My Kids Are Fucking Amazing

Some time ago, a friend of mine, was talking about how kids today are so entitled and have no manners. This particular friend of mine is a tattooed badass who is also a Doula, so you could say I think of her as being on the liberal side. Once she warms into some moral outrage, there’s no stopping her.

“I saw these kids at…” she named a local restaurant, “And I couldn’t believe how they were behaving. They were eating with their hands, staring at the game on TV, totally ignoring the server, just being awful. And the dad, he was so checked out, he wasn’t even picking up on their manners, all I could think was, ‘Where is the mom?’ But I didn’t say anything, I almost did, but I didn’t. They were like twins these kids, very good-looking, both really long hair, like little surfers. The older one, was a little shorter and he was more sensitive, and the younger one, he knew a lot about the game, but he was bigger than his brother and just dominating everything, screaming at the screen every time there was a play…”

I’m not sure the moment at which it became clear to me that this woman was talking about my children. Perhaps the realization dawned slowly, or maybe I figured it out really early, and went into a dissociative state. Either way, at a certain point I knew for certain that this was the picture my children were presenting in this small town of Malibu, at least when they were alone with their dad or, as I like to refer to him “Drunk Uncle.” I also realized that I was going to have to tell her.

“Um, those are my kids. And that’s my ex.,” I eventually said, bemused, once she’d finished ranting. She has an incredible ability to note details, and had amassed so much knowledge about my spawn just from watching them for half an hour, I had to also add that I was impressed!

“Oh my gosh,” this is a woman who swears more than a sailor (all the sailors I’ve met have actually been very yes, ma’am, no ma’am polite) but she actually blushed. “I’m so sorry. I feel awful. I mean, they were good kids, I could tell they were good kids, but there was just something about the dad where he was…”

“Oh you mean ‘Diseyland Dad’?” I asked wryly. I pull out wry when my feelings are hurt. “I can’t wait to tell him about this…”

“I don’t want to create a problem for you. Jesus I feel horrible, I shouldn’t have said anything. But I guess there must be a reason I mentioned it, I mean, you were probably supposed to find this out…”

We spent a nice rest of the time like we always do, talking about sex, until I staggered out of there, maybe an hour later, looking like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he wakes up on the raft and thinks he’s going to be saved, but instead he’s looking into the large, inky eye of a whale. He gets saved anyway, but he doesn’t know that yet. At that moment, he’s trying to stay present to the beauty of the whale, but on his face is the exhaustion of the massive effort he has put into escaping, and the knowledge that it has all come to nothing. I could relate.

Parenting is not a linear endeavor. It’s a little like the way I imagine climbing Mt. Everest to be: it’s tough but lots of people have done it, if you’re prepared you’re probably not going to die, but you might. For me being a parent is akin in difficulty to scaling a Himalayan mountain, though I can barely get up a regular one. But all the effort you put forth has absolutely nothing to do with the results—kids from great homes end up being homeless drug addicts, or worse, heartless corporate Vice Presidents, and other kids, who were abused horribly, end up living productive, happy lives. YOU JUST DON’T KNOW until you get to the summit how it’s going to go, and more annoyingly you don’t know when you’re at the summit, so you can’t even plant a flag and celebrate with some oxygen and a nice freeze-dried truffle.

After triumphantly reporting my friend’s evidence to the ex, and reluctantly divulging it to the kids, I embarked on a one woman quest to turn it all around, with my patented mother’s mixture of nagging, guilt and a word we may overuse in California “boundaries.” I became Miss Manners as drill sargent, barking at them at every meal, “Use a fork, sit up straight, don’t put your hands in, don’t eat with your hands, wash your hands, chew with your mouth closed, I know it’s pizza but you don’t have to eat it with all ten fingers on one slice, let me show you how to eat spaghetti….” Ad fucking nauseum until I hated myself so much, I was shocked that they didn’t hate me too.

But something about my friend seeing them in this light, even though they knew it wasn’t their finest hour, at eight and nine, had scared them straight. They didn’t want to be “those kids,” the ones known for being disrespectful piglets, they knew they were better than that, and set out to prove it. We were in this together, and even the ex agreed not to take them to any restaurants until we had taught them in our own kitchen about the concepts of “please” “thank-you” and “forks.”

Finally, after many months, we were ready for our close up. Their birthdays had passed, and their hair was no longer so long, and I felt ready to take them to the aforementioned restaurant (if I’d mentioned it), the one with the big inviting TV screen beckoning their attention away from behaving like humans… and who should be there, but my friend, the one who had seen them behaving hideously? Told ya Malibu is a small town…

My blood pressure went up a couple of notches (decibels? drams?) but we chatted with her and they made eye contact, and were charming, and awesome, and not little suck-ups either, just respectful people who are aware that they have been treated with respect. And I was exhausted because I fucking hate telling people what to do, and I just wanted to curl up in the other part of the restaurant and sleep and let this woman watch my kids, and even knock ’em around a little if she felt like it, but instead we went inside (my friend and her people were sitting outside) and once inside my kids were just exactly themselves, but more aware that they weren’t the sun and the rest of us all planets revolving tirelessly around them. Both my kids were wonderful with the waitress, and closed their mouths when eating, and by the end of the meal I was so fucking proud of them, I almost forgot how often I feel like I’m running out of oxygen and the altitude changes and it takes me two hours to do something that should take ten minutes.

In the previous weeks, I had actually had two separate parents call me specifically after playdates to tell me my children were delightful. Both of them. Together. And separately. Of course, I relayed this information to them as a testament to how far they’d come and told them how proud I was of them, and they were also proud of themselves, which is a feeling I don’t remember having as a child, so they were already ahead of the game there. In the future there would be time enough for guzzling whiskey straight out of the bottle and banging underage chicks, but at least when they got there, they might cap it all off with a nice thank-you note.

7 comments

  1. Your boys are ROCK STARS AND CEO’S in the making. I’d take them over any “think they know” what they are doing parent. I can back up my following statement with a lot of experience, knowledge, being trained, and training a WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE…. I assert Nobody knows shit about parenting as the final word. The only thing I can see works is never give up, always keep learning, and always be committed to them being fully-functioning, self-determining children. And to do that, we must become fully-functioning, determining ourselves… a goal I’ve yet to see anyone reach. Especially me a super proud Professional Parent.
    BRAVO to you and the father of your children.
    Next…

  2. Two short stories about my kids and eating out. For my 35th birthday my sons took me to Hooters…my older son was gaping at the waitress and my younger son (13) asked our server why it was called Hooters…I was about to strangle him when she says ‘oh it’s okay honey I get asked that all the time’ and she preceded to tell him about owls and their logo and things…a good 3 minute spiel…and at the end my son says ‘ oh I thought it meant your tits.’…which induced a spit take from my older son onto the t-shirt of our waitress…who was glaring at me like I was a ventriloquist…that remains the largest tip, percentage wise (225%) that I’ve ever left anywhere…
    Other story was me and my kids were out to dinner as the guest of my boss and wife…I had begged them to be polite and not eat like the Last of the Mohicans…it was all going well until my older son reached under the nose of my boss to grab some butter…my boss said ‘David, don’t you have a tongue?’ To which my son replied ‘ yeah but my arm is longer.’

    • Classic! I just taught one of my animals the “Pardon my reach.” I don’t even know if Americans say that- it’s very English and at some point might make him sound hopelessly toffee. Doesn’t matter. Might make up for that time he says something about a waitress’s tits.

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