'Hey Kids, Turn Off The Damn Lights!' Said Every Dad Ever

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
become our parents
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I’ve been turning into my father for years now, probably since I was born, actually. But nothing accelerates the transformation into your parents like becoming a parent yourself. The best evidence that I’m becoming my dad, besides increasing back pain and deepening bags under my eyes, are the things I yell at my kids about.

There was nothing more tiresome than hearing my dad freak out about leaving lights on, leaving doors open, leaving the TV on, leaving pee on the seat (wait, that’s my wife), etc. And now I do it constantly too. Money doesn’t grow on trees!

Come to think of it, I think I’m actually turning into everyone’s dad.

Getting irritated at your kids’ total obliviousness to the fiduciary concerns of the household is part of being a parent, and not giving a shit about whatever it is your parents are going on about is part of being a kid. Put those two things together and you have a summer full of me yelling clichés at my 5-year-old. (See the aforementioned “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” reference.)

I literally spend evenings walking around my home turning off lights and muttering under my breath. If my brothers came over and shut their eyes, they’d probably think they were at my father’s house. And then they’d mock me.

But they don’t pay my electricity bills, do they? So they can shove it!

Utilities aren’t just annoying squares in Monopoly. No, utility bills are real. They are sneaky budget drainers, and they are almost uniformly ignored by children. I’m pretty sure my 5-year-old thinks the electricity that powers his Death Star night light, his beloved Netflix, and the iPad he’s only sparingly allowed to use is as ubiquitous and free as the air he breathes. Based on the way he turns on the faucet to wash his hands after using the bathroom and then abandons the sink to finish explaining his latest Lego creation to me, this leads me to believe he thinks of water the same way.

Not that 5-year-olds understand the concept of money. (My son thinks all coins are pennies, and one time he literally swallowed a penny and I had to sift through a week’s worth of diapers to retrieve it, and I don’t want to talk about this anymore.) But if they did, I’m quite certain they’d still expect water, electricity, heat, food, and Wi-Fi all to be free.

No one knows privilege like a child who is provided for. To be honest, I’d like to keep it that way for a while.

It’s no more my intent to burden my 5-year-old with the crushing knowledge of our limited budget and growing debt any more that it is his intention to stress me out and make me anxious about turning into my father before I’m even 40 (less than a month to go!). But both of those things are basically inevitable. They’re part of the push and pull of the parent-child relationship.

It’s inevitable that we become our parents. It’s inevitable that our kids act like kids. It’s inevitable that I’m going to develop an ulcer. Hopefully, it’s also inevitable that I’ll be able to shield my kids from the everyday anxieties and concerns that being an adult brings, at least until they’ve enjoyed their childhoods and are old enough to understand and maybe even help navigate the real world along with me.

They can join the workforce as early as 10, right? That should be enough time. Until then, whenever they leave a light on, I’ll just dock their allowance. (They don’t get an allowance.)

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