As new parents we all pledge never to utter a disparaging remark to the sweet child angelically sleeping in our arms, swaddled in their first baby blanket. You promise yourself that only encouraging words will flow from your lips to their ears. You will never scream, red-faced, “Because I said so!”
With less than seventy-two hours until the beginning of a new school year, I will put away my summer nagging-mom-lectures and pull out of moth balls my more academically oriented annoying-words-of-wisdom series.
Before I box up this year’s summer lectures, I’ll share my top five.
1. Do something other than sleep or look at a screen.
I first recount how when I was young, kids their age were expected to live outside in their free time and entertain themselves – and free time came after chores and a summer job. Parents gave their kids a bag of beef jerky and an apple, then pushed them out the door. If you were lucky they gave you a pack of matches. Look at what electronics have done to this generation. How will they survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
2. I’m old, please don’t waste my time.
Do the math, I say. If I’m lucky, I may have twenty-five to thirty good years left. I ask them, with my best disappointed parent face, if they think that I really have the time to hear the 367th raging debate about whose turn it is to sit in the front seat. I have found this to be my least effective lecture. Thinking like teenagers, several decades of mom lectures isn’t something they want to stretch out. They don’t mind if they shave off a few of my last good years with their constant arguing
3. I know I’m embarrassing, that’s my job!
I have come to embrace that I’m an embarrassment and everything is my fault. I mortify my teenagers several times a day, purposely, with the things I say, do, and wear. That is when I’m not cooking dinner, driving them somewhere, handing them my credit card, or helping with a problem.
4. You’re driving me crazy with all your meaningless teenage drama.
This lecture is almost always given using my outside voice. It usually takes place in the car, so technically I’m outside. Of course, I worry about scarring the kids with my outburst, so it’s followed by an apology, which also sounds a lot like a lecture. By the end of the apology no one in the car knows what I’m mad about anymore and the bickering stops. All is quiet but it’s not a victory, because now they think I’m crazy and embarrassing.
5. Do you think I’m your maid?
This is also an ineffective lecture because yes, they do think I’m their maid. Is it really that difficult to start the dishwasher, put more toilet paper in the bathroom, or close the cabinets without the sneer and the eye-rolling? Again, how will they ever survive the Zombie Apocalypse if the washing machine confuses them.
I took the picture at JuiceLand, Austin, TX