While I have never addressed the nation, Congress or foreign heads of state, I have a hostile audience of my own: my children. My in-one-ear-and-out-the-other, I can’t-hear-you-unless-you-say-it-15-times-and-maybe-not-even-then children. The ones who manage to digest the baseball scores on Sportscenter and the results of The Voice just fine but who have a very difficult time with “put on your shoes.”
Much like the President, I employ the reasoned, mild-mannered tone that I am told is the most effective way to communicate with other people. I strive to convey empathy. I know you don’t want to put on your shoes, but it really is time. Wisdom. You’ll be happy you have shoes on when we get outside. Logic. But you love those shoes!
The problem with my approach is that it doesn’t work. Here are the six things I say to my kids that would be so much more effective if I had an anger translator of my own.
1: I’m sorry honey, we’re not free for a playdate today.
FOR REAL? I BARELY WANT TO TAKE YOU HOME THIS AFTERNOON. NO WAY IN HELL I’M TAKING SOMEONE ELSE’S KID, TOO.
2: I know that this macaroni and cheese is shaped like farm animals rather than bunnies, but it really is the same. I promise. Just try it!
FARM ANIMALS? BUNNIES? WHEN I WAS A KID IT WAS CALLED “SPAGHETTI.” JUST FUCKING EAT IT.
3: It’s 16 degrees outside today. It’s just not “shorts weather.”
EVERY DAY WITH THIS! YOU COME DOWNSTAIRS IN SHORTS, LIKE I’M NOT GOING TO NOTICE YOUR SKINNY, GOOSE-BUMPED LEGS. THE POLAR ICE CAPS ARE MELTING, BUT NOT THAT FAST. GO PUT ON SOME PANTS.
4: Homework time!
LISTEN, I THINK THIS IS AS POINTLESS AS YOU DO, BUT IF YOU DON’T HAND IT IN, I’M SCARED YOU’LL WIND UP LIVING IN THE BASEMENT FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, WHICH WILL RUIN THE FANTASY I HAVE OF SELLING THE HOUSE THE MINUTE YOU GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL AND RELOCATING TO A NICE QUIET ARRONDISSEMENT SOMEWHERE IN PARIS. SO PICK UP THE PENCIL AND GET AT IT.
5: You’re brother and sister—you love each other! You’ve got to get along.
NOT REALLY. YOU CAN SEETHE WITH RESENTMENT FOR ALL I CARE, AS LONG AS YOU DO IT QUIETLY.
6: Please, please, please, take your stuff up to your room.
ONCE UPON A TIME, THE CLUTTER ON MY KITCHEN TABLE TOOK THE FORM OF THAI TAKEOUT BOXES AND EMPTY BEER CANS. NOW IT’S ALL SOCCER BALLS AND SPIDER-MAN CRAP. IF I FIND YOUR DIRTY SHIN GUARD IN THE KITCHEN ONE MORE TIME, I AM GOING TO LOSE WHAT’S LEFT OF MY MIND.
Sigh. A girl can dream, can’t she?