We're flying under the Childrearing Method radar right now.

I threw out the What to Expect book after we'd achieved first tooth, first step, first Fuck you, Mom! (Gosh, was that only last week? Time do fly.) But my neighbor is up on all the current childrearing literature and she makes very good use of it. When some little somebody feels left out or scared or starts screaming THERE'S A BEE, her gentle wealth of practical childspeak gets everybody back into the wading pool every time. I don't agree with her about some things (breastfeeding into junior high, for example, and I don't have the drive or, as is sometimes the case, the paranoia, to hitch our wagon to the homeschooling train), but one thing we do agree on is not freaking out when our kids do something that FREAKS US OUT. The more stringently you forbid something, the more attractive it becomes to the forbidee, correct? And shameful, because they still want to do it, but they also know they have to hide it, and the situation gets everso charged. And we want to drain all the charge out of things . . . like . . . this! My neighbor's five-year-old daughter, the other day, she walks in, cocks her hip, puts an imaginary Pall Mall to her lips, and whispers, We must smoke. And my neighbor was like, Wha-huh? Where the Bette Davis did she get that? We only ever watch Animal Planet. But, in alignment with the non-freaking-out philosophy, she replied in her best Marlene Dietrich, Yes, we must smoke, but we must also cough. So they started swanning around the room taking elegant drags off their imaginary cigarettes and then immediately pretending to hack up a lung. This, I thought, was educational roleplaying at its finest.

[As an aside, we were down in L.A. last week visiting Jack's sister, and at one point I went out to the garage to see what the kids were doing and they had all piled into her Mercedes sedan and were pretending to drive to Vegas. The oldest boy was in the driver's seat with the pimp music turned up to 10, wearing a taxi-cab print Von Dutch hat and some ridiculous I SKI-type shades with white frames while pretending to smoke a Mont Blanc pen. A small black girl reclined in the front seat, I guess pretending that imaginary secondhand smoke didn't bother her, while Jackson jumped up and down on the back seat in his underpants and Wolverine claws. I'd really forgotten how strong the allure of smoking is to some children. I choked on my share of candy cigarettes, but at some point, about five years ago, I woke up and realized that it was more important for me to breathe than to smoke half a pack of Marlboros a day.]

The thing I've had to learn not to freak out about is hard-ons. The more diminutive Mr. Kennedy's boners happen sort of randomly around our house, and for awhile they were often accompanied by a Hey! Mom! Look! Normal procedure was for me to throw a towel over it and yell, Aaaagh! Put that thing away! And maybe he'd put it away or maybe he wouldn't, but eventually the game ran out of steam and no public monkeying with master's blow pop has been observed for quite some time.

However, my men love to walk around the house, and sleep, buck naked. Me, not so much. Because we are all in bed at night together now, it seems appropriate for me to wear jammies. I know Jackson is curious about how different girls' bodies are, and though I've patiently described the workings of female plumbing more than once while sitting on the toilet waiting to switch tampons, I draw the line at his jolly attempts to get a good look at my butthole.

The thing is. Because we are all in bed together, the afternoons that Jackson's in school and the big bed belongs to me and Jack again, it takes some imagination to drain the aura of Care Bears and Power Rangers from the area. When you're fooling around and you find your child's security blanket propping up your ass, well, let's just say it takes a little extra English on the clutch to get into gear.

It doesn't seem to bother Jack at all.

Was I talking about smoking? Jackson caught Jack sneaking a smoke last night.

Jackson: "What are you doing, Dad?" Jack: "Smoking a cigarette." Jackson, picking up Jack's lighter: "Here, this is too dangerous for me." Jack: "Thanks, buddy."

The days of posts that make sense are officially over.