Raising kids is the best exercise in the world for strengthening the part of the brain that's responsible for not choking other humans, especially once they've started to master the double-edged sword of reason and logic. We tend to forget that we've taught our kids since birth that fairness must be upheld at all times, and injustice must always be rectified. That moral fiber is how we keep them from becoming assholes and politicians, but it doesn't come without consequence. Especially when they use it to expose our own hypocrisy with arguments like ...
Kraig Scarbinsky/Photodisc/Getty Images
Every mostly sane parent knows that the whole point of chores is to instill a work ethic into the kids before they get spin kicked into real life and their survival starts depending on it. It's easy for an adult to understand the benefit of divvying up the workload so that it's not just one person shouldering the stress, and they may even be able to effectively explain that to their kids. But what we tend to forget is that, just like with any job, people need breaks and an occasional change in the routine before their patience snaps and they start making necklaces from the ears of neighbors.
It's usually during one of these breaking points that the kid finally gets pissed off enough to unleash that phrase: "You're only making me do the dishes because you hate doing them yourself!" As parents, our first instinct is to fall back on the explanations in the first paragraph. But by the time the kid is heated enough to bring it up, we might as well just be reading the ingredients from the back of a stick of deodorant.
"Son, this is what we call a 'Minnesota lecture.'"
The truth is that if you take away those core reasons for the tasks, yes, we do assign them in part according to suck levels. I hate doing laundry, but I hate it a whole lot less than dishes. Fortunately for me, I have earned the privilege as a parent to roll the shit work downhill. Unfortunately for the kids, they're standing at the bottom, bracing themselves for the quickly approaching turd ball.
Now that's not to say that I can just pass it off and say over my middle finger, "Deal with it, fucko! I bathe in your anguish!" I have a responsibility to make sure I'm not overloading them, just like a good manager should know when to shuffle around burnt-out employees until they get their second wind. Just having a change of pace can sometimes be enough to ease the monotony.
"You look a little down. Why don't you move your stuff to the mountain for a few hours?"
As far as the chores themselves, do we only give them out because we don't want to do them? No, not if we're stable parents who can control our asshole impulses. But does the fact that they suck play a role? Hell yes it does. We just can't come right out and say it because it makes us look like lazy douchebags, and you don't get a "#1 Dad" mug for that.
Buccina Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images
One of the weirdest parts of being a parent is deciding when and how often to give permission for seemingly unimportant requests like a friend staying the night or needing a fake alibi after a strangely violent pep rally, specifically when you have no real reason to tell them "no."
When I was a kid, if my mom told me I couldn't have a friend stay the night, it was usually because we didn't have enough food to feed everyone. I understood that, and I dealt with it. I knew that when we did stock the fridge back up, the door would be open on that request. Today, it's the polar opposite. We do have food in the fridge. When we go to Walmart, we do have the money to pick up a video game. I don't have a justifiable excuse to give my kids, like "If I buy this for you, I won't have enough money to pay off my mob debts." So why tell them no at all?
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
If he tortures me, all three of you are grounded.
Sometimes you have to say no just because it's bad to always give them everything they ask for. If you let them have a friend sleep over every weekend, they get used to that as a norm. Buying them a new game or toy every week quickly becomes an entitlement. Then not getting those things feels like a punishment because it's a break in their pattern. Setting a child up to expect everything they ask for is a surefire way to send them into system shock when they find out firsthand that the world's motto is "Go fuck yourself. I couldn't give less of a shit what you want."
How do you explain that to a kid? What you're teaching them isn't a hard-set lesson. You can't just spell it out and make them understand. You're getting them used to a pattern, and that operates on a more subconscious level over a long stretch of time. You're giving them tiny doses of disappointment -- teaching them how to deal with unfulfilled desires on a very, very small level. That sounds morbid as hell, but it's a very real part of raising a human that the world doesn't send back to you with "REJECTED" stamped across his ass.
"Away with him! This one displeases me."
So when they look at you like you're just being an asshole, they're partly right. It's the downside of prepping developing brains for reality. Someone has to play the bad guy from time to time, and until they become parents themselves, they won't understand why. They just know that sometimes you decide to be a douche and say "no" for no justifiable reason.
Here's a pretty harsh truth that some people will deny to the death: Parents do have favorites. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean that they love one child more than another. If you have parents who do fit that category, you are the product of soulless monsters. But because we're individuals with our own defining traits, it's human nature that one of the kids will simply be more compatible than the rest. It's never Chad, though. That dude is a piece of shit.
It doesn't mean the parents are evil or look at the other children in disgust ... even within our tightest group of friends, there's always one that you just enjoy hanging out with a little more. It's natural, but admitting it even to another adult feels like the biggest asshole move in the world. Admitting it to your own kids is completely out of the question because the complexity of that conversation is so far over their heads, it would be impossible for them to grasp it. And the ones who didn't make your top spot would feel rejection on a catastrophic level.
Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
Christ, she has to get over it soon. It's been like seven minutes.
The only thing you can do when one of them uses it as argument fodder is flat out deny it. Deny it like a mafia movie interrogation scene. Even if the one saying it happens to be the favorite, deny it. Giving any of them that information is giving them ammunition to use against not only you, but each other.
The hardest part of this minefield is not letting it influence your decisions. Sometimes it does happen, even with the most careful parent, and all you can do is try to balance it out and move on. "Shit, I just gave one of them $20 after telling the other two that they couldn't have extra money this week. I guess that just turned into a $60 mistake I won't make again. Lesson learned. I guess I'm selling blood this week."
Keith Brofsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images
They always think you're joking when you ask "How much is too much to take out?"