Getting out in the morning is never easy, but it’s made considerably more difficult when you’re saddled with a 5 year old who is having a conniption over a missing platypus.
“I can’t go to Art today without my platypus dressed!” Adam wailed with tears streaming down his cheeks.
This was the first I’d heard of his need for a clothed platypus. In fact, Adam had been awake for the better part of an hour and hadn’t mentioned a platypus, nor had I ever seen a platypus around the house.
Gingerly placing my coffee cup on the counter, I asked, “What platypus? What, on earth, are you talking about?”
Adam shook his fists with frustration as he yelled, “Mommy! I’m talking about the platypus we were supposed to dress up and bring to school today!!”
“Um, Dick, can you give me a hand here, please?” I implored my half-asleep, coffee-sipping husband.
Dick’s idea of help was to say, “Adam, it’s actually pronounced play-tee-puss - with a long “A” sound.”
Adam looked up at his father and began to sob. I could relate.
As I shot Dick a look, I put my laptop bag on the floor and crouched down to Adam’s level.
“Calm down, buddy. Daddy and I don’t understand what you need from us. Please try to explain it differently so we can help you.” I ruffled his bed head with my fingers as he took in huge, desperate gulps of air in an attempt to calm himself.
“Mommy…the teacher….said…I cannot go to Art today…if…if I don’t have my platypus dressed up.”
“Okay, but where is your platypus? I unpack your backpack every night and I haven’t seen anything that looks like a platypus.”
“That’s because he doesn’t have any clothes on yet, Mommy.”
I briefly attempted to process the kid logic that would have a wild animal rendered unrecognizable for its lack of clothing and then, failing to grasp any sense in it, moved onto searching the growing stack of school papers on my desk.
There, amidst an assortment of letter “T” worksheets I found what had once been a manila file folder cut crudely into the shape of a T. It had become folded in the mass of paperwork shipped home the previous Friday.
“Is this your platypus?” I asked, holding up the T-shaped, blank manila cut-out.
“THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT!”, shouted Adam jumping up and down.
Simultaneously, Dick located a crumpled piece of paper with detailed instructions for decorating the platypus with fabric and buttons. The due date on the instructions was yesterday.
I glanced at the clock – 7:40. If I leave the house by 7:45, I know I can get Adam there by 8:25 giving him 10 minutes to get to his classroom. If I leave at 7:55, I know I’ll drop him off at around 8:30 – just as the first bell is ringing indicating that Adam has only 5 minutes to get to class. But if I miss even one light or get stuck behind one big, slow truck, he’ll be late.
“Sweetie, I don’t think we have time to do this project. Can I write a note to the teacher and ask her for some more time? I didn’t realize you had homework mixed in with all those papers. I am so sorry”, I apologized emphatically, rubbing his back.
“Please, Mommy. Please, can you help me make clothing for my platypus? I really want to go to Art today and I really don’t want to be the only kid there without a platypus” Adam’s big blue eyes looked up at me, rimmed with tears of disappointment.
“It’s pronounced ‘play-tee-puss’”, Dick offered weakly.
“Not now, Dick!”
I glanced at the clock again. It was now or never…
“Adam, go have a seat at the chalkboard table. Daddy, please go get us my sewing basket from the laundry room. I’ll get the glue and the art supplies.”
An enormous smile lit up Adam’s face. ”Thanks, Mommy. Yay! Now I can go to Art today. Art is my favorite…”, he chattered drawing a happy face on his platypus with a pink marker.
For the next 20 minutes, I frantically cut scrap fabric into clothing shapes as Adam glued and decorated. Tabitha hovered nearby asking questions about the clothing I was creating – wanting to know why the platypus wasn’t wearing a dress, how I planned to accessorize the platypus and why we didn’t make the platypus wear something purple.
“Dick, I can only handle one nervous breakdown and one platypus at a time. Can you please step-in and stop the fashion interrogation? I don’t need Anna Wintour over here scrutinizing my designs, thank you very much!”
“8:00, honey! You’ve got to go now or you won’t make it,” Dick yelled from the adjacent room.
Adam and I wiped the excess glue from the last button and flung open the front door. Dick and Tabitha followed outside carrying our belongings.
I drove like a crazy person, bobbing and weaving with a fierceness only Mohammed Ali or the mother of a child late for school can comprehend. All my tricky maneuvers and excessive speeding meant we made it to school just in time. Ours was the last vehicle in the drop-off line. The Vice Principal was turning the key in the lock on the gate just as I pulled away.
As my racing pulse relaxed and I began to settle back into my seat for the drive to work, my cell phone rang. It was Dick.
“Did you get the boy to school on time?”
“Yep. Barely made it, but the boy and the platypus are safe & sound”, I chuckled.
“Actually sweetie, it’s pronounced ‘play-tee-puss’, Dick corrected. “In fact, this whole platypus pronunciation is really going to turn into a big problem. We can’t have an entire classroom of 5 & 6 year olds learning it wrong from the get-go. Someone’s got to nip this in the bud. I’m going to call the school and leave a message for Adam’s teacher…”
“Good idea. I’m sure all the teachers get off on parental involvement in their child’s education when they listen to voicemail messages from geek parents bitching about the mis-pronunciation of platypus.”
Dick snorted into the phone. “You know how these things bother me. If she’s going to teach them about the animal than she better have the pronunciation down, right?”
I took a sip of my coffee and muttered, “Absolutely. You go knock yourself out. I’ve done my time with the play-tee-puss today…”
I could wrap-up my little play-tee-puss problem with a pep-talk about the power of a mother’s love. Or, I could talk about how the limited problem-solving contributions of an otherwise, occasionally helpful mate (Dick) are no match for my lightning quick reflexes and laser-sharp intellect. Of course, I could also mention that the platypus is most widely known as proof that God, in fact, does have a sense of humor. But let’s face it, the humble platypus was merely born a silly-looking creature with a reputation for mis-pronunciation of its name. It is we – as parents – who go around proving the existence of a sense of humor in our deity of choice. Deluded into voluntarily making silly-looking creatures (who will one day grow to mis-pronounce everything) and then spending the rest of our lives agonizing over our silly creatures – that’s irony at its best.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I’d wake up every morning and frantically assemble a platypus outfit for just one more smile like the one Adam gave me that morning. And being a glutton for punishment is, my friends, pronounced “loon-ass-ee”. Go look it up.