasis on how mean the catfish was. Meanwhile other dental patients began arriving, all older, signing in and awaiting a call from the dentist. None of them bothered with magazines. They were staring at the fish tank and the two children. Only one of which (I want to emphasize) was mine. Well shortly after the arrival of the other patients the girl announces, "I'm going to kill the catfish!" The other patients and my boy looked startled. I said, "I don't think that's a good idea." I don't know if she said this for effect, or if she had an actual plan in mind, but just in case I wanted to discourage any aggressive movements toward the 55-gallon tank. A 5-year-old attempting to slay a catfish would surely result in some unwanted wetness. The other patients glanced at me. I knew they thought all three children were mine. This is where I wanted the sign announcing that this aggressive, vocal little girl with the Killer Instinct did not share any DNA with my family. A simple "She's Not Mine!" sign would've been just the ticket. Apparently the little girl decided against the proposed Catfish Homicide now that she knew I was watching. She continued walking back and forth in front of the tank, making loud comments to my son. Who agreed that possibly the fish were all going to kill each other. Of course she soon grew bored with this. So she opened up the cabinets below the tank to examine the humming aquarium equipment and accessories down below. (a 55-gallon tank is quite large. It took almost the entire length of the wall next to the door leading to the Dental Chambers.) She started poking around amongst wires and hoses. My 5-year-old was bent down, not touching anything, but looking at what the girl was doing. It was time for stern voice. "Ned, come over here," I said. "I don't want you playing around under that tank." Plus I'm thinking now it will be clear to the rest of the faintly disapproving dental patients that this child was mine, and the loud, nosy girl who liked to kill animals was someone else's kid. But it was not to be! Both my son AND the nosy little girl came to the area where I was sitting with the 3-year-old. She even picked up some of the 3-year-old's toys, looked at them and put them down! She stared at me like I was her mother! E. Gads. They went back to the fish tank. The girl looked at my son. "I can touch the top of the fish tank," she announced. "I can too," he said. He stood on tiptoe and touched the top of the tank. Monster Girl was not quite as tall. She had to jump, and then hung on the side. I was picturing 55 gallons of foot bath cascading into the waiting room. Sterner voice this time. "Please don't grab onto the tank," I said. "Just look at the fish." One of the other patients started speaking to his wife rapidly in Spanish. I only know small amounts of Spanish from remote high school memories, but he definitely was referring to "la nina." I don't know what else was said, but I am certain it was not complimentary. The girl paced back and forth in front of the tank. Like a lioness, only dressed in a pink and purple striped dress. Probably she was contemplating her next angle of assault. My son was discussing a fish imbroglio occurring amongst the plant life. Suddenly the girl picked up her Disney Purse. She began smacking the side of the tank where the fish were chasing each other. The tank reverberated ominously each time she whacked it. "Please don't do that," I said. "You're scaring the fish." More conversation in Spanish. Everyone thought I was a horrible parent. I had to spend another 15 minutes in this uncomfortable position until the girl's father finally came out of the Dental Chambers and spirited her away to commence killing frogs in their backyard. In this day and age I would not leave my 5-year-old by himself in a waiting room out of fear for his safety. Or in the case of this little girl, out of fear for the general public and any domestic pets or wildlife she may come in contact with.

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