Nudie Patootie

By Beck

My husband told our boy that the word “gymnasium” comes from the Greek “to exercise naked“, which struck the kid as uproariously hilarious. So hilarious, in fact, that he just had to share it with his whole math class today and that is why I had a phonecall from his teacher this afternoon.

Ah, ribald seven-year-old hilarity.

I’m not great at playing the role of penitent parent, mainly because I think that yelling at one’s friends in math class that gymnasium actually means that people used to work out in the nude is WAY funner than doing actual math. Who wouldn’t rather know that than a bunch of boring addition? But I try to keep my math phobia hidden from the kids because all of the awesome-paying jobs require a lot of math APPARENTLY and I want to be supported in style in my dotage, so I gave him the requisite lecture about saving the lewdity for the playground.

“I’m mad at you guys,” he said. “I’m mad at you guys for telling me that in the first place.”

A lot of motherhood makes me feel too known, too exposed. The Baby, for example, told me the other day that sometimes my hair smells like flowers and sometimes my hair smells “like dirt.” Well. Before I had kids, I could pretend that the parts of myself that I don’t like so much just weren’t there – my impatience, my surly bad temper, my occasional lapses in judgement and my (generally CLEAN, thank you!) hair were things that didn’t come UP in normal conversation. But you have kids and the next thing you know, you’re not only needing to deal with your flaws every day but your kids also will be AWARE of them AND affected by them.

It haunts a lot of parents, I think, this idea that we might completely by accident screw up our kids, that not insisting that they turn off the tv and eat their vegetables will result in some dead-eyed criminal with nasty jailhouse tattoos, that we’ll drop the ball that one time and that’s IT, they’re wrecked. And even though I don’t think – logically – that it’s the way bad people happen, you still get the phone call from school that your kid is telling other kids Raunchy Historical Facts in GRADE ONE MATH CLASS and you might get the feeling that you’re failing parenthood.

The Greeks liked to exercise in the nude, which strikes me as both icky – ew! – and rather dangerous. Have kids and you’re pretty much naked for the rest of your life, stripped of that protective pre-kid layer, utterly exposed as you launch your kids (messy-haired and telling raunchy jokes in math class) out into the great big world.

Beck blogs at Frog And Toad Are Still Friends.

43 Responses to Nudie Patootie
  1. Jenny
    February 5, 2009 | 3:02 am

    Christina our new born daughter helped me realize how much my husband Frank loved me. You can’t believe the amount of joy when he gifted me a beautiful gold medal with the words “World’s greatest achievement” engraved on it. You will agree when you check this for yourself at

  2. Louise
    February 5, 2009 | 8:47 am

    Now, if he had announced that in history class rather than math class, the teacher might have been more appreciative. (Hey, parents are out there teaching their kids about the ancient Greeks!)

  3. Carol
    February 5, 2009 | 9:37 am

    I’m pretty sure I’ve screwed mine up completely. A note from the teacher and meeting with principal about “Uranus” sort of leads me to wonder if there are not jailhouse tattoos in this boy’s future.

    Did not know that about the word gymnasium. I wonder which part of the Greek word means naked. I bet a good homeschooling mom would have her kid look it up. I may never know.

  4. Bon
    February 5, 2009 | 9:39 am

    your kid’s teacher has control issues.

  5. de
    February 5, 2009 | 9:43 am

    I love your observations in this.

    My daughter recently called me back into her room because there was a “bad smell.” I asked her to describe it, and she said, “Like your breath.” Turns out the dog had left her rope bone behind.

    A teacher called you at home for that?

  6. becky
    February 5, 2009 | 9:47 am

    I remember the first time I realized that this child of mine was exhibiting a trait that I did not care for … and that, amzingingly, I HAD GIVEN HIM MYSELF!!! Yikes! It was a moment that marked me. Humbled me. Made me mad and proud and scared all at the same time.

  7. Rachel
    February 5, 2009 | 10:06 am

    I love it!! It is a scary day at which point you realize that your children are now old enough to deeply embarrass you.

  8. His Girl Amber
    February 5, 2009 | 10:08 am

    ah, yes… the horrible feeling you get as they wheel you out of the hospital holding A REAL LIVE PERSON and you think, oh crud, why have I not been preparing for this? the first nights when you are pretty sure you have already ruined them for life, the first years when you are sure you didn’t teach them how to roll over, read, eat properly and now therefore they will be behind forever.

    I know this feeling well, and even though having a teenager means I have a little more mature sense of perspective than I did before, I still find myself wondering if I should be saving up money for the THERAPY bills that are sure to be in his future in which he has to sort out all the issues caused by his mother.

    but really? naked gymnasium? that’s worth getting so worked up about you have to call home? how did you keep from saying “SO WHAT?”

