My parents are laughing at me. I can hear the echoes of their amusement all the way from Kennebunk ME to Lawrence KS.
This morning, I made good on the threat I made to the children several days ago. If they didn’t stop leaving their things around the living room, I was going to take them and force them to buy them back with labor. A conversation that began with, “Has anyone seen my backpack?” ended with a lot of anger and indignation.
My mother and father no doubt found great amusement in this. I used to leave things around the house when I was growing up. My parents used to yell at me to pick them up. It was an ongoing battle, and my mother naturally said, “I hope you have some children just like you.”
So they are cackling now at The Mother’s Curse coming true. I have to deal with children leaving things around the house just like they did when I was those children’s age.
But that’s not the insidious part about this sick joke. The humor isn’t really found in the fact that the son must now do what the parents did and keep after children to tidy up.
No, the real joke is that I’ve become my parents.
It’s not just that I am doing what they did — teaching children a lesson about picking up after themselves. I actuallycareabout this stuff! I want the house to be tidy!
When I was the children’s age, I was unconcerned about how cleanly things were. I carelessly left my things everywhere. I would happily leave my bed unmade in the morning. Is there a more pointless chore? You’re just going to have to unmake it when you get into it tonight!
But now, I make my bed every morning, and I feel bad if I don’t. Moreover, I make the children do the same thing. To make sure it happens, they can’t have breakfast until it’s done. That’s right. I withhold nutrition from growing children in a bald-faced exercise in blackmail to have them make their beds.
Somehow, my parents made me care about picking things up and making my bed and having everything look nice. Somehow I came to not just care about this stuff but to desire it.
And that horrible transition pits me against the children. I endure being called mean and unfair so that I can get them to clean. When they refuse to do what I want them to, I do what my father did and engage in creative consequences.
Leave your stuff lying around? It gets taken and you have to buy it back. Want to eat breakfast? Make your bed. Want to do anything fun on Saturday? Clean your room first.
Who am I? When did my father move in and impersonate me?
I am disgusted. I have become what I battled for so long. I have betrayed my younger self and become his oppressor. I am a sellout.
And my only solace, my only glimmer of joy, is that I will do the same thing to these children. They will grow up and one day be just like me — chasing after their kids to pick up after themselves.
Sorry, guys. It seems this cycle of oppression is inevitable. You can blame my parents if you like, but they’ll just laugh at you.
Just like they’re laughing at me.