Remember when you were kid, and even more as a teenager, how clueless you thought your parents were?
They had all this power and money, yet made baffling choices. Instead of eating pizza and watching comedy, for example, your folks preferred watching golf and looking at paint swatches instead. It’s not a sane choice for anyone with options.
And it didn’t stop there. You’d watch in horror as your folks put on ridiculous jeans, always the wrong color and never conforming to current calf-grip standards. They failed to appreciate the awesomeness of new bands, apparently believing the music industry went straight in the toilet the year they happened to graduate high school or university.
They made corny, eye-rolling jokes. You winced at their use of outdated slang, yet there was nothing more cringe-inducing than hearing them bungle the new stuff.
You knew that when YOU grew up, you would never get that out of touch…
Well, I’m not sure if dorkiness happens suddenly or is more of a gradual decline, but I think my husband and I have made the leap. You want to know how I know? Because of what came out of my formerly-cool husband’s mouth last night…
We were all at the table eating dinner and Brontë was getting super obnoxious. John was tired after a long day’s work and she was resisting our every effort to quiet her shenanigans. She kept throwing a fit, wouldn’t eat, and absolutely refused to sit still.
John tells her to sit down and eat her dinner, and she bends around, howling and rolling on the floor. He picks her up and plants her on her seat, telling her to calm down and eat the food her mom worked so hard to make.
She grabs a forkful, puts it in her mouth, then pulls the fork out with the food still on it and starts belting out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star while slowly pushing her sister’s plate away from her until she started screaming.
John barks at her to “cut it out,” so she grabs a handful of food, looks him square in the eye, and splats it directly on the floor.
That’s it. He stands up, points at her, and in a booming, authoritative voice, yells “ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A TIME-OUT? BECAUSE I HAVE A POCKETFUL OF TIME-OUTS AND I’M JUST LOOKING FOR A CHANCE TO GIVE YOU ONE!”
Bronte quickly sits down to eat, saying, “I no want time-out, daddy.”
I think I was as shocked as she was, not just from John’s volume, but because that had to be the most dad-sounding thing that ever came out of his mouth. Suppressing my urge to break into giggling, I sat quietly, hoping his threat of overstuffed pockets would do the trick and planning to tease him about it after the kids were in bed.
Thing is, I get it now… how cool people turn into out-of-touch parents. Because once you have kids, you ‘re the one suddenly setting examples.
You can’t swear anymore, for instance. John and I used to swear. It’s a good way to make your point or provide emphasis.
But we had a rough time turning it off off and on when we needed to and you can’t have your toddlers running around dropping F-bombs. Delve into linguistic theories about the arbitrary nature of swear words all you like, but people just don’t react well to little kids with potty mouths. You have to clean up your act if you want to give them the right start in life.
But try being cool while yelling at someone without swearing. It’s harder than it sounds.
It kind of reminds me of my Army days, actually. In boot camp, we had to learn how to shoot, throw actual grenades, handle gas attacks, and skewer people with a bayonet, for example. The drill sergeants’ job was to intimidate us by insulting us and screaming at us all day long.
But despite its human-skishkabab tutorials, the military finds swear words offensive. They were completely off-limits to the drill sergeants, so we ended up with red-cheeked, burly men shouting “DOGGONE IT” in our faces while telling us to shut our pie-holes. We parents find ourselves in the similar position of having to invent G-rated intimidation techniques.
I find myself falling into a gray zone of slang, as well. I suspect we aren’t supposed to call things “off the hook” anymore, but I feel ridiculous saying it’s “on fleek.”
Life is different now. Instead of checking out new bands, you spend a ton of time playing happy kid music in the car and watching chirpy, cheerful cartoons to keep your little ones from imploding your eardrums. It’s tough to pull on your hipster pants with hours of Thomas the Train ringing in your head.
And since parenting is so exhausting, it’s harder now to work up enough give-a-crap energy to make sure you’re staying current with issues like bootleg vs. skinny jeans.
For example, yesterday, after wrestling with psychedelic kids for hours, I involuntary passed out on the couch. I couldn’t have been asleep for more than 15 minutes, but awoke to find Brontë digging into a twenty-pound bag of brown rice.
There was rice on the kitchen floor, rice on the kitchen table, rice in the living room, rice in the front room, rice on the coffee table, rice in front of the front door, rice… Rice, rice everywhere.
It made me want to write a Seussian-style poem about rice to torture Brontë with, since she hates rhyming so much. Rhyming is a great passive-aggressive technique in this house.
Instead, I tried to get her to help clean it up. I’ve found that kids make fewer messes when forced to help you deal with them. This method helped me finally put an end to the Great Poop Art epidemic of 2015, to give you a better idea.
But Brontë just wouldn’t cooperate. She kept dragging dolls out, rolling on the floor, and moaning. She even picked up handfuls of rice started throwing them.
Livid, I told her, “Brontë, you need to help me clean up the mess you made!”
Staring back, she yelled, “No!”
Taking a deep breath, I screamed, “YOU’RE ASKING FOR A ONE-WAY TICKET TO TIME-OUT LAND!”