  9. Sheryl
    February 5, 2009 | 10:14 am

    Seriosly, his teacher called you over that?!? She’s too easily rattled. My son was looking for “the nudies” in the encyclopedia. Does that make you feel any better?

  10. crazymumma
    February 5, 2009 | 10:44 am

    Poor boy. To have been called out when he was sharing a fascinating aspect of cultural history with the class. I mean how could that fact NOT compel him to share it and to be damned with time and place! he is 7 after all!

    man. see? On a roll here…becasue theis is a huge flaw in our system that the teacher did not take the opportunity to educate the kids further.

    pant pant. thank you.

  11. Sarah at themommylogues
    February 5, 2009 | 10:49 am

    I’ve been feeling this whole naked as a parent thing lately. Thanks for putting it in words.

  12. Erin D
    February 5, 2009 | 10:49 am

    Maybe I am not prepared for that part of parenting? I think I would have laughed if that happened. It IS funny, and without knowing the rest of the details I wouldn’t even say it was entirely inappropriate in math class. Hmm.

    Beck, you are one of my favorites. I just love the way you make everything seem poignant but not mushy and funny but not a joke.

  13. Heidi
    February 5, 2009 | 10:53 am

    I am having trouble with the honesty of kids. Like, “your breath smells.” It may be true, but I am trying to figure out how to explain that it isn’t nice to say anyhow!

    Very funny that he was mad at you for “even telling him!” LOL

  14. Nowheymama
    February 5, 2009 | 10:59 am

    Oh, my first grade child and I are in the same spot right now.

  15. Mom24
    February 5, 2009 | 11:26 am

    I am not a good penitent parent either, for what that’s worth. I think that was an awesome thing for your boy to learn and I’m looking forward to sharing it with mine later today. 🙂

    The last call I got from school about my boy was that he’s talking too much. Two things, 1. yes, I will talk to him about that and I will discourage him from doing it, stress to him the importance of following rules. 2. If my kid is yacking his way through class, still learning anything you’re trying to teach him, he is bored, and you might need to step up what you’re teaching him. Now please. Also 2a. Please realize there’s a limited amount I can do from home about him talking in class. Hello? Handle it. Keep him in at recess, separate him, whatever, just make it unpleasant for him if he talks in class, he’s bright, he’ll stop.

    It is disconcerting to see our flaws through their eyes, isn’t it?

  16. Susanne
    February 5, 2009 | 11:35 am

    Funny she didn’t take a teaching moment even if it meant stepping out of her “subject”. I probably would have laughed. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t teach grade 1.

    I so totally get the being exposed in parenting thing. Sigh.

  17. BecomingMe
    February 5, 2009 | 12:09 pm

    Awesome post–parenting certainly leaves one vulnerable.

  18. Stacy
    February 5, 2009 | 2:27 pm

    I agree with Susanne. I totally would have laughed had I been that teacher. This is the reason I no longer teach Sunday School. I found the misbehavior of fourth graders entirely too amusing and was not good at hiding it.

  19. Janet
    February 5, 2009 | 2:32 pm

    Exercising nude? What were they thinking.

  20. Heather of the EO
    February 5, 2009 | 2:40 pm

    I love your honesty about the naked feeling of parenting. There’s just nothing we can do to control it all and that does feel like a breeze across the bum so often. Great post.

  21. Alison
    February 5, 2009 | 3:15 pm

    I love how you tied the idea of nakedness together with the way parenting makes us feel exposed with all our flaws. I certainly have times when I worry that I am screwing my kids up.

  22. edj
    February 5, 2009 | 3:38 pm

    I had one of the best (though boring) childhoods you could have; loving, committed parents who were involved in my life, whom I respect, etc. And I remember having long talks with a friend from a similar background when we were about 19 and working through our childhoods, and realizing that a certain amount of baggage is inevitable, no matter how good a parent you are.
    I think that helps me as a parent. It’s inevitable. Okay then. On with life!

  23. edj
    February 5, 2009 | 3:40 pm

    And I forgot to say, I too was amazed that the teacher bothered to call you about that. Because that sort of thing is what makes history fun and interesting.

  24. Nadia
    February 5, 2009 | 6:43 pm

    Did you laugh when they called? I don’t think I would have been able to stifle a laugh! That is quite humorous I must say!

  25. Omaaha Mama
    February 5, 2009 | 6:56 pm

    That teacher should come and listen to the things my students tell me! Satan made one of my students sprain his ankle last week, so he says. Okay then.
    Really, I think that kind of knowledge keeps kids learning. Knowing when and where to share it is a great lesson!

