May 24, 2009

Watch the Birdie

When I was in, oh, about 3rd grade, I learned a really funny joke at school. I raced home to share it with my mom.

"Mom, mom, look! I caught a bird!"

And then I flipped her off.

Now, this was the 1970s, and the world was a very different place. My mom, a bona fide hippie, took one look at my stiffly extended middle finger and said, "Oh, no, honey, that's not right." And then she proceeded to demonstrate for me and my kid sister the appropriate technique for flipping a proper bird. When she was done, we really had it down. To this day, I have such mad skills at flipping people off that I could make a living at it.

Last week, my darling diva came home from school and told me that the middle finger is very bad and that you should never show it to anyone. She attempted to demonstrate. She raised her hand, extended her middle finger, and pointed it - tip first - straight at me.

I did not laugh. Kudos to me.

I was tempted - seriously tempted - to correct her and show her what she was supposed to do. After all, it had worked for my mom.

Then, I had visions of my oldest flipping off all his teachers the next morning instead of waving a cheerful hello. He doesn't always get that when something's inappropriate you avoid it like the plague. Plus, he's a 10-year-old boy. In his universe, new gesture + big reaction from grown-ups = FUN.

So, my reaction? A very calm "Oh, no, honey, you can't do that. It means a bad thing, and you will get suspended if you do that at school."

You'll be shocked, absolutely shocked, to hear that the "don't do it" approach backfired. The middle finger became the one and only topic of conversation at the dinner table. All three of the kids started trying to point at everything with their middle fingers - particularly adorable in my three-year-old, who firmly believes that the term "middle finger" really means "thumb."

Clearly I needed a new approach.

I raised my right hand, two fingers on one side, two fingers on the other, thumb extended, and said, loud enough to get everyone's attention: "Live long and prosper!"

All three kids stopped dead in their tracks. This was way cooler than a simple middle finger. One might even say they found it fascinating. They spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how to get their hands to do that.

Crisis averted, thanks to Star Trek.

Thank you, Mr. Spock, for keeping my kids out of detention.

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