I Might Not Be as Smart as I Look

Kids are often not the brightest or quickest to catch on. My own sometimes seem to be willfully missing the point, or intentionally not getting it. When I get frustrated, and feel harsh words rising in my throat because they are behaving as though they are sharp as marbles, I pause and remember my own experience in what I think of as the Kilt Episode of 1972(ish).

My mother was a fan of kilts and plaid things in general (as you will recall if you read my post that included my description of the Stupidest Halloween Costume Ever Devised at 6:30 p.m. on October 31, or Really,Ever). Many years before the Halloween costume debacle, I owned another kilt, this one in a Royal Stewart tartan (that would be the red one you’re most likely familiar with, for those of you who aren’t Scottish tartan aficionados). It had straps that crossed in the back and buttoned into the waist band in the front.

Because the straps were a double thickness of wool, and because the buttons were stitched to the multi-thickness waist band, getting the straps buttoned was no mean feat. My mom had to do it for me because my fine motor skills weren’t sufficiently developed to do it (I couldn’t have been more than four), and I lacked the strength in my fingers.

Although I probably wore it multiple times, there was one time that stands out and has weathered the ravages of time, wine, and a very minor flirtation with illegal drugs to remain accessible to me.

I was at preschool—it was a Montessori preschool—and at some point during the day nature called. As nature does. I went to one of the teachers, and asked her to undo my straps so I could go to the bathroom.

“You don’t need the straps undone,” was her response.

I remember thinking how stupid she was. I did need to have them undone, otherwise I would be unable to remove the straps. I waited a few minutes, hoping that she would process my request, and realize her response was unacceptable.

I approached the same teacher again, and made the same appeal. Again, she declined on the grounds that it was unnecessary for me to have my straps removed in order to use the restroom. In my four year old way I was starting to get rather pissed off and impatient with this bozo. The straps held up the kilt. I needed to remove the straps to remove the kilt. Parlez-vous Anglais, you idiot?

I would give her one last chance. I waited a few more minutes. Things were starting to get a bit desperate here, so it wasn’t many more minutes. My four year old brain wasn’t much for coming up with new approaches, or finding new angles. I hit up the same teacher with the same plea for sartorial assistance.

“You don’t need the straps undone,” she repeated for the third time.

Really, you twatwaffle? Have I not made myself clear? These buttons are hard. My mom has to fasten them for me in the morning. I might be able to get them undone, but the odds are slim. We are nearing a point of no return here, and if you don’t give me a hand, you’re going to have more to deal with than just some stubborn buttons. I hope you have a mop and some dry undies handy, because we’re going to need them, if you get my drift.

Just at the point when I might have ended up with a nickname like Tinkle Tracy (four year olds are both creative and sympathetic in their nickname assignment), I decided to go to the restroom and try the damned buttons for myself. As I stood there fiddling, it finally dawned on me. What you no doubt have been asking yourself all this time finally occurred to me.

Why did you not just lift up your kilt—since it’s nothing more than a skirt—and go about your business?

So I did. But to this day I am not sure why the teacher, on seeing that I clearly wasn’t grasping what she was implying, didn’t say, “It’s just a skirt—lift it up and go.” Clearly she assumed I was smarter than I am, which is a mistake that many have made through the years. I humor myself she didn’t want to insult my intelligence by giving me so obvious an instruction, or she was confident I’d figure it out on my own. The truth is she came within about 45 seconds of need that mop.

Did you have a wardrobe malfunction as a child? Did you ever have to pee badly enough that you thought you might call someone a "twatwaffle" out loud? Have you ever been in a situation where people clearly thought you were smarter than you are?


Cassandra said...


Tracy said...

Fortunately it didn't come to that :)

Vanessa D. said...

I love this story. When I was about the same age, I went to Sunday School on the Sunday School bus. Once I was so excited coming home I ran off the bus towards the house. When I came to, my parents explained how I had run my face right into the back of my dad's pick-up truck.

Tracy said...

Ouch! Bummer, Vanessa! But on the bright side, that probably goes down in the "plus" column for your entry into Heaven. I'm sure God will be like, "You're a little clumsy, but we admire your enthusiasm--here's your halo. Try not to trip on your robes." :)

Sarah (est. 1975) said...

In like fashion, I didn't realize you could just pull the crotch of your one-piece bathing suit aside to pee until I was like 14 years old.

The Shitastrophy said...

My kids go to a Montessori school - this is so the way they handle this. Lead the child but do not tell them the solution, eventually they will learn on their own (even if it meant peeing your pants apparently).

Tracy said...

Um, I never thought of doing that until just now. I believe that as a child, on more than one occasion, I just peed THROUGH the bathing suit. There's a 'Fess Up Friday for you!

Darcy Perdu said...

Ha! Funny story! And I can SORT of grasp that the teacher wanted you to figure it out by yourself, but hellooo? How about a little prompt like, "You don't need to unbutton the straps because there's another way to handle this. Can you figure it out?" Otherwise you just get a confused little kid who's about to whiz all over the place! Glad you finally figured it out, TT! (Sorry, you'll always be known to me as TT from now on! :)

Aussa Lorens said...

I have a very specific memory of being a toddler and asking someone to "put my shirt on" and they thought they were being so clever by pretending to put my tiny shirt on their huge adult body. I just kept saying it over and over, angry that they didn't realize I wanted it put on ME. Grownups are cruel. Or maybe I'm dumb for thinking they were serious? No, no, they're cruel.

Tracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

Darcy - Agreed--maybe a LEETLE more of a prompt for a four year old. And TT is fine--I've been called worse (although to be fair, the other nickname I had--Spacey Tracy--is completely reasonable and true...)

Aussa - yep, I'd say cruel. I know I've done a few things to my own kids that other people would describe as such. In fact, that reminds me of a story to blog about. Thank you!

Tracy said...

Alyson - It's funny--you'd think if the outcome would mean dealing with a biohazard that required a mop, they might offer a little more in the way of a hint! :) (A big thank you to my wonderful blogging software for messing up my comments - the one under yours was directed at Sarah.)

Margot said...

When I was in the 5th grade I was on a day long hike with my class in a wooded area without restroom facilities. If we had to pee we were supposed to go behind a tree and squat. Well...I was wearing overalls that day, and when I pulled them down to do my bidness I managed to pee all over the back flaps. Ew! I decided to not re-fasten them and let them just hang down over my butt and legs instead. I was actually able to convince some of the other girls that this was the new, hip way to wear overalls.

Fun post, Tracy. It's funny how memories of things like that stay with you forever.

Tracy said...

Margot, you're a GENIUS! No, nothing happened to my overalls--this is the cool way to wear them. You mean you're still fastening them over your shoulders? Let's conjugate that verb: You dork, you dorkish, you dorker, you dorked. DORK.

You're my hero, because I could never play that off.