We’ve all seen it at some point in our lives. We have either been on the receiving end, or dishing it out. I am of course talking about The Look. Every parent has their own version of The Look. It can present itself in several forms and severity, but the intent is universal. It’s the expression that comes across the face of said parent when they catch their kid screwing off when you know they know better. The Look is a soul piercing glare that can bring the most hellacious behavior to a screeching halt at the very sight of it.
I remember in particular one person in my life who had nearly perfected The Look. Mrs. Ellis, my 5th grade teacher would be able to instill the fear of God into us in milliseconds. She was a stout woman. Very stern, but kind. She was one of my favorite teachers because she made learning fun. She had gone back to college after all of her children became school aged to get her degree in early childhood education. Not only was I in one of her first classes, but her youngest son was also in my class, and on occasion, we would try and pull a fast one to see if we could get away with it from her. It was quickly learned that this was a woman who would not tolerate being trifled with.
I was a recipient of her version of The Look only once. It was during a vocabulary lesson. Our instructions were simple. We were to listen to the word, write down the definition in our notebooks, be able to use the word in a sentence, and then be prepared to regurgitate this info multiple times throughout the remainder of the week for the final showdown on Friday when we would be formally tested in our retention.
“Ok, your next word is ‘alluring’. Powerful and mysteriously attractive or fascinating.”
Being the oh so clever smartass that I was/am, I thought I was being cute by letting out a low and guttural “OooooooooooOOOOOooooohhhh” all the while waving my hands in pantomime of a ghostly figure. This garnered a few chuckles and snickers from my peers until their expressions became flat and they fell silent as their stared over my shoulder. I turned to find that Mrs. Ellis, standing the corner of the room, over a pair of reading glasses, had begun her full on assault of giving me The Look. It was as if her eyes were melting the very skin on my face right off. She continued with the lesson without ever the first breech in eye contact with me. I was frozen solid while she continued on with the next word. I tried to look away, only to have my eyes drawn back and locked again with The Look. I prayed for mercy that this silent punishment would end. I thought to myself that I would rather take 20 lashings from a belt than have to endure The Look for one more second. After what seemed an eternity, she relinquished her power over me and continued with the lesson. I broke out into a clammy sweat. My heart was pounding in my chest. For the next several days I was afraid to approach her or raise my hand in class for fear of repercussion of The Look. My classmates averted their eyes to me as if I was a Leper and needed to clinging to my bandages screaming “Unclean! Unclean!”
While my experiences in parenting are still in their infancy, I was able to unknowingly unleash my version of The Look on my oldest recently. Being 3 is a difficult time, and I understand that sometimes it is near impossible to resist the urge to lay out a nuclear assault level tantrum at a moment’s notice, but my daughter’s timing was absolutely impeccable!
My father recently remarried. After the death of my mother, it was of mutual understanding between the two of them that Dad would move on and find someone else. Myself, along with my brother, and my new Stepmother’s boys were asked to stand next to them as witnesses to the ceremony in lieu of a traditional bridal party. My daughter was asked to be a flower girl in the sense that she would hold my Stepmom’s bouquet during the vows. During rehearsal, my daughter got this down pat. Her procession was flawless, her recession perfect, and with a little encouragement she stood in front of me and held the practice bouquet like a little angel.
Fast forward to the next morning…….
Being the morning of the wedding, we all are feeling slightly rushed. My brother and sister in law were staying with us that weekend, so including the kids, there were six people in the house with one bathroom. Not a whole lot of sleeping in happening. We arrived at the Church and immediately started taking pre-ceremony pictures. So far so good. One of my Stepmom’s grandkids were in attendance and made a quick playmate with my daughter. All was well and good. Soon after, guests started to arrive. We took our places at the back of Church and greeted them as they trickled in. This particular Church had a small children’s area in the corner, equipped with toys, coloring books, markers and the like. My daughter honed in on this like an eagle sighting in his dinner from mid flight. The first sign of protest came from her when I made an attempt at explaining to her that this was not the time for her to play in the play area, and that Daddy didn’t want her to get any marker on her pretty white dressing before the wedding. When protests began to turn to demands, she was quickly bribed with the prospect of candy in return for good behavior, we returned to DEFCON 5.
The organist began playing Jesu of Man Desiring which we knew to be our cue to begin processing down the aisle. The bride, accompanied by her two sons entered to Trumpet Voluntary. The minister began giving a speech regarding why we were here that day and asking the bride and groom if they were entering into this covenant willingly, etc. The time came for me to come to the pulpit to give a reading. When I motioned for my daughter to stay put while I was reading, she protested and ran to Mommy who was sitting in the front pew. I completed the reading without effort and retook my place between my father and brother at the foot of the altar. My daughter rejoined me there as well. It was at this time that the minister began a monologue about the sanctity of marriage and how it should not be taken lightly, and is a blessing from God. The 3 year old is no longer impressed. She makes an attempt to climb onto the altar. After several motions of pulling her back down to me, she flails herself onto the floor at my feet. I attempt to look around with a sheepish grin on my face through my gritted teeth and rising blood pressure attempting to avert a scene and get her back to her feet. Pulling her to her feet by one arm, I lean down and through grit teeth to curb the behavior immediately. Of course this back fires into further fits of rage and my wife is forced to step in and take her back to the pew in a last ditch effort to pull some semblance of compliance out of her. Her defiance escalates into further screaming. That’s when from the altar, I send her The Look. It of course did not have the same effect on her as it did on me with Mrs. Ellis. Her flailing became increasingly violent like Reagan from the Exorcist to the point that she slung back in the pew and with a resounding THUD clocks her head onto the back of the wooden seat. The low hushed tones of “Oooooh” can be heard from the congregation.
At this point I can feel beads of sweat beginning to pool on my forehead. I can feel the heat in my face as my blood pressure rises and I near boiling point. My faces begins to contort into something evil seen only during a bad acid trip as I attempt to control my rage. My wife, bless her soul, at this point is forced to carry the child out of church under her arm, Heisman style in one arm, while clamping her hand over her mouth to stifle the screams. I begin to see the discomfort on the faces of some of the guests in the congregation at my facial expression and I make an attempt to regain my composure. Thankfully, Mommy was able to calm 3 year old down in enough just in time to bring her back up to the altar to hold the bouquet.
Several guests shared with me after the ceremony that 3 still did a great job despite the behavioral mishap, but then followed it up with how The Look made their flesh crawl. My problem is, if it worked on everyone else, and wasn’t directed at them, why didn’t it work on MY KID!?!?!