“But you have to let me watch a show, Mommy! You HAVE to!”
“The only thing I HAVE to do is die and pay taxes,” I shot back without thinking.
Did I really just say that?
Did I seriously just channel my father* with one of those phrases? One of the most sigh-inducing, eye-roll-worthy phrases of my childhood?
He’s not the only one I channel lately. You should see how I open my mouth and my mother comes stumbling out.
I never, never, never thought I would demand that Ryan ask for something nicely by saying “Please, beautiful Mommy.” Because Oh For The Love Of All That Is Holy, It Is So Annoying.
Yet, I do. And unfortunately, I was outed when my mom recently asked Ryan to say “Please, beautiful Grandma,” and he repeated it so quickly and easily that she peered at me out of the corner of her eye and mumbled, “Hmmm … seems like it wasn’t the first time he was asked to say something like that …”
All of a sudden, the because-I-said-so’s and the when-you-grow-up-and-have-your-own-kids-you-can’s are flying out my mouth.
We do become our parents, don’t we?
I think I know why that is. I think it’s because our kids become us.
Ryan is blessed to grow up smack-dab in the center of Middle Class America, just as I was, just as my husband was. We have enough money to meet every one of Ryan’s needs and a decent portion of his wants. Basically, he gets just enough to leave him perpetually wanting more.
Middle class kids whine because they have a pool but not a sprinkler. A tricycle but not a bike. They have their own little watering can but, oh tragedy, they don’t have their own little rake. So they sit and fume in their personal kid-sized adirondack chairs, unaware that other kids around the world are working their childhoods away in sweatshops. They sob because you put the ketchup on the wrong side of the dinner plate while other kids their age starve.
It’s a little bit infuriating. Because as an adult, I can appreciate how hard it is to work and provide. As a wife and a mother, I know I was lucky to be born into a loving, two-parent family. I read (and write) the news, so I know a happy, easy life is not a given. I’ve worked with kids who battled cancer, so I know a healthy childhood should never be taken for granted.
I didn’t know any of those things as a child, and I’m glad Ryan can grow up innocently enough to not know them either. Even so, when he tells me I have to put a cartoon on TV for him, I become the tiniest bit outraged. Because actually, NO, I don’t. I don’t have to put on a show. I don’t have to take you to the playground. I don’t have to take you back to Disney World. I don’t have to buy you yet another giant ball – in addition to the two you already have – to kick around the backyard as you complain that I am, once again, not playing the game right.
All I have to do is die and pay taxes.
*Technically, Benjamin Franklin said it (or a variation of it) first. But kudos to my Dad for helping keep the sentiment alive for another generation.