May-June 2011 | Domestic Disturbances

Angels of Destruction

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The long, dark winter—filled with flu, power outages and snow days (let’s call them what they really are: dusting-of-snow days)—is finally behind us. Time to shoo the kids into the backyard and assess the damage they’ve wrought while being cooped up for the past few months.

A quick survey of Bethesda-area residents reveals that when it comes to destruction, shoe-chewing puppies aren’t even in the same league as young kids with a few hours on their hands. We might bemoan our kids’ reliance on electronics, but the good news is that many homebound children chose to supplement their educations with science experiments this winter. Think Hurricane Katrina, but in your kitchen.

Here’s what happened when some parents realized their houses had become ominously silent and went to investigate (cue the horror-movie music):

“I was roasting a chicken for dinner,” one mother reports. “I pulled it out of the oven and stared at it in shock. It was a royal blue color.” After a while, the realization hit: Her daughter had watched her stuff onions into the cavity of the chicken. The little girl had been holding a piece of sidewalk chalk at the time. Blue chalk. (Dinner that night was delivery pizza, which might not have had the desired effect of discouraging such behavior.)

“My daughter became obsessed with watching the toilet flush,” another mother says. “One day she lifted the lid off the tank to further investigate, and dropped the lid. It hit the base of the toilet and gouged a hole into the porcelain. She put the lid back on and didn’t say a word.” The next time the toilet flushed, water shot out through the hole as if it were an uncapped fire hydrant. The topper? The entire bathroom had been renovated the previous month.

Then there was this experiment by an aspiring chef: “My son put a Homer Simpson doll into the microwave and turned it on. Fire shot out the back and scorched the walls, and the house smelled for a week.” (Sadly, Homer did not survive.)

“Snow days seemed like a great time to potty-train my kid,” one father says. “Until, perhaps emboldened by our excited reaction every time he made pee-pee, my son walked over to me and proudly christened my open laptop. And, no, I hadn’t backed it up.”

And this mom notes: “My son apparently shares my affinity for high-priced makeup, because he poured my shampoo into the toilet, painted the walls with my Chanel eye cream, drew designs on the mirror with my mascara and smeared lipstick on the comforter.” She goes on to confess: “I didn’t react well. I yelled, ‘Does Mommy put your gummy vitamins in the toilet?’ ”

As for my own cherubs, I contained them in my minivan while I dug out the snow from around the tires and deiced the windows one day this past winter. Fifteen minutes later, I strapped them into their car seats and drove off. I turned the wheel to the left and my horn honked. I frantically wiggled the wheel from left to right, trying to stop the sound. Not only didn’t it work, but the horn got stuck. I wended my way through the streets, cursing my defective new minivan while other drivers cursed me, until two guys moving furniture out of a house waved me over and disconnected my blaring horn.

I took my car to the dealership, full of righteous indignation, only to be told my kids had fed quarters into a little opening on the steering wheel, jamming the honking mechanism.

Still, I felt a little better after a friend told me this story:

“We had friends over for dinner when my son entered the room and pelted us with Legos. We quickly realized he was using one of my bras as a slingshot. Our guests were laughing as I tried to wrestle away my lingerie—and then my son loudly complained that it didn’t hold a lot.”

Sarah Pekkanen’s second novel, Skipping a Beat (Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster), came out in February. She can be reached at sarah.pekkanen@bethesdamagazine.com.