When your kid comes home with a chameleon

I must be getting old.

Not old enough to throw a toddler-sized fit if I don’t get my “regular” table at the local cafe every morning and not quite old enough to swipe the condiments off the table and hoard them in my fridge.

But definitely old enough to recognize the changes in the world aren’t necessarily for the better.

I’m catching myself saying things like, “What in the world is wrong with kids today?” and “Back in my day ...”

Seriously, what IS wrong with kids today?

They are so entitled nowadays and EVERYTHING is a conspiracy to infringe on their “rights.”

Some time ago I put my foot down and told the kids “no more pets.”

Never again, I said.

A resistance was formed and although they were surprisingly united in their beliefs that their childhood was being compromised unfairly, I was able to hold them off by telling them when they were old enough to make their own money they could provide for their own pets.

Now, before you judge me, let me just say we have had three dogs, umpteen cats, a tank of fish, a Russian tortoise and two gerbils over the last 20 years.

Two dogs died and broke our hearts.

Kid #2 fed Kid #1’s fish to actual death when he was four by dumping the entire bottle of fish food in the tank. It wasn’t pretty.

The cats were all strays that stuck around until they found something more appealing and then moved on, or perhaps they were eaten by the ever-growing colony of foxes and raccoons.

The tortoise was tortured to death by an unsupervised neighbor kid while we were away from home.

Every neighborhood has one.

That kid that rings the doorbell every time you lay down for a nap. The same kid that always asks for a drink or to poop in your bathroom and claims straight-faced that he can’t do either of these things at his own house.

Side note: Parents, don’t let your kid be THAT kid.

Let’s not forget the gerbils that got out of their cage and found their way into the heating vent never to be seen again. Who even knows where their tiny carcasses ended up?

So you see, my decision was based on preserving the lives of innocent animals more than it was based on my refusal to clean another cage or flush another fish.

Clearly, not a conspiracy to ruin their lives.

Kid #2 has been working this summer at the local grocery store. After picking up his paycheck Friday, it burned a hole in his pocket for a few hours before he strolled into the house with a chameleon on his shoulder.

His fully prepared speech about how he bought it with his own money was abruptly interrupted mid-monologue by Kid #3, who came flying into the room with her middle-child-syndrome flag flying high.

“Mom! You LET him get a pet? Unfair! This is favoritism!”

I opened my mouth to defend myself but didn’t get a word in before things escalated into a melodrama of epic proportion.

“You HAVE to make him take it back,” she cried while he was setting up the cage and heat lamp in his room.

In an attempt to bring me around to her way of thinking, she resorted to tattling.

“Mom, last week he threw a sunscreen bottle at me and it left a bruise on my leg! Please tell me you aren’t rewarding him for abuse!”

Abuse ya’ll.

Where do they get this crap?

I remember fistfights and hair pulling and being pinned down while my brother did that thing where he would let spit drool out of his mouth in a long, slimy string until it was suspended dangerously close to my face then he would slurp it back up.

We were told to work it out amongst ourselves — and we did.

Kid #3 persisted: “So I get a pet now too, right? That’s only fair!”

She stomped out of the room after not hearing the answer she wanted and I flipped her the bird when she wasn’t looking.

If you haven’t secretly flipped the bird at your child as they walk out of a room, you are missing out on the best feeling ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them, but I don’t need them to like me and I don’t need to explain my motives and decisions.

Frankly, my hands are a little tied. After all, he purchased it and everything it needed to survive with his own money that he earned.

Clearly within the guidelines of my pet policy.

It will eat, sleep, poop and most likely die an untimely death in a cage in his room, a room I enter as rarely as possible to avoid the sudden onset of a stroke.

Making a kid wait for something they want, even if another kid has already earned it, isn’t abuse or unfair treatment, it’s a life lesson.

These kids know nothing of conspiracies.

The roughest railroad crossing in town being situated less than 20 feet from a building whose business revolves around selling new tires?

THAT’s a conspiracy.

Owning the only laundromat in town that is consistently in disrepair, robs people of their quarters and doesn’t post a customer service contact number?

THAT’s a conspiracy.

The phantom second cashier at the dollar store?

OK, maybe that doesn’t qualify as a conspiracy, but it really chaps my hide.

I mean, really, why is the second cashier always missing in action?

Not giving into a 9-year-old that wants a cellphone?

Not letting your kid mouth off to adults?

Not catering to the myth that life is fair?

Teaching your teenager work ethic and responsibility?

Saying no?

Contrary to the kids’ beliefs, these are NOT conspiracies.

Life doesn’t owe your kid a pat on the back or a participation trophy.

We get out what we put in.

So pick your battles wisely and stand strong against the resistance.

It’s not a conspiracy to ruin their lives.


Stefanie Freeman is a Jefferson resident currently serving 18 to life as a mother of four.

She works as a waitress at the local cafe. Please tip her well.

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Jefferson, IA 50129

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