WHAT DO WE SAY?
Nothing warms a parent’s heart more than the lilting refrain, “I want more milk!” or the ever popular “I’m cold!” It seems to young children (and probably older children) that there is very little difference between the terms slave and parent. And if you look at the definitions of the words, both involve being captive for a very long time, in one particular place, with very restricted mobility, and the tracking of your every move.
One of my major pet peeves though is when the boys begin to treat my wife and I like their handmaids, in a constant state of servitude, at the ready for their every beck-and-call (I’m fine being there for the beck, but it is the call where I draw the line). When they are babies it is one thing, but as they get older and are capable of doing things for themselves, or at least are old enough to ask politely, I will not tolerate anything less.
Periodically, my wife and I have to stand before the boys and introduce ourselves, “Boys, this is your mother, not your servant. I am your father, also not your servant. In fact, there are none in this house, never have been and never will be. We are all here to take care of each other and help one another. Do you understand? Are you listening? Come back here…” It doesn’t always work, but at least I try.
On more than one occasion my wife and I have refused to perform one of our many duties until a polite request is made, sometimes we even insist on it from the children. It is not that I mind getting them a spoon…piece of paper…game…pencil…deck of cards…crayon…kleenex…remote…socket wrench, but they are perfectly capable of locating all these items on their own.
Something is definitely lost in the translation, though, when you insist on the common courtesy terms. “Did anyone say please to your Daddy?…Well, why don’t we now…come on…” By the time they get it out, we have all forgotten what I did that warranted this heavily solicited gesture of respect.