Bringing up children who are morally sound and destined to become productive members of society involves a great commitment on the part of parents. It requires, of course, not just telling them how to behave, but by being a living example of your teachings — “walking the walk” as they say.
Parents need to model patience and understanding, generosity and sharing, kindness and truthfulness.
Based on my experience, this lasts until the oldest child is about six months old.
At six months they see that binky go into your pocket.
At six months they realize that everybody isn’t eating green mush like them, and they’ll have what she’s having.
At six months, they know the difference between Clifford the Big Red Dog and Elmo.
All of which is why, despite your high and mighty proclamations (and — be honest — your criticisms of the parents that went before you), it’s now time to learn trickery, sleight of hand, distraction, storytelling, and whatever other carny tricks are necessary to keep peace in the house.
It’s time to start lying to your kids.
No Pain, No Gain
Well, not really lying. It’s more a matter of outsmarting them at their own game. This may sound absurd when talking about babies, but getting the parental upper hand is like exercising. You don’t wait until you’re obese and then try to run a marathon. Start with a few reps of the easy stuff, and work your way up. You’ll thank me when they get to grade school and, may God have mercy on your soul, middle and high school.
I raised three girls, who provided an Olympic-level course for the triathlon I ran daily. Because when there’s more than one kid, they tag team you.
Girls are a special challenge. In addition to all the mischief they get into with their own things, they feel a special compulsion to borrow, use up, lose, stain or otherwise ruin mom’s things as well. Sometimes they really hit the jackpot and ruin mom’s things with mom’s things; e.g., spilling mom’s nail polish on mom’s sweater.
Can’t say they aren’t overachievers; that’s for sure.
They also have the power to sniff out any of mom’s toiletries which cost more or are otherwise superior to the now unusable ones which have been generously purchased for them.
The Old Switcheroo
The day I brought home a bottle of salon-quality shampoo, a sound emitted from the bottle that could only be heard by girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who had once taken residence in my uterus.
Now I’m a fairly generous person, but you do the math. Three girls using approximately a handful of expensive shampoo at least once a day, and yours truly was going to need a second job just to keep my own hair clean.
It was gone in a heartbeat, and I proclaimed that I was not going to buy anymore. It was back to the store brand for all of us … or so they thought. Having done my deception reps when they were little, I had already devised a plan.
One day when the girls and their shampoo antennae were safely at school, I snuck another bottle of the good stuff into the house. I then retrieved an empty bottle which had once held an absolutely vile tar-based dandruff shampoo. I cleaned it out well and, with the precision of a surgeon, funneled some of my liquid gold into the bottle.
Lacking a lead-lined box, I took the remainder of the treasure and stored it under the sink, mixed in with the cleaning supplies. They’d never find it there!
Every morning henceforth I surreptitiously squeezed a small dollop of the aromatic elixir into my palm, and for those few beautiful minutes I was Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.
Let the Games Continue
Our three girls are all grown up and out of the house now. And they all have beautiful heads of luxurious hair, despite my tyranny about shampoo sharing, thank you very much.
So, one might assume that with our glorious empty nest, there is no need for deception any longer. Not so. For now there is a now new game afoot.
You might think it involves our two grandsons, but that’s not it. We don’t ever hide anything from them. Our grandparent oath decrees that we spoil them rotten. If they feel sick to their stomachs, we just send them home.
No, the new round of hide and seek is with my husband.
Officially, we both are doing our best to eat healthily. But sometimes you just have to have something sweet, and it really isn’t nice for me to tempt him with it.
I guarantee he’ll never find that bag of M&Ms I have hidden.
They’re in the vegetable bin.