I try not to raise little assholes. I do my best to teach them things that I think are socially acceptable, like holding doors open for strangers, or if someone has dropped something and they don’t notice, pick it up for them. Look at people when they are talking to you. Say please and thank you, always. Your table at a restaurant should not look like barbarians have eaten there. Nobody wants to clean up after you. Clean up after yourself.
I teach them these things every day, sometimes several times a day. I do them too—I like to lead by example after all, most of the time anyway.
When they were younger, I could get away with doing one thing, like eating fistfuls of chocolate chips in the closet while they were coloring, and teach them another, like having one piece of candy is enough.
But damn, as they get older and apparently smarter, these dirty little secrets get harder and harder to keep. They are on to me. They notice now. Am I a hypocritical mom? Why yes, let me count the ways.
1. I don’t let them eat cookie dough. “There are raw eggs in that,” I say. “You could get really, really sick.” The truth is, I need enough cookies to last the week and still have enough dough left over so I can make out with the bowl. It is important to me. Any extra dough is all mine.
2. I tell them not to lie. Lying is bad. Be honest. The truth comes out eventually, except when we are at your doctor’s appointment and your lovely pediatrician asks me how many hours of TV you watch, or how many vegetables you eat. Just go with me here. Let me do the talking, like when we are with organic mom. I love organic mom. Maybe someday I will be like her, probably not though. When we are with organic mom, it is not the time to bust out, “Hey, let’s go to McDonald’s after this! We go there all the time!” Technically, this is not lying—it is called keeping something to ourselves.
3. Don’t say bad words. I say them a lot, I know. It is very cathartic for me. Sometimes they slip out in front of you, like the time we were forced to stay in a shady motel while traveling, because of severe weather. I hadn’t gotten any sleep because my skin was crawling from all the stains on the walls. I was worried about your safety—our safety. So, it is understandable that when your father turned on the television the next morning to check the weather, and there was a huge screen of pornography in our face, the natural thing for me to do was scream, “Get me out of this whore hole!” Of course, I told you never to repeat it. Of course, you all chanted it for the rest of our trip. Same goes for when I step on a Lego or run out of chocolate chips. Just don’t say the bad words.
4. You can’t have a lot of screen time. This is the big one—sometimes regulated, sometimes not so much. Life is great when my kids aren’t trying to beat the shit out of each other during a road trip and have their noses in a device instead. They often get the lecture on how too much screen time is very, very bad and then are made to play outside. Then I pin the shit out of Pinterest.
5. Manners. They drink from the faucet, and I freak. Chew with their mouths open, and I go to the bad place. Wipe their faces with their shirts, tip back in their chairs, let one rip at the Chinese buffet—it is an endless battle, and I am constantly preaching about good manners. Then they catch me hanging over the kitchen sink, devouring a piece of chocolate cake like it will be the last pleasurable thing I will ever do in my life.
6. Looking presentable. There is no need to be all done up if we are going to be at home. Go roll around in the dirt. Have a jolly time. If we are going out to a public place like school, a restaurant or a wedding, I prefer them to be clean and wearing laundered clothes without holes in them. “Show up looking nice,” I tell them. They act as though this is a form of torture. And yet, here I sit in my sweaty, dirty active wear, writing this story. I am not going to change either. I ran a wet 10-miler this morning, and I am too damn tired.
So, am I going to change some of these things to set a better example for my kids? Hmm, no. I don’t think so. There is a quote I like a lot. I am sure you have heard it: “Do as I say, not as I do.” I think, instead, I will just say that. A lot.