My kids are nice to me and the missus — most of the time. But they’re never as charming and pleasant to us as they are to our friends. This phenomenon was in desperate need of epiphanizing, and I was just the guy to do it.
Have you ever noticed that the manner in which your child addresses you pales in comparison to the Eddie Haskell veneer they assume with other adults? Teens suddenly turn on the charm in the presence of other village elders. So where’s the love on the homestead?
I don’t have an answer, and honestly, I really don’t care. As a loyal reader, you know by now that my focus is not on understanding human nature, but working within its warped parameters so I can pursue a lazier life. Thus, a new epiphany did blossom.
I made a quick call to our friends, the Bensons. Dad peer Chet Benson answered.
“Chet, you up for a swap?”
“Am I ever! I’ve been waiting for this for a loong time.”
I scratched my head. “Um, no, Chet. Not the ladies. The kids. Howza bout we swap the kids?”
An awkward pause, and then a sheepish, “Oh, yeah. Let’s do that.”
Chet and I cobbled together the arrangement. Our kids would go live with them, and their kids would come live with us. Peace, harmony and Haskellian pleasantness would soon follow.
The plan started out beautifully. The Bensons’ children arrived. They were extremely polite and friendly, treating us to such pleasantries as “May I?” and “Excuse me” and “Oh I’ll be happy to clean up the cat vomit.”
All went swimmingly for the first five hours. Then things fell apart.
The Grass is Always Greener, the Kids Always Meaner
The Benson girl eventually made her way to the couch, clicked on Dance Moms, and watched TV for two days straight. The boy borrowed the car, called some of his buddies, and we haven’t seen him since.
Saddened that the Benson children had either shut us out or left town, I called our friends to see if our kids were acting the same way.
“These freakin’ kids are a nightmare,” Chet grumbled. “The girl lays around all the day, the boy hijacked my minivan, and cat vomit hasn’t been cleaned up in weeks.”
“Damn them,” I gritted my teeth.
There was a bright moment in all of this. A few months later, my family went grocery shopping, and I spotted the Bensons.
The mom was lecturing the family on the merits of reading labels, and the dad was ogling the liquor store. My daughter was responding with a sustained eye-roll. The boy was face-deep in his phone and walking into shopping carts.
“Hey Bensons, how’s it going?” I ventured.
When our children saw us, they immediately smiled and stood up straight. The Benson kids did the same. For the next five minutes, we engaged in pleasant conversation with our respective children.
We eventually parted, and continued with our shopping. I glimpsed them again, a few minutes later.
The charm my children had exuded before had vanished, and they were now scowling and texting. As were the Benson kids with us.
I now realize that “other parents charm” is reserved exclusively for other parents. But perhaps this epiphany wasn’t dead, just in need of refinement. The concept was sound, but my mistake was entering into a quid pro quo deal. An alternative came to mind.
“Hi Mom!” I exuded Eddie Haskell charm when Grandma Mischio answered the phone. “How would you and Dad like the kids to pay you an extended visit?”