This is what motherhood feels like today:
My child, standing on a table in the middle of the school cafeteria, surrounded by friends, parents, and teachers, and screaming:
HI EVERYBODY! GUESS WHAT? I HAVE NO MANNERS, NO SELF-CONTROL, AND NO SOCIAL BOUNDARIES! I AM RUDE AND CRUDE AND INAPPROPRIATE! AND SEE THAT LADY OVER THERE? LOOK! THAT’S MY MOM! AND IT’S ALL HER FAULT!
And, cowering in a corner, I lift my hand and meekly wave. Please don’t look at me. I’m trying to achieve invisibility.
(By the way, this scenario is completely allegorical. I’d be writing to you from jail if it really happened.)
Just when I thought we were doing so well. Isn’t that the way it always goes? Pride before the fall and all that. One day, they’re writing thank-you notes and asking “may I please?” and loading the dishwasher. The next day, you’re getting emails from your child’s teacher and sitting down for a come-to-Jesus conference with your inconsolable six year old.
Hold on a sec – I need another Girl Scout cookie. Or seven.
Parenting is such a roller coaster. It’s bumpy and scary and exhilarating. Also it occasionally makes you want to vomit. It drives you crazy, but you keep getting up in the mornings and getting back on that ride because you have to. And some days you want to. Other days you want to pull the covers over your head and ignore all the cries for snacks and help and homework and sibling justice. You want to be the two year old who covers her eyes because she thinks that if she can’t see you, you can’t see her. You want to be invisible. You want all of these little people to go away.
But, of course, they don’t. And you really don’t want them to. Not really. At least most of the time. So you jump back in and attempt to steer their little rear ends in the right direction. Again. Sometimes they do what they know is right. Sometimes they don’t. So you redirect. Again. And you hope that they get it. You hope that someday they will make good, responsible choices and grow to be fine, upstanding, respectful, hard-working adults who can hold down a job and come home to little people just. like. them.
As adults, we have conformed to certain social rules. We know what is acceptable and appropriate. We know good manners. Then we have children. Free, uninhibited, exuberant children. And our job as parents is to rein in the little suckers and teach them to conform to The Rules. It is their job to embarrass the snot out of us as they learn – and test – The Rules.
Why is parenting such an embarrassment? Because we think that children should pop out of the womb already knowing The Rules, and when they prove the contrary, we think that everyone else thinks that we have failed as parents.
So I propose that somebody invent a microchip to install into the brains of every newborn. Programmed within this microchip are The Rules.
- You do not scream, whine, cry, or threaten in a check-out line.
- You do not scream, whine, cry, or threaten in ANY public place.
- Private body parts are just that. Private. They are not for touching, kicking, looking at, talking about, singing about, or publicly adjusting.
- You wait your turn to speak and do not interrupt.
- When Mama is on the potty, you wait until she is done before you ask her any question, make any request or observation.
- Same goes for when she is on the phone.
- Clean up your own mess. If you spill it, wipe it up. If you get it out, put it away. If you open it, close it. To expect someone else to do your job is the epitome of disrespect.
- Do not verbalize every thought in your head – most especially your observation of the very nice lady’s weight standing next to you.
- If you overhear a conversation about something or someone, you do not share that information with that someone.
- Do not sing out loud any song containing the word “sexy,” “booty,” or any derivative of any similar word.
- Do not pick your nose, fart, burp, or stick your hand in your armpit to attempt a replication of such noise in the presence of anyone who is not immediate family – especially your grandmother. And in the presence of immediate family, keep those noises to a minimum – and NEVER at the table.
- If something messy, sticky or stinky is on your hands, do not wipe it on the wall.
- Always, always, ALWAYS say “thank you for the ride” whenever anyone takes you anywhere – even if your friend’s mom takes you to school in her pajamas and runs late. ALWAYS say “thank you.”
This is a preliminary list for the microchip prototype. Feel free to leave a comment and add your own contribution to The Rules. I’ll pass it along.
And if your child is under the age of three, I can read your mind, and you are absolutely right. Your child will NEVER break any of these rules because obviously you are a much better mother than I am.
For the rest of us, we realize that good parenting means guiding our children out of their natural self-centeredness. Children are loving, compassionate, affectionate balls of light – but they are also nasty, egocentric little suckers who need some refinement. Every one of The Rules teaches our kids to take another person’s feelings and needs into consideration. To value someone else more than yourself. To look outside yourself. That’s all we’re doing.
Buckle up, ladies. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Buckle up, ladies. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.