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Editor’s Note: This article was previously published in 2012. We’ve decided to bring it back from the Meridian archives in honor of Mother’s Day this weekend.
Calvin and Hobbes is a reading staple around here, categorized on our bookshelf under “tears of laughter.” One of our favorite themes in Bill Waterson’s famous comic strip is when Calvin approaches his father as a third party political pollster. “Dad, you’re down in the polls again” he’ll say. “Your position on a firm 8pm bedtime are hurting your chances at reelection. Our results indicate that an 11pm bedtime would be enough to push you over the top.”
I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know my job as a mother is not up for reelection. Finicky voters don’t reelect people who say “no” to them. (Can I eat this entire batch of cookie dough? Pleeeease?) They don’t reelect people who are 10 minutes late picking them up either. (I was the last one!) And they certainly don’t reelect people who continue to insist that a piece of fresh fruit is a sumptuous dessert. (Apple slices Mom? Seriously?)
I know I’d be lying if I declared the words, “Read my lips, no new chores!” Although, like many polished politicians, I have been known to deliver a powerful speech or two even if I am standing in my kitchen clutching a ladle. I believe my lectures are, in my humble opinion, on par with A Thousand Points of Light and Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You, but unlike the politicians, my discourses aren’t met with rolling thunderous applause. More like rolling eyeballs. Maybe I need a ghost writer and a teleprompter. Peggy Noonan, if you’re reading this…
If I were up for reelection, would my children divide into parties, one advocating little parental involvement and power back to the kids, the other promoting the expansion of my role to include everything from doing their science projects to a shelling out hefty bi-weekly allowances?
When it comes to their college funds, would there be heated exchanges at the dinner table using phrases like “incentive programs,” “subsidies,” and “entitlement reform?” Would I have to cave on the bedtime debate in order to get my bill for 30 minute piano practice sessions pushed through the house? Would I be forced to resort to secret meetings with a single child in attempts to cobble shady deals over happy meals in a corner booth?
Would I have to finagle endorsements from “cool” parents and promise them free babysitting in return? Would I owe so many favors to those people that my position as mother would be greatly compromised? Would lobbyists come out of the woodwork in the form of neighborhood kids?
I can tell you right now, my Audacity of “Nope” policy would not show well in the polls. I’d have to spend my modest campaign bucks trying to remind my constituents about all the bedtime stories, family vacations, back tickles, home cooked meals, homework help, school volunteer hours, games of tag at the park, and all of the recitals and sports games I’ve cheered at.
Come election time I’d try to help them realize that chores, while not always fun, are a necessary part of life, betimes are for their own good, and at the end of the day, eating an entire batch of cookie dough can only lead to one thing: throwing up in the back of the van. And who’s going to clean up that mess? My grandkids? But again, rolling eyes would be my biggest hurdle.
Yes, I much prefer the matriarchal system we have now. In fact, I think I look pretty regal raising my ladle high over my head with an old apron tied around my waist as I expound over the virtues of not spoiling your dinner.
Ya, okay. Ghost writer it is.