It’s the first weekday of summer and time for the endlessly fascinating family game of “Mom, can I [insert absurd request]?/But WHY not?” For those of you who have never played this game before here is how it goes. The kids will tag team me with progressively outrageous demands and then one of the following things will happen – I get frustrated and:
- give in to the original demand (Scoring: Kids 1, Mom 0) or,
- steam comes out of my ears, the top of my head flies off, and the cat hides in the basement (Scoring: Kids 2, Mom -1) or,
- kids burst into tears, inform me of my continuing terribleness as a parent, assign me a degree of meanness, express their faith in my ability to ruin, RUIN I say, their ENTIRE summer, and consequently how much they hate me (Scoring: Kids 0, Mom 1)
- calmly sit them down and rationally explain my decision which the kids accept gracefully (Scoring: Unknown – since it’s NEVER happened in the history of our family!)
So far, we are pretty evenly matched. But they are learning the power of teamwork which has me a little worried for my prospects this summer. I present this morning’s illustrative conversation:
Son: Mom, can you make me waffles for breakfast?
Son: And can I have them drenched in syrup?
Me: Sure…but not too much – yes, a cup of syrup per waffle counts as too much!
Daughter: Mom, what’s a prefix?
Me: Why don’t you try and find that out on your tablet which actually isn’t just for Minecraft and Netflix?
Daughter: But why can’t you just tell me?
Me: Because I’m trying to help you learn
Daughter (whiny voiced): But it’s going to take me soooo long to find out.
Son: Mom I’m done with my waffles – can I have a popsicle.
Me: No honey, it’s too early for that
Son: How about some gum?
Me: You can’t have gum either.
Daughter (sullen voiced): I don’t understand this question! This workbook is stupid!
Son: How about a sucker?
Me: No suckers! What part of it don’t you understand? And don’t say “stupid”.
Daughter: Why not? You say stupid all the time!
Son: Can I have some soda?
Me: And I shouldn’t – you can’t have soda right after breakfast – but more importantly, I’m an adult and I have earned the right to call things stupid.
Son: Why can’t I have candy? I love candy and soda! And you’re mean!! And you’re going to be mean ALL summer long!! You’re NEVER going to let me eat any candy for the WHOLE summer!!
CUMULATIVE SCORE: Kid 0, Mom 1
Daughter: I don’t understand why you can’t just tell me the answer!! I’ve been sitting here staring at the page for so long and you won’t even help me!
Me: I am helping you! If you’ve stared at the page and you still can’t understand then this teaches you an important lesson – staring is not very helpful! Time to try something different! How about this revolutionary new idea – check out a dictionary!
Daughter: ALL RIGHT!! FINE!! I WILL LOOK AT A DICTIONARY!!
(10 seconds later – during which time she hasn’t looked at a dictionary or really moved a muscle to suggest activity of any kind other than the occasional eye roll)
Daughter: Nope, I still don’t get it! See, I told you it was stupid! I’m not going to do this! I don’t CARE what you say!
But it’s not the throwing of the book or the mutinous expression or the stubborn refusal to be proactive – it’s the “I don’t CARE”. Nothing pisses me off more than those words! You DON’T care?! You don’t CARE?! Oh, I’ll make you care! You WILL care about trying hard! And you WILL care about effort! And you WILL care about challenging yourself! Because if you don’t succeed that’s fine – but if you don’t even TRY then it’s unacceptable and I’m NOT going to let you get away with it! Ignorance can be corrected, but apathy is anathema!
It is now 10 am on the first Monday of summer vacation, I have lost the top of my head and…..there goes the cat!
CUMULATIVE SCORE: Kids 2, Mom 0
It’s going to be an unbearable summer!