I jotted down a few notes to my four kids, who at ages ranging from nine to 21 are in various stages of having experienced the enforcement of these concepts. The children know their mother is not very patient person, and in fact can often be an absolute bitch. They could have won bigger at the motherhood pool, but hey, I calligraph their first initials in icing on their Toaster Strudels in the morning, so that counts for something when they’re whining to their therapists about me.
I’m a yeller. My kids complain about this: Why do you have to yell, why can’t you just speak in a normal voice? The answer to this is simple. I yell when you make me yell. If you were asked to empty the dishwasher and you do it, there is no reason for raised voices. If you’ve been asked once nicely and a second time more assertively, but after a third time in a more exasperated style, but the dishes are still inside the dishwasher, I’m going to yell because you haven’t responded to my earlier attempts at rationality.
My older girls could sit down and explain these simple guidelines to “GETTING MOM NOT TO YELL”, but they’ve apparently not taken the time to do this, so here’s a documented version on the Internet, where my younger kids can find it in-between Minecraft worlds.
DON’T TALK BACK. This one is so simple. I’m the mother and you’re the child. If I issue a command, you’re expected to carry it out. Pretend it’s the military and I’m a general and you’re a private. A soldier would never passively-aggressively mutter under his or her breath in response to an order and neither should you. Be a patriot. Listen to your mother.
BE NICE TO EACH OTHER. Whether we’re in the house, the car, in line at the movies or out in the yard, I can hear you. Do not bitch at one another. For the love of God do not bitch at each other in virtual worlds. As you know, I’ve often had to yell, “Stay out of each other’s worlds!” because in Minecraft you are blowing up each other’s homes or killing goats. Please be kind to your siblings whether you are in a real or virtual world.
MAINTAIN YOURSELF. You are not toddlers anymore, thank heavens, and although I’m happy to provide warm meals and clean clothing for you, I don’t expect to clean up after you or concern myself with your hygiene. Kindly transport your dirty laundry to the laundry room (where I will not let you do it yourself because there’s a flow to my machines and I don’t want you messing it up) and transport clean laundry back to your room and put it away. Clean your room. Take a shower. (Attention nine-year old boy!) Do not make me figure out when the last time you had a shower was or argue with you that you didn’t have basketball practice so you don’t need a shower.
STOP TATTLE TEXTING. Through the kindness and generosity of your father and me, you’ve each been provided with electronic devices that have communication capabilities. While I’m thankful at the ease with which I can parent you via text messaging, please do not abuse this communication method. If for some reason I’m not in your presence, don’t use these devices to tattle on one another, a practice I have come to call tattle texting. Simultaneously getting two versions of the dramatic story of your little thumb war while I’m trying to get a haircut or grocery shop is annoying and will not be tolerated. As you may have noticed, this practice will result in the removal of both of your devices because I’m far too lazy to do an investigation into who was right or wrong.
—Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter: @marymac.