While planning a recent family vacation, my oldest son Daniel asked if he could bring along a friend. In an effort to decrease sibling bickering and complaints of boredom, I agreed.
My husband hesitantly collected said guest child with our over-stuffed minivan, convinced that his “pack light” decree would be ignored.
Instead, the kid successfully shoved 10 days’ worth of clothing and personal items into the equivalent of a paper lunch bag.
Joe was impressed.
Early on, I noticed something odd. Guest teen pushed in his chair and cleared the dishes after he ate. His lanky 6-foot-3 frame was forced to sleep on a pull-out couch with that awesome bar that digs right into the middle of your back.
Not a word.
No eye rolls.
No demands for special outings, trinkets or desserts.
On our final day, when there were only scraps of cereal left to eat, he happily devoured his Froot Loops.
What the hell was going on?
A friend once told me that it doesn’t matter how much of a pain your kid is at home, so long as they are well-mannered out in the world.
But how does one really know?
I started a little investigation. For Dan, parents tell me he’s funny and nice, but they have to vastly increase the pork chop count when he stays for dinner. For Jack, I get the impression parents don’t realize he’s there because he doesn’t talk. But for Joey, parents won’t invite him over if they have a headache because my kid is rather eager to share his world views on EVERYTHING with the closest adult.
So my boys don’t exactly rate where guest vacation child does, but at least they aren’t total jerks, right?
I once pressed my nose against the two-way mirror for hours, obsessively monitoring my preschoolers. Were they sharing? Were they attentive? Were they pooping in the corner?
But now, it’s a guess. I trust I’ve put in enough lectures, fights, talks and prayers that they should mostly fly right. I’ve threatened the end of life as they know it if they vape. They are (mostly) banned from social media. From the time they could talk, we have discussed where drugs lead.
There are days where I could really use that two-way mirror.
This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.