Careful With That Axe, Eugene

This page written circa 29 August, 2003.

Of the last six weeks we spent around four in varying degrees of quarantine in response to our little germ vacuums having collected at least three different diseases. Much time was spent repairing the damage from having been burgled of our brief cases. I did not even get as much time to think as you might expect, not having been quarantined alone. Then both kids started at the Santa Rosa Charter School, the shock of which was not an impulse of relief as some other poor bastard took them off our hands for 4 hours a day, but the agony of having to have them at the school by 08:15hrs... involving being out of bed 15 minutes earlier for me, 30 minutes for Merinda, an hour for Kay, and two hours for Edwin. It has not been a relaxing interlude since my last soapbox.

Nevertheless, there has been thinking time. I think that if the invasions of World War 2 introduced "blitzkrieg" to the English language, then having children justifies several new genitive compounds in its own right. To this end I give you "kinderblitzkrieg", "balgenplage", and "kindergrind".

A kinderblitzkrieg is some sudden, catastrophic, child-related event that hits you but goes away or comes under control just as quickly, like a tantrum thrown next to the fountain in the shopping mall, a bicycle accident, or a fit of vomiting.

A balgenplage, literally a brat plague, is pretty self-explanatory: It's that situation where a swarm of children infest your house. As Colin describes it, the cloud of valence electrons comprised of your and your neighbour's children tend all to be found in one house, and if there are enough of them and it is your house around which they are clustered, you are in a state of balgenplage.

Kindergrind is the most important, most needed word, describing the most menacing situation. It is the seemingly endless succession of demands made by children (it generally requires more than one) that absorbs all available time, and the condition of being driven into such a state of disarray and unpreparedness that makes it impossible to recover order, sanity and peace. The demands can be indirect, such as when their germs make you more ill than they. If you are so tired by the time you pack them off in the evening that you fall exhausted into bed and wake to repeat the cycle in response to their dancing on your bed in the morning, you have reached the state of full kindergrind. God help the weak-willed at this point.

A couple of comments. Grind is not strictly a German word, as is kinder, but it has the requisite lilt, making it an almost onomatapoeic word. I like its sound, and Mathias could not offer me a more poetic alternative. The other thing that should be noted is that these conditions are ultimately self-inflicted (hence the title of this soapbox). Wheras the Poles were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, parents create and unleash the force that can lead to kindergrind.

PS: Stephen describes another parental strategic cul-de-sac, and offers a word for it:

The situation of kinderlösung is the metastable condition where parents alternate taking responsibility to give the other some time off, with the result that they hardly ever see each other.

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