All aboard the “Mommie Dearest Railroad”

Hey, are you interested in going on an educational trip with group of really fun and exciting adults?” I pseudo-enthusiastically texted my 12-year-old son the other day, iPhone to iPod. He and his sister were at Mackinac Island, on vacation with his father. I hated to interrupt their reverie, but needed to lay the groundwork for the reality they’d be facing upon return to civilization.
“Sure, Mom, but can you explain more about it?” Smart boy. And a critical thinker. I hate when he asks for details because he’s trying to give me just enough rope to hang myself regarding the proposition I am trying to sell him. Like mother, like son.
Experience has made my son wary of most of the out-of-the-ordinary plans generated by his mother. It’s taught him to smell for the smoke associated with the Mommie Dearest Railroad before he hears the whistle blowing or sees it flying down the tracks toward the spot where I’m using the other end of that same length of rope to truss him, blindfolded and helpless, to the tracks, with no rescue in sight.
How long will we be at this place? Who all exactly will be going? And where would my son stay if he decided he didn’t want to go (even though he already knows there is nowhere else for him to go that day or I wouldn’t be faking quite as much enthusiasm about his only option). Which begs the question: can I call something an “option” if it’s not really optional? Technically, I think you have to have at least one other alternative in order for something to truly be an option. Sorry for the digression, but that’s how my mind works.
I answer my son’s questions, which he is quick to point out, are also being asked on behalf of my daughter, for whom he is once again serving as hostage negotiator proxy. For my part, I continue to play out this all too frequently played out charade with my children. I provide them with ever greater detail about this so-called “opportunity.” For their part, they pretend to consider it, while we both know they don’t have a say in the matter. They will be going with me on the educational trip whether or not they feel like it.
From a life skills perspective, I am teaching them an important workplace and marital coping mechanism: pretending to like something that’s out of your control. And somewhere, among their resentments toward me and the lack I have allowed into their lives, they have made copious mental notes of my technique for when they will later use it on their own children.
Is this a simple case of parental railroading or painted-into-a-corner by economic and logistical reality parenting? In an ideal world, in a non-divorce-ravaged household where two parents co-mingled not just finances, but responsibilities, a few other options might be available. But that is not the case. I rest my case.
My son continues to question me to the void, unabashedly enjoying pinning me down with the sharpest of tacks and needles until I am finally forced to admit, “You have no other option but to go. We’ll be there with the group for about two to three hours.” And I throw him the pathetic, conciliatory bone, that “lunch is included. I’ll buy you whatever you want wherever we go to eat.” Whoopdefrickindo, when I’ve just stolen another day of his life due to my life being out of control.
“If I have no option but to go, then why did you ask me if I were interested? That makes no sense,” he chastises me. I am swift with my response.
“Connor, Connor, it’s a parental sleight of hand trick where we try to pretend our children have choices when we all know perfectly well that they don’t.”
“Ha ha,” says he. “Unfortunately, that’s true.” Then he tacks on the promise that of course he will go. Despite not liking our family circumstances, he nevertheless appreciates my position. And I appreciate the cheery little yellow smiley face with which he punctuated his surrender. All aboard the Mommie Dearest Railroad bound for nowhere.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. sheldon
    Aug 09, 2013 @ 02:09:21

    No more whiner hangers?


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