Our daughter is in middle school now, which means we’re playing at a whole new level in the parenting game. The new game comes with new rules, rules our beloved firstborn spelled out for me at dinner the other night.
Earlier in the day I’d received an email from a friend who volunteers extensively at the school, asking if I’d be interested in coming in for career day this spring. Apparently the students are interested in learning about what it means to be a writer, and while I’m far from an expert, Stephen King rarely makes appearances at small Midwestern schools. I shot back an email agreeing to be the token writer of the career day, and thought nothing of it.
Until dinner that night, when I suddenly remembered. “Hey, Audrey. I’m coming to your school this spring,” I said.
Her beautiful blue eyes did something very adult like– they widened in horror then narrowed in confusion while her marvelous brain calculated the damage this was about to inflict on her reputation. “Why?! What are you doing?”
“Career Day? Apparently you guys have Career Day?”
“Yes, but…oh poop. I shouldn’t have checked the writer box, should I?”
“Guess not, but you weren’t the only one. I think other kids want to learn about writing, too. That and a lot of other jobs.”
She thought this over for a moment while she chewed. “Okay, I’ll give you some rules. You can come, but you have to follow the rules.”
I was offended. “What?! I’ve been helping at your school since you were in kindergarten. I know all these kids!”
But my protests got me nowhere. She still dictated the rules:
- No telling people how cute they are.
- No telling people how cute she was in the bathtub. (Side note: she was really, really cute in the bathtub. She had these adorable little squishy buns.)
- No talking to people under twenty-seven years old.
- No doing little dances in front of anyone, including shaking the hiney. (Her dad piped up at this point, asking, “What about kicking?” Audrey said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You know how she does those kicks.” ((I tend to do little kicks when I am having fun.)) Audrey sighed. “No kicking, either.”)
- No mentioning these rules while speaking.
- Don’t be boring.
I pointed out that I was writing the rules down specifically so I could blog about them, but this doesn’t bother her at all. She feels her peers might not read blogs from mothers, so I guess this is safe.
Then I asked how I could be not-boring if I had to follow all the rules. Her eyes narrowed to dangerous slits at this point, and I suddenly had an image of how I would have felt if my parents had been invited to speak at school when I was in middle school. My father has a tendency to…how can I put this delicately…say anything that will be funny or shocking. (Dad, if you’re reading this, I reference Thanksgiving Dinner of 2014 as evidence.)
At the thought of my father standing up in front of my friends and firing off whatever came to mind, a wave of compassion soaked my teasing. I sobered up. “Okay, okay. I’ll follow the rules and I won’t embarrass you.” She seemed relieved and that was the end of it.
For now, at least. I will do my best to not embarrass her in April, but heaven only knows how this will actually go. At least I have time to memorize the expectations.