Home Page










Email Kim Farnell



I like Children...if They're Properly Cooked

I needed a time. One special time. She was there, shouldn't be a problem. At first she claimed she couldn't remember - had no idea. I told her it wasn't good enough. Made to hang up. Then she started her story. A story which could make grown men scream in their sleep. A story so full of blood and gore that it deserved the triple XXX I was scribbling on my notes. In that dark world of knives and drugs it all started. And she wanted to pull me into her world. Wanted me to know every last little thing. Then she said, "Does it make any difference?" It did to my lunch, which was now in the trash. Some things you don't have to share. Finally I got what I needed. I told her I'd get on the case right away. If she wanted to stop by my office in the morning I should have something to tell her. Tomorrow was still a long way off to my mind.

"The trouble with children is that they are not returnable" 3

It was going to be a long haul. A couple of shots would make all the difference. I could clear my head and get a few ideas by chatting to the boys at Liz's place. They knew it all. I threw on my coat and headed on downtown.

Even at that time of day you could smell the atmosphere. I took a stool at the bar, gave Liz the wink and waited till she could come over. Didn't take long. I knew as soon as I started to explain that it was her sort of problem. Something she'd like to get her teeth into. She took a look at the scrap of paper I passed over the bar. Then she went quiet. She scribbled something on the back of the paper and passed it back pointing to a guy sitting in the corner. He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.4

I picked up the drinks she'd put in front of me and took them over.

As I sat he looked me up and down. He didn't seem to like what he saw. I told him the story and said Liz had sent me over. Maybe he knew something - something that could save me a whole lot of heartache. He lit the cigar he was holding and started talking.

"Every child is born a genius."5

"First thing ya gotta remember is as far as she's concerned we're talking 'bout perfect. We're taking 'bout a kid who ain't gonna do no wrong. She ain't paying ya ter tell her he'll enjoy playing the pianner. She wants ya ter tell her he'll be pulling 'em in at Carnegie Hall. She wants to know if it's gonna be Harvard or Yale. Tell her he'll make a number cruncher in Milton Keynes and ya've blown it."

I was getting the picture. Loud and clear. This guy knew his kids. Is that what it was all about?

"Nah, ya ain't doin' it fer the kid. Ya doin' it for her. Ya don't need ter know kids. Ya didn't have ter invade Czekslovakia ter do Hilters' chart did ya?"

He had a point. But I wasn't convinced. There must be more. Then he started to get into his stride.

"Most convicted felons are just people who were not taken to museums or Broadway musicals as children"6

"See, whatever ya say, whatever ya think this kid's gonna be like she'll blame herself if he goes to the bad. And far as she's concerned goin' to the bad is when he don't turn out to be what she wants. Ain't no good sayin' cuz he got seven planets in fire he ain't gonna need much sleep. Ain't no good sayin' he'll be a mechanic if she wants him to be a ballet dancer. She ain't gonna listen."

But she wanted it straight. She was paying for the full picture.

"Ain't no-one pays for the full pictcher. She wants the good bits. She wants ya ter tell her he's the best kid ya've ever seen."

"When I was born, I was so surprised I couldn't talk for a year and a half." 7

I was getting worried. What I had in mind was discussing how she could understand him on every level. Getting to grips with the emotional, the physical, the mental. How she could guide him into having insights into his own needs. How she could use her power over him responsibly, with respect for his feelings. How she could help him to develop in his own way. How she could listen to him, identify his talents, work with…..I had to stop when his laughter brought on a fit of coughing.

"Ya got no idea. She ain't wanting insights. She's wanting ya ter tell her he's gonna be first on the block ter say Mamma. She's wanting ya ter tell her he'll be walking at three months. And she's wanting ya ter tell her it's ok ter lay the pressure on. Cuz he's big enough ter take it."

"Even very young children need to be informed about dying. Explain the concept of death very carefully to your child. This will make threatening him with it much more effective." 8

I might not know much but I know that you need to have a bit of respect for kids. You need to give them some structure, to provide gentle but firm discipline. Laying on the pressure is guaranteed to cause trouble.

"She ain't wanting ter know how yer gonna bring up yer own kids. She's got her own ideas."

"Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years."9

But what about when he's older? Those teenage years? "He's gonna have a good time. She ain't. Simple as that.

"The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant - and let the air out of their tyres."10

There comes a time when he's going to leave home. That'll worry her. Who's he going to be with? Can he cope? How can she make sure he gets enough freedom while showing that she'll be there for him?

"He's gonna go when he's gonna go. Ain't nuffink she can do 'bout it. Ya tell her who he wants ter hang his hat with - all ya can be sure 'bout is she ain't gonna like 'em."

He wasn't looking like he wanted to say much more. And he'd given me plenty to think about. I got Liz to fill his glass. Shook his hand and made for home. I was going to need plenty of sleep for this dame.

"From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away."11

I'm no good at mornings. But it was morning when I heard that tentative tap on my door. She wafted in. Took the seat opposite and was ready for the full agenda. He was right, she wanted the good bits. But those beady eyes he threw my way, got me wriggling in my seat. Some day he'd understand all this. Some day he'd be knocking on my door, asking for explanations. Asking me to tell him why. I tried to involve him. I tried to ask him what he thought, what he wanted. He gave me a quizzical, almost plaintive look. Then the smell made me show her the bathroom.

" I don't know why I did it, I don't know why I enjoyed it, and I don't know why I'll do it again." 12

I knew this kid. I knew what he though of her. And it wasn't all good. But he'd do what he was going to do. Nothing would change that. I'd given her enough clues. Just hoped she'd have the sense to do something with them.

"If you don't leave, I'll get somebody who will." 13

I'd had enough. She wasn't listening. Payback time. She threw a roll of bills on my desk. Thanked me in a way that made me feel like I'd just offered her son a job and it wasn't the sort of job a decent boy should even know about. I knew I wouldn't be seeing her again. But maybe someday he'd listen to that tape, he'd take a look for himself. And then I knew he'd be back.

1. WC Fields

2. Steven Wright

3. Quentin Crisp

4. Raymond Chandler Farewell, My Lovely (Chapter 1)

5. R. Buckminster Fuller

6. Libby Gelman-Waxner

7. Gracie Allen

8. P. J. O'Rourke

9. Anonymous

10. Dorothy Parker

11. Raymond Chandler The High Window (Chapter 5)

12. Bart Simpson, The Simpsons

Return to articles





© Kim Farnell 2006.