Do you ever have those moments as a parent where you are sure you have the worst behaved children on the planet? Well you don’t have to worry, because we have that trophy sitting on our mantle, right next to a huge gold cup draped with numerous first place and runners up medallions, souvenirs from the World’s Worst Parents competitions that we enjoy. Some folks in their thirties and forties like 5Ks or ½ marathons, not us.
While they consider themselves cute, blankie and lovie toting freedom fighters for a causes involving a) what they want this second or b) what they don’t want this second, I see them for what they are, syrupy, rude, entitled and very short terrorists. If you ever think about having children be warned, like hyenas they are opportunistic pack animals and know to attack when their prey is most vulnerable. After the very first negotiation, you are permanently playing defence.
We are five hours into a ten-hour plane, trip from London to Kansas City. 35,000 feet below me is the frozen ponds and white peaked hills of Newfoundland. They sky is perfectly blue and the clouds seem to be extra white on this Boxing Day, like they started using the Crest white strips that were in their stocking. It looks so tranquil down there in the wilderness, fresh air, just the sound of wind blowing in the evergreens, so wild and free and so different than my current cramped and confined reality breathing recycled air, hearing recycled whines.
Over the past weekend of Christmas celebrations and late nights my children have existed on nothing more than candy canes and chocolate. This experiment has rendered them dangerously unpredictable. Being on a confined metal tube, loaded with people, blasting through the stratosphere they seem to realize a new found power, as options for embarrassment are large and discipline limited. It’s an ideal competition environment for parents wanting to show off how ill behaved their children are and how incompetent they are in dealing with them.
My wife and I have produced three humans, Daughters eight and seven, and a Son who is four. 75% of the time they all are genuinely remarkable, affable, intelligent, funny and kind. But, 25% of the time they are doing some natural boundary testing and practicing to become ninjas in violent or nonviolent nonsense. And that 25% is often egged on by those twin devils fatigue and hunger. If my youngest and oldest don’t get their requisite fifteen hours of sleep, they act like they just summited Mount Everest without the aid of bottled oxygen. My middle turns into the Incredible Hulk/ Tasmanian Devil Hybrid on meth when her blood sugar drops below a very specific number, a number we do not know.
So with three kids, each “having moments” or “questionable decision making” 25% of the time adds up to 75% of our married lives currently dedicated to making sure these humans don’t become 50% bad, 50% good and end up having friends with facial tattoos, or 25% good and 75% bad, whereupon they will finally get the discipline they need from professionals within the juvenile justice system.
I’d saunter onto planes with our children when they were babies. Proudly carrying their cuteness in my arms finding the meercat-esque glance aways ridiculous. I’d think, “We come in peace. These kids are great. No need to worry friend.” My wife and I would pass then back and forth, filled with self congratulatory love, reading any signs for discomfort and promptly intervening with slobbery teething cookies or mouth corking pacifiers. When your kids are babies, you truly get a false sense of competence.
Today was a 6:30am wake up and all was sunny and going smooth. We were in the air and the turbulence began with the delivery of the 10:00am lunch. Somehow our divas got it in their head that airplane food was disgusting. They were noticeably hungry and tired, but would not take a bite, not even the bread roll. It was like the kind and proper British Airways Flight Attendant had set down a fork, knife and pulled from a dark tank a small live squirming octopus onto their plate with a cackle (when it was really a nice piece of chicken breast, and perfectly steamed and seasoned vegetables.) A couple minutes in and their protest became more vocal as the waves of emotional pity began to pour into row 14 Seats A-D.
The debutantes demanded sweets instead of nutrition. They wanted anything but the culinary abomination in front of them. They found our sarcasm towards their request hostile. And then our middle child’s brand new water bottle spills all over the tray, and blankie and lap and coloring book and brother’s foot providing the necessary gas to turn this controlled blaze into an inferno. Their insane chorus becomes louder. Increasingly suspect logic is sold as truth. With every idea from Mom or Dan their ire becomes more intense and burns a hole in the eardrums of all those in a three row radius without the good fortune of Bose headphones.
The emotional pity has turned to real stares. Falling into their trap my Wife and I begin to give each other those eyes that say, “I’m out of ideas, you got any Einstein. And this is your damaged personality coming out in our kids.”
It’s those periods of five minutes that feel like hours that are the worst part of parenting. After some very tense negotiations a peace treaty was brokered and a fragile calm has been reestablished on British Airways Flight #193. Caramel popcorn and lollys, were traded for the consumption of one piece of chicken, one steamed carrot and a ½ morsel of broiled potato. We have temporarily and tenuously regained the trust of those seated in the general vicinity, and in four hours will be happy that we will never see them again.