Hold Onto Your Pearls
I let my kid do a thing
If you’ve been around for a while, then you know that I’m the World’s Okayest Mom. I’ve never pretended to be anything but. The best thing I can say about my parenting is I haven’t lost total control…yet.
When I started writing many, many, many years ago, my children were young. So small. Easy to manipulate and control. They were adorable and sweet. They loved me unconditionally and rarely gave me grief.
And I thought that was hard. I thought they were exhausting. I thought, “I just need to get through this part and everything will be gravy.”
Hahahahahahaha. I was so stupid.
I remember one night we were eating in a restaurant and a well-meaning middle-aged woman stopped by our table and remarked on how well-behaved my little kids were. Before she walked away, she added, “Treasure this time. It goes too fast and soon they’ll be teenagers. Teenagers are…well, you’ll see.”
She was like a fortune teller. She knew exactly what was coming for me.
As my kids grew older and bigger, I could no longer sweet-talk them to do things. It quickly became a barter situation. “If you clean your closet, I will buy you those new shoes you want.”
That worked okay for a bit. Until one day when Gomer announced he’d no longer be doing chores around the house because he had a “real” job and could afford to buy his own shoes. Damn it! Why did I encourage independence? Why did I tell him to get off his computer and go find a job? I’d lost all of my bargaining power!
I had to change tactics with him and we developed a bribery system. Bribery was different than barter, because I wasn’t trying to get Gomer to do any work around the house, I was just trying to get him to hang out with us. I say, “We’ll buy dinner!” every month. And I even said, “I’ll take you to Mexico!”
Throughout all of this, Adolpha watched and learned. She knew the barter system wasn’t for her at all. She keeps her room clean only because she prefers it that way, but she’s had a “real” job since she was fourteen so she didn’t need my money.
She’s more stubborn than Gomer and she’s a bit heartless, so it’s not as easy to guilt-trip her into doing the right thing. It all came to a head last year when she was refusing to go to school.
She spent most of her first semester of ninth grade in the counselor’s office refusing to go to class. There wasn’t any bribe or threat that could get her to budge.
“You’ll be grounded,” we said.
“I don’t want to go anywhere anyway.”
“You won’t graduate,” we said.
“So what? I don’t want to go to college.”
“You won’t be able to get a good job!” we said.
“I don’t care. I’ll live off the land.”
What the actual fuck??
It was like fighting with an enormous toddler. We couldn’t reason with her. I was getting desperate so I made the fatal error of asking, “What will it take?”
I held my breath and waited for her list of demands.
Imagine my surprise when she said, “If I go to school all week, I want you to buy me a manga book every Friday.”
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A book?? Are you kidding me? I’d buy books for NOTHING. I immediately said, “YES. Absolutely. Let’s do it.”
That arrangement lasted for a few more weeks until the Great Memory Loss came at the beginning of the second semester.
Once the Medical Mystery Ride started, there was no more school and there were no more deals. There was just us trying everything to fix her. But in the meantime, we let Gomer do whatever the fuck he wanted to do.
“Can I sleep over at a friend’s house all weekend and never check in with you?”
“Can I have money to go to dinner with my friends since you’re in the ER yet again?”
“Can I buy a motorbike?”
As Adolpha recovered her memory over the summer she remembered our book deal and decided since we were so fucking beat she’d take the opportunity to renegotiate.
“I’ll go to school every day,” she promised.
“And we’ll get you a book every Friday,” I replied.
“I was thinking…”
“I’ve got lots of books, but there’s something I really, really want.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll go to school every day if I can get a tattoo.”
Holy shit. A tattoo?? My imaginary pearls tightened around my neck. Tattoos are kind of a thing in my family. They were verboten. I was immediately transported back to Spring Break 1992 where I was watching my friend get Tweety Bird etched onto her ankle and my mother’s voice boomed in my head, “Don’t you dare. Nice girls don’t get tattoos, Jenni!” I saw my dad standing in the kitchen arguing with my teenage brother, “No one wants a doctor with tattoos.”
I have no idea if my brother ever got a tattoo or not, but I know his wife has some. I never got one mainly because I’m afraid of pain and there’s nothing I like enough to have permanently marked on my body. I’m at the point now where I can appreciate everyone else’s artwork, but I think I’ve missed my chance to be cool enough to carry it off.
I wasn’t opposed to my kids getting tattoos. In fact, I’ve always known that they probably would. It’s become so much more mainstream. Everyone has a tattoo! I have a doctor who calls me “Dude” and I would bet good money he has a tattoo somewhere under that white coat.
I just never thought about my kids getting tattoos before they were adults.
But I was desperate. I needed Adolpha to go to school, graduate, and move the hell out of my house. I needed her to be excited and motivated about SOMETHING. ANYTHING.
So, I said, “You have to go all year. You can get a tattoo in the summer.”
"That’s a long time. I’m not sure I can go that long without some kind of reward. What about a little tattoo over Christmas break?”
“So now it’s two tattoos?” I asked.
“To start with,” she said.
I was sweating. I was looking for loopholes. Adolpha always leaves loopholes. I gave her my terms, “You must go to school every day. Get good grades. Take care of Stan. Go to work. Be pleasant. Work on your health. And you can have a small tattoo at Christmas. But not on the face.”
“Deal,” she said.
And that’s how I found myself in a tattoo shop this week signing a release for Adolpha.
She held up her end of the bargain, so I held up mine.
She sent a picture to my parents and my mother responded, “Is that real??”
Adolpha replied, “Yes. And it’s on my forehead.”
My mom probably still hasn’t recovered.
Wait til she hears I’m thinking about getting one now…
Do you have a tattoo? Show me a picture in the comments.