Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

The F Word

Football season is finally, blessedly, over. (Please insert mental picture here of me, grinning ear-to-ear, clicking my heels and wriggling all over with delight the way my dog did the day she scored five hot dogs from the plates of five careless kids at a picnic.) With some semblance of sanity sure to return to our weekends, I am once again trying to enforce in my house a no-screens rule for Sunday afternoons: no TV, no computer, no video games, no hand-held whatchamacallits of any kind.

It is Family Time, I announce grandly to my children on our first football-free Sunday. I say the word in a honeyed, reverent tone to convey its importance: Family with a capital F; Family as the bedrock of society. It is a time for us to bond with one another, to cast aside the technological gadgetry that tends to separate us and look deeply into each other’s eyes.

The ingrates I brought into this world respond with great groaning and lamentation. There’s even some weeping and considerable gnashing of teeth.

"Oh, no!" they cry out. "Mom is using the F word again."

I take great umbrage at this. Taking great umbrage has become a specialty of mine as I’ve had many opportunities to practice it.

“I can’t believe you refer to Family as the F word,” I say with withering disapproval. The delivery of withering disapproval is another one of those manipulation methods at which I excel. And when my kids were younger, it used to work quite well.

But with the onset of puberty, teenagers seem to develop immunity to parental opinion. All those raging hormones spin around them a cocoon of indifference and stuff their heads with what I call “Charlie Brown cotton.” You know how all the characters in the Peanuts cartoon only hear the words of their teachers as “wa wa wa wa?” That’s Charlie Brown cotton, and I’m convinced that’s what is clouding the judgment of my own cast of characters. Why else would they not want to spend time with people as fascinating and fun as their mom and dad?

To pierce this foolish fog, I pull another arrow out of my maternal quiver and fire off a good helping of guilt. While we moms often wallow in guilt, we are also adept at spreading it around when need be. I lay it on pretty thick.

“I just don’t understand why you don’t want to be around us anymore.” My voice trembles. “It breaks my heart.” I shake my head sadly, my face downcast. But the hardhearted cretins before me are unmoved.

“Mom!” they groan impatiently. “We had Family Time last year. It’s enough.”

So I deploy my ultimate weapon – the threat of public humiliation. This is not a new technique. Cave moms who simply wanted to spend quality time with their recalcitrant cave kids around the fire probably had to threaten to accompany them on the next adolescent mastodon hunt to get them to comply. Only the locale has changed. I inform my brood that if we don’t have Sunday-afternoon Family Time, we’ll have it on Friday night. In public. In a place where their friends are sure to see them.

This is what my daughter refers to as “social suicide,” and my children will do almost anything to avoid that. Before you know it, we are enjoying some screen-free Family Time. I suggest we start off by simply talking to each other. After several moments of silence, we move on to board games, where we find our tongues and spend valuable time arguing over which game to play. Monopoly takes too long, and Scrabble seems to my illiterate bunch too much like school. So we settle on Clue. Before we’ve even had a chance to finger Colonel Mustard for the crime, my daughter has pronounced herself bored, and my son has been caught text-messaging his girlfriend under the table.

My husband gives me one of his looks and asks, “Are we having fun yet?”

Although this bit of bonding was a fairly painful experience, I remain undeterred and will use the F word again next Sunday. One way or another, we’re going to enjoy our Family Time. But I’ll probably end up looking forward to the start of another football season.

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2008 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2008, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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