A couple of weeks ago the sentence “Do I have to?” began to come out of my children’s mouths like that was a completely normal thing for them to say to absolutely everything I asked. Like I was going to say, “No, darling, you don’t have to. You are the precious fruit of my loins and you don’t have to do anything but exist and eat ice cream sandwiches.”
They started saying these words after I asked them to do anything from picking up their socks, to practicing their instruments, to getting ready for bed. The offending words usually came out in a long, steady whine that caused the neighbor dogs to howl and my uterus to immediately shrivel up in horror. I would look at them in bewilderment when they said them, wondering what I had done to raise such spoiled children who couldn’t be bothered to do normal everyday tasks.
“No, you don’t have to do anything,” I would say. “Just like I don’t have to stop myself from spending your college education on shoes.”
This would earn me a half-hearted eyeroll, and they would begrudgingly do whatever task I had given them, dragging their feet, as if instead of me asking them to brush their teeth, I had asked them to donate one of their limbs to science before they were done using them. It was painful and annoying to watch.
I’ve been adamant since my children were born that they weren’t going to become spoiled. I was never going to become their maid, and they would learn how to do things for themselves as soon as they were physically able to. They were going to be functioning, polite members of our family, dammit. They were going to get their own water. They would put their plates in the dishwasher. They were going to contribute and not be an asshole about it.
But now I was facing the hard truth that our kids were acting like spoiled brats. And I’m afraid we only had ourselves to blame.
I think it started after we had gotten into a bad habit of not monitoring the screen situation as much as we usually did. As parents, we got lazy. Instead of immediately chasing them outside when they got home from school, I would think to myself, “They just need a few minutes to chill out,” and then one day I caught my son trying to walk down the stairs while watching a movie. He couldn’t even be bothered to put down his iPad while he navigated the stairs. This was about the same time that the “Do I have to?” started to become a part of our life. They were forgetting to say the simple things like, “please” and “thank you.” Every little thing was becoming a struggle and a battle of wills, and I was getting freaking exhausted.
And massively pissed off.
This is the part of parenting that sucks. The getting shit done part. The kid part is easy. Kids are fun and cute and lovable, but then you have to actually teach them how to grow up and not act like dumbasses. When they act spoiled, it’s embarrassing to take them out into public, and I enjoy going out into public.
So my entire family had a bit of an intervention. As parents, we started doing our duty and monitoring the screen time more. We sat them down and revisited what we expected of them if they wanted to enjoy the finer things in life like bacon and love.
I’m just kidding — we always give them bacon. So what the hell is their problem?
Parenting takes a lot of time and effort and garbage bags. I get not wanting to do stuff right when someone says that you should, but respecting the other people in your family comes first. The whole parenting thing is worth it when you get to arrive at the point where you enjoy your children’s presence without wanting to strangle them with their discarded coat that is lying in the middle of the room. And they get to enjoy not getting hollered at every five seconds.
So I promise to put in this time and effort and do everything in my power to not put assholes out into the world. I hope you’ll do the same for us.