A good shrink (like a quality preschool) should probably be booked while still pregnant. Ages 12-15 are the target range, but with any luck, you might get them committed earlier. And remember, therapists have heard everything there is to hear about mothers and how they screwed up the lives of their patients/clients. Originality counts!
So, forget buying a gender-neutral dollhouse for your son or saying, “Look at those thunder-thighs” while looking in a mirror in front of your developing daughter. Way overdone! Having your teen hold up a large, self-mocking sign on a crowded intersection is no longer unique and will have the school psychologist snoozing before they can say “Attachment Disorder.”
I have six kids and here are my tips to make sure your child proudly announces to others that he/she comes from a Dysfunctional Family.
1. “It’s A Secret!” – – This only works if you have more than one child. We look for ways to make kids feel special and unique, right? They are Individuals! Therefore, it’s quite depressing for a child to be told you love all the siblings equally. How can they ever shine? Here’s an easy fix. Tell one child in private that he has always been your favorite and you love him more. Warn him that if the others EVER found out, they would be devastated – – so it must always stay your little secret. Repeat with however many kids you have. Bonus: This will be the hot topic of the day at your funeral or some far off family reunion!
2. “Lists Are Fun!” – – Don’t be that mother with the mundane grocery list magnetized on the outside of your fridge. Tack up a “What I Could Have Been if only I Didn’t Have You!” list instead. Rich Lawyer and Famous Movie Star are always good ones to feature at the top. But make sure you separately number all the sacrifices you’ve made and hobbies you had to give up. Never got to have a violin recital? No worries! Leaving this list in plain sight will ensure that your kid has sufficient guilt to stick with YOUR favorite childhood dream long enough for you to live vicariously through them. Trust me, being a stage mom is the easiest way to make it to Hollywood.
3. “A Hidden Diary!” – – But not too hidden! Write in this fake journal that “name of kid” must never EVER find out they are actually the Love Child of Walt Disney. (Don’t worry about them doing the math here regarding birth and death dates!) And if they behave themselves perfectly for the next year (don’t date this page) Walt will come for them (don’t worry about exhuming fees) and they will permanently reside in Sleeping Beauty’s castle with no need to ever go to school or do chores again. Be sure and write that Walt has a thing for dirty clothes being put in the hamper. End this journal with an exciting touch of realism. i.e. Let’s say you have a daughter, Savannah. So jot down – –Just think . . . “Savannah Disney.” Wow. Just Wow.
4. “Getting Your Just Desserts” – – A lot can be accomplished with this. First of all, remind your kids that Fruit is actually “Nature’s Dessert.” You will see the number of times they ask to have a friend over for dinner dwindles down to nothing. And a bushel of bright red strawberries is festive and holds candles quite nicely in place of real birthday cake. After a year or two of this, tell them you’ve thought it over and realized you’ve been too restrictive and tonight you’re serving Dessert For Dinner! I don’t provide recipes, sorry. But one idea is to serve mashed potatoes in an ice-cream sundae dish, then drizzle gravy to simulate hot fudge over the top and whipped cauliflower in place of Redi-Whip. After their first confused taste-bud bite say, “You’ll thank me later when you don’t have to go to the dentist so often. And by the way, I would have become a dentist if only I. . . ” Let them finish that sentence.
5. “The “Eyes” Have It.” – – You thought Googly Eyes were for craft projects, didn’t you? The therapist will never hear of nightmares like these! When you’re playing Beauty Parlor with your daughter, affix a pair of googly eyes under your hair about three inches above your neck. Ask your daughter to make a french braid and when she stops in shock, say, “Oh! You found the eyes in the back of Mommy’s head!” Also, opening the refrigerator just to look and see what’s inside will be kept to a minimum if the food stares blatantly back at them. Affix plenty of googly eyes onto the carton of milk, the yogurt, the cheese, the mayo, mustard and the ketchup (condiments will never look the same again) and don’t forget to put little pairs of glasses on the fruits and vegetables so they’ll think “Gee, hindsight is 20/20. I could’ve had a V-8!”
6. “It’s Only a Phrase.” – – Cultivate saying, “We’ll See” as an answer to everything. (Maybe hold up a pair of Googly-Eyes to emphasize “see” when you say this) This will teach your child to have hope, but also not to be disappointed if something doesn’t happen. The world is not clear cut “Yes” or “No.” It’s a “We’ll See” life. Isn’t it? However if they ask, “Is Walt Disney my Dad?” The answer is a resounding Yes. Another helpful phrase is “Because I said so.” This is a real motivator for them to grow up fast and have kids of their own so they can have a vindictive turn at exclaiming, “Cuz I said so.”
7. “Saved by the Bell!” – – Have an old dinner bell lying around? (nobody eats dinner together anymore, so surely you must!) Give the bell to your child and tell her whenever she wants you, just ring it. You can start this ritual on sick days when her throat is sore, but eventually incorporate it into daily life. This will stop the frequent ear-shattering shouting of “Mom!” that echos most households. When you’ve had enough of the bell, simply say, “Who do you think I am? Your servant?!” Note: This can work effectively with your husband too. Give him the bell at night when he’s in bed and you have insomnia and are wandering aimlessly around the house. You’ll never miss those moments when he’s feeling frisky – – he’ll give an efficient jingle. Tired? Just respond, “What am I? Your sex slave?” It will be clear as a bell that the party is over.
8. “Works of Art!” – – Of course everything your darling makes in grade school is worthy of a huge fuss. So by all means, frame it, hang it, magnetize it on the fridge (just don’t cover up crucial list in # 2!) and show the masterpieces off to friends and neighbors who come to visit. But when they’re in junior high school and your house is completely overrun with “Rembrandt Rubbish,” ceremoniously toss it gracefully away in the garbage, citing that Martha Stewart said that was okay to do as long as you took digital pictures of everything.
9. “History Repeats Itself” – – Tell them that when you were younger and misbehaved, your mother (their Grandmother) said, “One day you’ll have a child as naughty as you, so you’ll know how it feels.” Tell them since that obviously came true, it means Grandma is a witch and can put a family curse on them as well.
10. Is It Cold In Here Or Is It Just Me? – – Take a tip from Jewish mothers and make your child wear a sweater whenever you feel chilled. It’s wonderful for menopausal moms; every time a hot flash hits, you can rip your child’s sweater off and fling it on the floor in annoyance. “Just looking at you in that thing makes me perspire!”
That’s it! Just be sure and tattoo a registered trademark symbol on your kid’s arm that gives proper credit (where credit is due) so the therapist knows who to thank for putting their kids through college. I am partial to, “Neurotic behavior by Mom,” or “Think I’m nuts? Check out who raised me.”