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Bart Mills: Kids no longer cute fodder for columns

July 10, 2013

Pete says itís time for me to write about my kids.


Pete is not the first person to tell me this, nor is he the only one this week to suggest some quip, cause or subject that would make ripe fodder for my column. In most instances I accept such input with a smile and nod and a promise to keep that in mind for future columns. But Pete is a man of considerable wisdom, the sort of fellow whose suggestions bear serious consideration. He also happens to be the guy who makes my hamburgers at the downtown Kewpee. When the guy in charge of my Kewpee Regular (thatís a single with mustard, pickle and onion, for the uninitiated) makes a suggestion, I follow it.


I have been writing about my daughters for close to 18 years now. Mills Child One made her first appearance in this space a full two months before her birth when I launched a contest to have readers name her. The winning name ended up being Pepper, though my wife rejected it outright. I assured her that a newspaper column contest was a legally binding arrangement. If I remember correctly, her response was, ďSo are divorce papers.Ē


As the girl grew older and better able to handle dialogue, I discovered the relative ease of using them as column fodder. Any parent will tell you that, between the ages of 2 and 12, kids can be pretty entertaining. And while I acknowledge that the characters portrayed in this column ó myself included ó are largely fictional and bear limited resemblance to the actual humans they represent, the real live Mills girls did provide me with more than my share of low-hanging comic fruit.


Through the years, we moved from jokes about the amount of erp (thatís baby vomit, for the uninitiated) on my suit jackets to gags about their goofy friends, endless sleepovers, school drama, bus drama, field trips and class projects and more pets and rescued wild things than I can count. Through it all, they took my public disclosure of their silly private world with relative good humor. I suspect they even enjoyed the attention when new teachers or adults we met on the street would ask them if they were Mills Child 1 or 2.


Then the inevitable happened. They grew up. Despite my best efforts to keep them young and sweet and dependent, they aged, blossoming into bright, beautiful young ladies. In what seems like mere moments, we moved from class trips to the museum to college visits, from care-free overnights with their friends to doing our parental best to assure that they are locked down inside the triple-bolted doors of our home every night by 11. In short order, they became teenage girls. In movie terms, life moved from a G-rated family comedy to a drama this director is working very hard at keeping PG-13.


That said, I feel fortunate to have girls who are, given the alternative, relatively drama-free. Donít get me wrong, there is drama, but not the sort of screeching, door-slamming, crumbling-into-a-ball-of-tears hysteria some parents face. They still share stories of their goofy friends and the silly things they do to fill the days. They are still very funny, which, in my book, is pretty much the best thing a person can be.


As funny as they are, the stories have changed, along with their willingness to have their lives used as material for Dadís column. When a 4-year-old MC and her friend decided to get into momís makeup drawer and wind up looking like the smallest members of a Barnum and Bailey review, thatís the sort of funny you can share with the world. But letís say ó for purely speculative purposes ó that a few years later those same two girls decide to get into Dadís Irish whisky, thatís not so funny, particularly if, in this purely speculative scenario, they decide to add water to a $70 bottle of Jameson Gold to cover their fictional sin.


I suspect when Pete and others tell me they want to read about my girls, they are really hoping for those cute, carefree kids of a decade past. There are days I wish those girls were still around too. On the bright side, thereís hope that in time ó 20 years or so ó Iíll have grandchildren to write about.


Better yet, I can take them down to meet Pete and record their hilarious antics while polishing off a Kewpee Regular.