Monday, May 14, 2012

It's not my fault, says the youngster before me

I'm fairly certain my children will all end up being lawyers. And good ones, too. As far as they're concerned, none of them has ever actually been guilty of doing anything wrong.

It is not uncommon for me to have conversations that go like this:

ME: So let me get this straight...You're about to get on the bus without having written your English paper, which is due in 30 minutes because you have that class first period, and this happened DESPITE the fact that both your mother and I reminded you of it eight times each last night?


ME: And further, it is your contention that this circumstance is actually not your fault in any way?


ME: I see. While I doubt I really want to hear the answer, can you enlighten me as to why, pray tell, it is NOT your fault the English paper wasn't written?

CHILD: Mommy didn't wake me up early to write it.

ME: That's it? That's your reason? Did you ASK Mommy to wake you up early so you could write it?

CHILD: No, but she should have known.

ME: Really? So your mother should, for all intents and purposes, have anticipated your stunning irresponsibility and should have taken it upon herself  without you at least having made the request, mind you  to wake you up early to write a paper that should have been written a week ago? Is that what you're telling me here?

CHILD (entirely straight-faced): Well, yeah. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

ME: <speechless>

The thing is, they say this stuff with such conviction and force, they almost end up winning me over. I start to think, "Oh well, now I see. I guess I'll just write a note asking the teacher to excuse him from the assignment because his parents were negligent."

Fortunately, the forces of common sense generally prevail in my mind and I can only wonder where I went wrong with these children. Because you see, they BELIEVE this stuff. They perceive nothing wrong with leaving messes for their mother to clean up because, clearly, that's her JOB, right? She's their personal maid servant, and if she can't see that, well, then the problem is clearly with Mommy and not with them.

I will walk into the basement and find empty plates and cups left by someone who was probably down there earlier in the day (or even the night before) watching TV and having a snack. I will ascertain who this person is, go upstairs, and order them into the basement to clean up the mess. They'll do it, but only after giving me a look that says, "You want me to do what? Clean up after myself? Well, that's just unacceptable. What am I, your slave? You should have asked Mommy to do it."

Terry, for her part, has done very well over the years in that she has never actually murdered any of her children. And believe me, she may not admit it, but I know the thought has crossed her mind. I've seen that look in her's a look you don't want to receive from anyone, let alone your mother. It's a look that says the electric chair may very well be worth it if only for the chance to strangle the 14-year-old before her.

In the interest of fairness, I should note that my children really are good kids, despite their father's influence. And this sort of thing doesn't happen all of the time. But it happens just often enough that Terry and I will have serious conversations that include the sentence, "Maybe five kids wasn't the best idea."

My only real hope, at this point, is that we can get through the next 15 years or so without Terry causing serious bodily harm to one of them. Keep Terry felony-free, that's pretty much all I'm aiming for between now and, say, 2030. If we can get there, I'll have done my job.

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