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Eye-rolling kids can drive you wumpsy
Scripps Howard News Service


July 19, 2005

Once again, God rest her soul, my mother has proven herself to be right. I hate it when she does that. I especially hate having to admit it. She's not around to cackle, "I told you so," but I still hear her crowing.

We used to argue about, well, everything. Maybe I shouldn't call it "arguing." Nobody, not even God and his angels, could argue for long with my mother.

You could try it, of course. Some fools did. But the woman would jump on your back and flog you like a female rooster, flapping words like wings about your head until she drove you to utter distraction - flat-out, certifiable, stark-raving loony - or forced you, as in some cases, and I'm not naming names, to partake of strong drink, preferably moonshine.

Somehow she got a crazy idea (possibly because I rolled my eyes at every word she spoke) that I deemed myself intellectually superior to her - a misguided, if not fatal condition she called "wumpsy."

Wumpsy? Who uses words like that? I never said she was stupid. She was just old.

I told her with all respect it was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard. I assured her from my vast, 10th-grade knowledge of the English language there was no such word as "wumpsy."

"It's in my dictionary," she said, tapping her head, "right next to your picture. If you don't know what it means, just wait. You'll have your own wumpsy kids someday."

She spoke it like a curse, a pox you might wish on the head of your worst enemy who has just shot the tail off your dog. For years, I tried to ignore it.

My three children, when they were little, thought I was the smartest woman alive. They never said it, but I saw it in their eyes. They could ask me anything at all about God's green Earth and I would (a) know the answer, (b) make something up or (c) ask for their opinion.

This never failed to satisfy them. They got a mite wumpsy as teenagers. (Had eye-rolling been an Olympic sport, my daughter would have taken the gold.) But they never seemed to doubt my intelligence. If they did, they hid it pretty well.

Lately, however, when they've come over with their "others" for dinner, we've engaged in a not-so-friendly competition that tests our knowledge of political figures, pop-culture icons and such.

The kids call it the "Name Game." I call it "I Am Stupid."

It's not that I don't know that stuff. I know plenty. I swear. But I can't get the words out as fast as the kids do. I'm not stupid. But I'm no match for their young firecracker brains.

Moreover, I recently married a self-confessed "cesspool of trivia," a man who's spent years editing the news and can spit it out like he's chewing tobacco. The kids love it. I don't. But lucky for him, he also cooks.

This is how bad I am at that game: My own children take turns "letting" me be on their side. How embarrassing is that? Pretty soon they'll take turns wiping the drool off my chin.

I don't like feeling old and slow-witted and lame. (I turned my ankle a while back, now I walk like Forrest Gump.) I hate feeling like my mother.

"Focus, Mom," the kids tell me, and I try. Sometimes I think of a name they've never heard of. Occasionally it's even the right answer. Then they clap for me the way I used to clap for them when they went potty.

They say you're only as old as you feel. I felt fine until I tried to play that stupid game.

But I'll keep on playing just as long as they like having me around. It's fun to be smart, but it's far better to be loved.

Besides, they'll have their own wumpsy kids someday.


Sharon Randall is the author of "Birdbaths and Paper Cranes."
She can be reached at P.O. Box 931, Pacific Grove, CA 93950,
or at randallbay(at)

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