Your Toothpaste Is Now, Officially, Dangerous

That, anyway, is what I considered telling my children, before they left this morning for a week with their cousins in New England. Unfortunately (or fortunately) this news would not have had much impact on them. They already believe toothpaste can kill them. That’s why they don’t like to spend much time brushing their teeth.They feel the same way about all other personal grooming products. They understood, long before United Airlines, that shampoo, conditioner and soap, liquid or otherwise, are the instruments of evil. I had to do exactly nothing when I checked their carry-on luggage for forbidden items. None of those things had even been packed. Now, if there was some plot to blow up airlines using action figures, we’d be in a world of hurt.

I thought it would be hard to tell them about the latest plot to blow up airlines using liquid concoctions. But the truth is, when I did give them an executive summary of this news (omitting the stuff about toothpaste and shampoo, lest it lead to further intransigence on the subject of personal grooming), they laughed. Even after they read the story in the New York Times, they still thought it was pretty funny. Perhaps it was because this plot is like something you’d see in a cartoon, where the bad guy is so patently ridiculous that even a French adventure hero like Tintin could deal with him with just a look and a “zoot.” It’s hard to imagine how somebody could blow up a plane with a tube of Crest.

Of course I didn’t like seeing them run up the corded-off ramp toward the security checkpoint. I don’t like it that people want to blow each other up. I don’t like having to tell my children this. But children have innate good sense about this. They already know that people will try to hurt each other. And at least they are able to laugh at adult efforts to do so, even when, under it all, there is something deadly serious going on.

Anyway, to take the pall off the page from all this, I’d like to record here the rules the children came up with for behavior on this trip. Let me say that there are six children on this trip: my three and three of their cousins. They range in age from 13 to 6. There are four boys and two girls. The only adult who will be with them is my husband. He was an Eagle Scout. He loves this kind of thing. The other adults love him and make plans to stay in swanky hotels while their children are gone.

The children would never voluntarily have come up with these rules had I not asked them to talk about the one thing they cared the most about in how people treated them. They would have much preferred to trade burps and talk about why the cheese on their pizza could stretch so far. I want it out there now: I am a bossy, rule making person. I can’t help it. In about three years, my children will be making fun of this quality. But they’ll never forget how important it is to take turns when you talk, which is rule number 1 at our dinner table. (Nobody does it…. not yet. I have hope.)

So, here they are:

  • Cousin number 1 (boy, eleven years old): I like hugs.
  • Cousin number 2 (boy, six years old): No excluding.
  • Cousin numbers 3 and 4 (girls 12 and 13): Kisses. (lots of giggles)
  • Cousin number 4 (girl, 12) Inside voices (cousin no. 2 having just shouted in her ear about the kissing thing)
  • Cousin number 5 (boy, eleven years old): No hitting.
  • Cousin number 6: Positive. Say nice things.
  • Aunt, who is not going: Be helpful to your uncle.

I know it’s been said before. Children should rule the world (with a little adult help making the lunches). Yes, there would be a lot of messy hair and cavities, the occasional Lord of the Flies moment and I do not even want to think about how they’d handle commuting. Even with all that, were they to have more say in how things go, we’d all be having a lot more fun and we’d most likely be much safer than we are today in the nasty, divided, violent world we’ve all gone to so much trouble to make for them.