[While I’m offline as much as possible this week, please enjoy this post by Brett Berk, M.S. Ed., aka “The Gay Uncle.” Brett seems to have answers to all the tough parenting questions, like how to handle matters when grandma keeps giving your children cheap, crappy toys, how to deal with Wii addiction, and what to do when your child pees in odd places. In the post below, he takes on shopping with a tween. Come back tomorrow to see what he says about what to do if your child won’t stop saying “poop” or other “dirty” words.
Brett is the author of The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting: Candid Counsel from the Depths of the Daycare Trenches. Visit him at www.askgayuncle.com. —DR]
The Gay Uncle was recently down in the queer pot of gold at the end of our nation’s rainbow—Key West—where his sister lives. As part of their ongoing tradition of “Uncle Time”, dating back to when her daughter could first scream the words UNCLE TIME!!, Gunc and niece Amber (now age 10) spent the afternoon together. They had soft serve, they ate pizza, they visited the Aquarium, they watched an insane faux-French man juggle cats on the Sunset Pier. And, like any ideal visit with a tweenage girl, they went shopping for crappy trinkets at the ubiquitous mall-rat “boutique”, Claire’s.
Later on, Gunc met his sister Roxy for a drink or four, and they eventually got around to discussing the day’s events. Gunc described how he managed to embarrass his niece—not a very difficult practice with a ten year old—by swishing about, talking loud, and volunteering to assist the sunset performers. This was all old hat to Roxy, who shares her older brother’s . . . performative personality. What she wanted to know was how the G.U. managed to deal with Claire’s: a source of endless tension for the mother/daughter team. “Whenever we go there, she wants everything in the store. She nags, she wines, she drags her feet. We end up spending so much time in there, that by the end, I’m pissed don’t want to get her anything.”
Gunc explained that the trick, like most things with young kids, was to be concrete and proactive, and set expectations in advance. “Before we even walked in the door,” he told Roxy, “I turned to Amber, and I said, clearly, You have five bucks, and five minutes. If you go over either one, you get nothing. She raced around the store, did the math herself, and ended up with a tiny, rainbow-covered diary/keychain, and a fuzzy pink kitty charm.” He didn’t add that he followed her around the entire time, passively hurrying her with his humiliating behavior: singing along to the blaring High School Musical soundtrack, trying on scrunchies ringed in synthetic blond hair, or recommending particular pieces of fake-rhinestone bedecked jewelry. Like all the most horrifying traditions, in order to remain compelling, Uncle Time must retain some of its mystery.