  26. Mary-LUE
    February 5, 2009 | 9:44 pm

    It haunts a lot of parents, I think, this idea that we might completely by accident screw up our kids

    Yes, yes, yes! I think because my kids are 8 years apart, I have a little perspective that usually helps. I can see things that tortured me with my first have worked out (so far, knock wood). Every once in awhile though, something happens and BAM! I am terrified that I have completely screwed them up.

    Ugh. It does haunt me. Right now I am stressing about my daughter and hoping that I am overreacting.

    (It cracks me up that your son blames you guys for telling him.)

  27. Natalie
    February 5, 2009 | 10:02 pm

    Okay, I am both a mom and work in a grade 1 classroom (I’m a program assistant). I hear a lot of these kinds of things from both areas of my life. In our class that would have ended up being a little lesson ending with the appropriateness to the subject. No call home. No astonishment. Just amusement and a funny thing to share later in the staff room. That teacher is waaaaay to high strung, lol.

  28. Paper Dolls for Boys
    February 5, 2009 | 10:14 pm

    I just “Stumbled Upon” your blog and am glad for it. I love what you have to say in this post. And also as a former teacher of this age group I can’t believe that a teacher would call for something like that. Really.

  29. Jennifer
    February 5, 2009 | 10:17 pm

    Well that was just a great, round, complete little post.

    Just the other day, my very oldest friend recalled how she once got in trouble in grade school for showing her friends the naked Africans she had discovered in the National Geographic, thinking that was pretty darn hilarious. That is so something she would do, too!

    Yeah, she turned out pretty well. Actually wonderfully well, and she’s still just as funny, even without the naked jokes. 😉 And one day the boy will be approaching 40, too, remembering with good humor the day he learned about the naked Greeks. 🙂

    (I think it is just hilarious, by the way, that he is mad at you for telling him “in the first place.” HA! Kids. Gotta love ’em – they are so good at being martyrs.) 🙂

  30. Karl
    February 5, 2009 | 11:04 pm

    It seems that you really don’t like math. Perhaps you were a psych. major. If so, no doubt you recognize that your dislike of math is an outward projection of deep insecurity for sucking at it so much. No, you wouldn’t want your kid to pick up “simple addition” because its so “boring”. Parent of the year award for you.

  31. Beck
    February 5, 2009 | 11:09 pm

    That’s right: I use my deep-seated insecurities at being ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE at math as a reason to forbid my children from ever, ever participating in math-related activities. It’s true! I even ban them from counting.
    “If the subject of math should come up, distract the other children with bawdy tales,” I firmly instruct my children each morning before school, and then spend my day admiring my psychology degree and my parent of the year trophies. It’s a full life.

  32. Patois
    February 6, 2009 | 12:05 am

    An excellent concluding thought tying it all together. Thank goodness we develop a thick skin because we really are stripped naked by them all the time.

  33. PastormacsAnn
    February 6, 2009 | 1:24 am

    Yup, complete honest+lack of discretion=ouch!

    Parenting definitely leaves one exposed in so many ways. I completely relate to your fear of “messing them up.”

    Such an amazing post! Love the way you communicated your message here! Terrific.

  34. tracey
    February 6, 2009 | 9:11 am

    I must be a TERRIBLE parent because I am totally off to tell the kids that fact! That is a riot.

    Oh, and an FYI: You ARE a good parent if you worry that you’re messing your kids up. The crummy ones just don’t care so much.

  35. Cassie
    February 6, 2009 | 11:24 am

    You are so right about our flaws coming out. I think parenting makes us more vunerable than most realize. We begin to see ourselves in someone else. The fear that we will screw up our kids is the biggest one parents have. I think thats why decisions about parenting are so hard to make. Well said Beck well said.

  36. gretchen from lifenut
    February 6, 2009 | 2:19 pm

    Love this post for many reasons. I have the same worries and the same first-grade son who would find that tidbit of information delightful, but blame me for the fallout.

  37. Lisa b
    February 6, 2009 | 7:46 pm

    I adore you Beck.
    Karl needs to get out more eh?

  38. Michelle at Scribbit
    February 7, 2009 | 1:29 am

    I don’t know . . . seems like it’s the Greeks who should be embarrassed, not him! 🙂

  39. Emily
    February 7, 2009 | 5:01 pm

    I love your parallel. Great post.

  40. No Mother Earth
    February 10, 2009 | 10:11 am

    Great post!

  41. Painted Maypole
    February 10, 2009 | 6:15 pm

    MQ likes to point out that our teeth are yellow.

    thanks, kid.

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