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Should Be Outlawed

Some details about the pit in my stomach.
A few nights ago John's out-of-town sister called and asked if Hannah would be interested in coming down for a visit this weekend. It was tentatively planned: Hannah would accompany John's other (mildly developmentally disabled) sister for a weekend of shopping and babysitting her younger cousins. The next morning, when John checked Hannah's grades online and found that she was failing three of her six classes (three weeks into the semester), he called his sister to tell her that Hannah wouldn't be able to make the trip. I've thought about detailing the reasons why (for those without similar parenting philosophies who won't fill in the blanks on their own), providing in detailed written form all of the justification for his decision, our decision - but I finally realized that the reason and justification don't matter or make one bit of difference to this story.

When he called to tell his sister not to make the flight arrangements for Hannah, here were her responses:

"What difference is one weekend going to make? Would she be studying over the weekend anyway?"

"What if you hadn't looked at the grades this morning?"

"Wouldn't a 'natural consequence' be her failing and being forced to wait tables for the rest of her life?"

If John's sister weren't pictured in our mental dictionary next to the entries of "self-centered," "flighty," and "shallow," these responses would have puzzled us, possibly even made us question our decision. But in this case, they only served to add to the heap of exemplary reasons why we avoid discussing anything related to parenting with her whenever humanly possible. John's mom was involved in the planning, so he called to let her know the disappointing news as well: "Hannah's not going to be able to go out of town - she's failing three classes... again." This is going to seem impossible, but her answers were suspiciously familiar.

"What does the trip have to do with her grades?"

"Would she be studying if she were home anyway?"

Not long after this series of conversations that made John want to cut himself off from all society, his sister called me: "He needs to take a Prozac. Why did he have to look at her grades today anyway?"

Those chills down your spine? That was the result of my metaphysical transformation into RUNFORYOURLIFESHE'SPISSEDNOW (henceforth known as RFYLSPN, or more visually simple and faster for me to type, Rifflespin). Rifflespin is not confined by space or time because Rifflespin is fueled by eight years of pent-up rage and the desire to inform my in-laws that I know their dirty little secret of dysfunction hidden behind the thin veil of utter bullcrap. Rifflespin wasted no time in verbally ripping John's sister limb from limb, and then I took over when Rifflespin needed a rest.

During a conversation with his brother the next day, John learned something: his sister had wanted Hannah to come visit mainly so she could help escort her other aunt through the airports. Well my, my! Doesn't this change things? Nobody ever mentioned THIS as a problem when Hannah suddenly couldn't come! No, it was all about how harsh John was, how inappropriate this punishment was, how she should get to go on this trip JUST BECAUSE! "Well I'm just sure we made it clear that that's what we needed," said John's mom when he called to address the issue. No, you didn't make it clear. If you'd made it clear, the conversation would have been about the fact that you needed Hannah's help, not that John was a horrible ogre-parent. Of course, if you'd made it clear, you couldn't look like such selfless advocates for poor, victimized just-going-through-a-hard-time (even though that hard time has lasted seven years and makes up her entire mentality) Hannah, now could you?

There is so much more, and maybe I'll expound in a later post, but I think you get the gist - the gist being, wow, where's the wine?!

Rock out, knock out.
Because of all this, I walked in the door from work like I was drowning in a sea of rocks. Rocks in my stomach, pebbles I'd swallowed in the struggle; rocks on my back, bruising me with every muscle twitch; rocks on my chest and even in my chest, squeezing on my heart and making it impossible to breathe comfortably; rocks in my hair and somehow oozing, plopping sharply out of my ears in blasts of pain. When I spoke, the rocks shot out of my mouth but they were in the shape of deadly arrow-heads, having been chiseled to lethal perfection by the rocky chaos inside - so whoever I spoke to winced in pain and stepped back, at once hurt and worried about my imminent rock-drowning death. I could see what was happening and tried to stop it, but finally removed myself from the vulnerable creatures and spewed my rocks at the inanimate objects in the kitchen while I unintentionally burned, par for the course of this week, every frozen convenience food item known to humankind.

While we sat at the table eating our burned, dried black bean burgers and charred crinkle-cut french fries, Quinn said, "Knock knock." Most of the rocks were gone, but I felt a few try to arm themselves at the back of my throat. The kids don't understand knock knock jokes - they always get them wrong. When you say, "banana who?" or "lamp who?" they string a series of random words together ("banana lips house magnet!") and crack up laughing, leaving you to wonder a.) what the hell they were talking about, and b.) if they'll be intellectually compromised as adults if you don't more effectively explain what makes a knock knock joke work. I didn't want to open my mouth and start lecturing him on the finer points of proper joke-telling, but I didn't have to. John stepped in: "Who's there?"


"Cargo who?"

"Car go beep beep!"

The arrowheads in the back of my throat dissolved next to the remnants of dried out black bean patty and burned fries, and the entire table erupted into laughter, and shocked glee: "THAT WAS AN AWESOME JOKE, QUINN!" "WOW!" "Good job!" "That was so funny!"

Bryce was ready to try. He could barely contain his excitement and almost fell over trying to get us to listen to his joke. "Knock knock," he said through excited, gaspy laughter.

"Who's there?"


"Stairs who?"

"Stairs table head hair!"

The rocks tried to re-form, but I thought of something I'd seen on a blog in the past several weeks. "Bryce, knock knock!"

"Who's there?"

"Interrupting Cow."



We all slapped the table and squealed in the hilarity. Bryce was ready to try again, he told us he had a joke like mine, only different: "Knock knock!"

"Who's there?"


"Horse who?"

"..... uh. Oh. Neigh! Neigh!! Hahahaha!"

Oh, we were all rolling now. If I hadn't been cracking apart with laughter, the arrowheads probably would have come back, because if I hadn't been laughing, I would have sounded critical. "Bryce, here's what you might try next time... say 'interrupting horse' and when I start to answer, make sure you actually interrupt me when you say, 'neigh, neigh.'" I was laughing so hard when I said it, and he was laughing so hard at his perceived comedic victory, that this just seemed like another joke. And now Quinn wanted back in: "Knock knock!"

"Who's there?"


"Cargo who?"

"Car go LIP LIP ahahahahahah!!!!!!"

I realize now why the kids don't understand knock knock jokes. His nonsense ad-lib was confirmation that the first successful delivery had been just a memorized set of words, but we laughed so hard after the series of randomness leading up to this that the kids assumed, as they apparently do every time, that knock knock jokes are a blank canvas that should only be filled with stream-of-consciousness brilliance.

I don't know how to end this. I know that this morning before I left for work, John and I were discussing the need to cultivate some couple friendships, the need to force ourselves to socialize and stop hiding behind the excuse of being busy. By noon, we had discussed and or dealt with the issue of Hannah going out of town at least once each. By 5 p.m., we had discussed the general lack of motivation in Hannah, the fact that John's sister is clueless about such, and the fact that she had called the entire family to tattle on John's too-strict parenting rules since she wasn't getting her way. By 8 p.m., we were catching our breath after a rowdy game of "hide Elmo under the bed while one kid is out of the room and see if he notices" so we didn't have to role-play AS Elmo, which was our alternate option. And I think I remember now why we don't have a whole collection of couple friends knocking down our door to invite us to dinner parties and wine tastings, or even just over for Friday night pizza. We can barely keep a handle on the family obligations - the logistical, emotional, financial, and physical requirements of this household demand more of us than we can consistently give - hence, my near rock-drowning, hence, no social life. At least we have nonsense knock knock jokes to help us keep our perspective. Car go lip lip, indeed.

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