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Kid Rules vs. Adult Rules

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03/21/2014

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It is impossible to be a parent and evade hypocrisy. It gets worse when your kids learn the word “hypocrisy.” And worse yet when they realize it applies to you.

Three times this week various children of mine have called me a hypocrite. The first was for not hanging up my coat. The second was because I have long nails and I am psychotic – er – very diligent about keeping all my kids nails very short. The third was when I got caught red-handed scooping hash browns with my fingers, from the pan, into my pie hole. “HYPOCRITE!” It has even (unfairly I think) crept into hours when they don’t see me but can hear me. For instance, we have a rule: no screens during the week. But all the kids have relayed that they can hear me clicking through the Netflix menu from their bedrooms.

Well you know what? Too bad! After (deep breath …) making homemade pancakes and arugula omelets for breakfasts, packing lunches, hawking the mohawks and froing the fro, getting them off to school, loading the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher, washing, drying and folding the laundry, picking this one up, then dropping that one off, helping with snacks, helping with homework, making dinner, brushing teeth, reading books, rubbing feet, tucking in, I think I am allowed to watch some damn television! Besides, we never said that applied to the adults. Frankly, many of the rules don’t apply to us, fair or not. This is the benefit of being an adult. Otherwise there would be absolutely no reason to abandon the beautiful naivety and cradle of childhood. And this is what makes us, as parents, massive hypocrites in the eyes of our children.

In fairness, they may have a point. I don’t just watch TV during the week. I have also been known to not put away my shoes, not make my bed, not put my dishes in the dishwasher, not pick my clothes up off the floor, not say “please” or “thank you” or “sorry” in a timely manner and on occasion I forget to flush. I also have been known to swear. Most times I remain incognito. But when I get caught, it is with such devilish relish that my kids scream “HYPOCRITE!” that frankly, I’ve decided this makes them happy. They are happy to catch me and elated to know that their mom is not perfect, that their mom makes mistakes. And once in a while, under her breath, in a whisper, while a truck drives by making tons of background noise, mom says, “Frick!” Ahem … And more important than making my kids happy (this is of course what I was born and bred to do in their minds) I think it’s perfectly fine. Instead of saying, “Frick that! I’m no hypocrite!” I’ll say, “Yup. I’m a hypocrite. Because I’m a grown-up. Sh-tuff happens.”

My kids go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I prefer they eat sugar only once a day and immediately after school so they can calm down for bed. They brush their teeth twice a day – and floss (kinda). Me? Once in a while, at midnight, I eat an entire bag of peanut butter cups, don’t brush my teeth and, frankly, “frick” the flossing. I’m not trying to be snarky (well, maybe a little) but the fact is kids and adults don’t have the same rules. And it’s not fair (to them). And as parents I suppose we can acknowledge that.

I have vivid memories of many nights when my dad was watching All in the Family, better known to me as “Archie Bunker.” It was a show that had been parentally determined inappropriate for my eyes and ears but OK for my dad. One night, however, I came into the TV room ever so quietly, and settled uneasily onto the far end of the couch. I sat silently, my eyes darting nervously between Archie and my dad. When nothing happened (a.k.a. he didn’t kick me out), I sat back happily, not realizing that I had just crossed over the invisible threshold of no return. I was now being considered more adult: more responsible, more capable, unknowingly hurtling towards my independence, a job and taxes.

As much as I loved watching Archie Bunker, oh how I miss the days of Sesame Street. So kids, hang in there – be a kid. You’ll be a hypocrite soon enough. And then there will be plenty of years to gorge on peanut butter cups.

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