Siegfried and Roy, in all their tiger-taming glory, taught me misdirection, another bit of trickery I use. Misdirection is the deception of the audience. Siegfried/Roy grabs the audience’s attention to some red herring area, while Roy/Siegfried pulls a fast one while they’re distracted. I do not have a partner in crime, so I must perform this trick solo. Now why would an Austin keeper-of-children need misdirection in her bag of tricks? Lemme tell ya. When the kiddos are too young to be left alone, even for a three-minute trip to the bathroom, I am obliged to take them everywhere, and I mean everywhere, with me. Toddlers are like skinny chefs—they cannot be trusted (I’m watching you, Giada). But it only takes a child telling you once in a swimming pool family changing room, “Miss Cheryl, I love your nipples,” for you to scan your brain frantically to find a way to NEVER have it happen again. And so I tell the children to count the ceiling tiles as I change into my suit, ask them “What’s that over there?” when using the water closet, and Voila! It works. When they respond, puzzled, to one of my outbursts, “There wasn’t a unicorn in the shower!” I just reply sheepishly, “Oh, it must have just been a regular horse.”
We all recall the scene in Mary Poppins in which Julie Andrews helps the children tidy up the nursery. With a crisp snap of her fingers, the children’s clothes fly into the closet, their toys onto shelves. It’s AWESOME. But even though I will lay claim to such magical abilities as potty-training a child over the weekend (while his parents are out of town), getting veggies into the bellies of the most adamant verde-haters, and making nappers out of naysayers, I do not profess to have Mary’s mystical abilities. Instead I employ my own version of “Spoonful of Sugar” (better suited to those of us without lightning bolt scars on our foreheads) that transforms otherwise mundane tasks into flights of fancy.