“You can’t wear seventeen monkeys to church.”
Zoe, my six-year old granddaughter, had come to church literally draped in monkeys. She had two to twenty monkeys Velcro-ed around her neck. There were monkey bracelets wrapped around her wrists. She had thrown a monkey backpack over her shoulders and topped the entire monkey collection off with a monkey hat.
Zoe glowed with pride in her accessorizing acumen.
She looked like a zoo exhibit had exploded onto her body.
The ensuing conversation between Zoe’s father and Zoe (better known as Cheetah Girl, Queen of the Jungle) over the appropriate number of monkeys a person should wear to church lasted the major part of our church service and included tears, frustration, and gnashing of teeth. And that was just the Dad.
Arguments that do not work to de-monkey a monkey girl include:
“Zoe, no one else is wearing thirty-three monkeys to church.”
“Zoe, mommy isn’t wearing twenty-seven monkeys to church.”
“Zoe, all those monkeys are going to scare the babies.”
“Zoe, no one will be able to concentrate on the service, because they’ll be trying to count the monkeys on your body.”
“Zoe, all the other children will want your monkeys and they’ll cry.”
“Zoe, the monkeys are making your father break out in monkey pox.”
“Zoe, you’re going to cause a riot.”
“Zoe, take off the monkeys.”
“Zoe, NO MONKEYS!”
“Oh, let her wear the monkeys.” This from her Poppy, who would let the grandchildren go to church in their underwear, carrying flyswatters if they wanted to.
There are people who climb great mountains. There are people who explore active volcanoes. There are people who show up at Wal-Mart at four in the morning, on black Friday, to be the first to buy the Griddle MAX by Cuisinart for one dollar.
These people are known as thrill seekers—also nuts.
All of these people combined cannot hope to experience the stamina and courage required to argue the taste level of monkey fashion with a six-year old. Parenting is the ultimate extreme sport, right up there with bungee jumping into a river using a chain of monkeys Velcro-ed to a bridge railing.
For one long year, my youngest son, Adam, refused to leave the house until his sisters tied his hair up in a rubber band. His hair stuck out of his head like a hair horn, but since he was my fourth child and my second son, I knew better than to care. I was numb, which is another way of saying I had cried, “Uncle!” quietly.
When Adam could finally talk, he told us his rubber-banded hair horn was his “feather.” Who knew Adam had been embracing his Native American heritage and had been reaching out to his ancestors all that time?
Climb a great mountain if you must. Dance about the rim of a spewing volcano if you dare.
But if you really want the thrill of unpredictability, the raw terror of potential destruction, or the rush that comes from a total loss of control, then go car shopping with a four-year old boy. A boy who, at any moment, might drop his pants so that he can take a whiz on the tire of a brand new Lincoln Town Car— in public—in the showroom—in front of the entire sales force of The Central Florida Lincoln-Mercury dealership.
(We bought the Cougar station wagon. We did not get the special discount.)
Or you can attempt to convince Zoe that wearing a mob of monkeys just “isn’t done” in polite society, which is like trying to convince cannibals that boiled meat is not fine dinner fare.
Linda (No Fly Swatters) Zern