Friday, January 07, 2011


Here's yet another re-posting of one of my pieces from the LA Moms Blog. Because I wanted the first post of the New Year to be a tired, old retread. Aiming high for 2011!

I was picking up my kids from school the other day, and when they got in the car my 11-year-old launched into a story about a classmate who said that his parents would be really upset that he got a 'B' on his report card. Without thinking I responded, “Well, aren’t you grateful we aren’t like that?” Naturally, I followed this up with a lecture about having to walk fifty miles through a hurricane to get to work and then a short summation of my time as an overworked child in a rug factory in India.

You’ve heard this before -- parents using other people’s misfortune to instill gratitude in their kids. The ones that say, “Hey, eat your peas — there are kids starving in other zip codes,” or “Sure you don’t like those generic jeans, but how’d you like it if all you had to wear was polyester?”

Unfortunately I find myself doing this a lot lately. Parenting is a competitive sport, and I’ve become expert at using my opponents’ “weaknesses” to bolster my standing with my daughters. When my 13-year-old told me about her friend being grounded for not cleaning her room, I wagged my finger and told her how grateful she should be that her dad and I had a high tolerance for filth. Then recently I couldn’t wait to share with both of my girls the rigorous chore schedule I found out a friend had laid out for her two sons. That was of course punctuated with, “Maybe now you won’t complain so much about having to unload the dishwasher.” I made sure to have my hands on my hips for that one.

It’s gotten so bad that I’m thinking of renting a horror film I remember seeing, one where the parents use spells to turn their unruly children into farm animals. I think I’ll get extra satisfaction from announcing over the closing credits, “I hope you now realize that having your allowance withheld is nothing compared to being turned into a goat.” I imagine they’ll put down the pillow they’ve been cowering behind and immediately begin folding that pile of laundry that had been sitting on the couch for two weeks.

But kids being the crafty creatures they are, they’ve managed to turn the tables on me. They were watching a show on TV the other night, “Secret Life of an American Gossip Girl” or something like that, and the 11-year-old yelled out to me, “Well mom, my room might look like a pigsty but at least I’m not pregnant and having an affair with my gym teacher.” As miffed as I was that she had stolen my technique, I had to admit she was right. I was suddenly filled with an immense feeling of gratitude and got to work hanging up the pile of clothes covering her bed.

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