Now that I'm in my late 40s, I look back at my childhood and realize that, for the most part, my parents were pretty smart, and their advice was generally sound and worth following. Things I used to rebel against — and I did that a lot — are actually important to me now that I'm a dad.
For instance, I make my kids shut off the lights in their room, just like my dad did. He didn't do it for me, I had to go do it. He would even call me from the other end of the house to shut off my light. Never mind that he was standing next to it, I had to do it.
"You're right there," I would call back. "Why don't you just reach out and shut it off?"
"Because I want you to remember to shut it off yourself."
In my mind, I used to rail against the laziness and utter stupidity of making me walk all the way to the other end of the house, just to shut off a single light.
"You could have shut the light off in a fraction of the time that we had this argument!" I thought. At the time, I believed my dad actually enjoyed being a pain in my ass.
So, in order to deprive him of this small and petty pleasure, I started shutting off the lights to my room before he ever asked. That showed him!
Did I mention my dad was a psychology professor for 45 years?
The trick worked so well, I started doing it to my own kids. I have made them come all the way upstairs to shut off their bedroom light, and they had the same complaints. It was all I could do to keep from revealing my big secret, but they did stop leaving their lights on.
For example, I was never a tidy child. I used to get my toys out and play with them, but never put them back. Eventually, my room looked like my toy box exploded.
Eventually my mom (the short one in the photo over there) would get so sick of looking at the mess, she threatened to shut the door. "If you don't clean your room, I'll just keep your door shut all day."
I'm actually fairly private, and I hated having my door open anyway, so this wasn't a punishment. Plus it bought me a couple more weeks.
But eventually she said, "it's a wonder you can find anything in this place."
"No, it isn't," I said. "I've got everything out in the open so I can see it, and know exactly where it is."
Apparently this wasn't up for discussion. This wasn't my chance to convince her of the benefits of a messy room. You'd have an easier time on Facebook of getting a Trump supporter to vote for Bernie Sanders than getting my mom to let me have a messy room.
"Well, it looks like a tornado went through here."
"I thought it looked more like a cyclone," I said once.
I didn't get away with being a smartass very often. This wasn't one of those times.
"Can I have a snack?" I would ask when I was in her good graces.
"No, you'll spoil your appetite."
Spoil my appetite? How could a tiny snack spoil my appetite? I just wanted a cookie, or even an apple. But no, this will bring crushing ruin to my appetite, and I won't eat for days!
My wife even says this to our kids, but I think it's a lie. If a single cookie devastates your appetite, then you may have larger medical issues.
"No, I couldn't possibly eat a steak, mashed potatoes, and a salad. I just ate a cookie."
If you can normally eat a full meal without any problems, a cookie is not going to be a problem. It's only going to reduce our stomach capacity by — anyone? anyone? — that's right, the amount of the cookie.
But there were times I was able to have a rational discussion with my mom about some of these mom-isms, and how they bothered me. But those discussions didn't always go like I hoped.
She would say, "If you're going to act like a child, I'll treat you like one."
"But I am a child."
"No, you're MY child, but you're 34. Start acting like it."
"Fine, but only if I can have a cookie."
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