The following appears in the March edition of Chicago Parent.
When certain moms tell me how much they love being the focal point of neighborhood action (having kids over, feeding feral children, maintaining mob security), I feel a degree of shame. Not only do I eschew groups of kids gaining access to my home and pantry, but my thought when others don’t?
You people are crazy.
I do not enjoy my cabinets raided, my ears accosted, and the whirlwind of jumping, leaping, and shouting boys.
I’ve got sensory issues, dammit.
The argument I hear most often from open-door policy moms is that they are keeping tabs on their kids and their friends. They know exactly what is going on. They have their fingers on the pulse of tween society.
For me, it seems like an awful lot of work and expense to secure the same information I get by employing a series of enhanced interrogation techniques. I am the daughter of a special agent. My father utilized his years of government training in raising his four kids. He could detect a lie with a mere blink or shift in eye contact. He knew the targeted questions to ask. And we never, ever doubted his ability to kill us 100 different ways and make it look like an accident.
Unfortunately for my kids, my dad was generous enough to share this training with me.
My best intel comes via carpool. For whatever reason, kids are naïve enough to buy into my distracted driver performance. I fumble with the radio. I mutter about traffic. I sing Journey tunes. In all actuality, I am making mental notes of every inappropriate comment and act of unkindness.
I’m essentially Jason Bourne.
And after I lull them into a false sense of security? That’s when I pounce:
“So, who is like the MEANEST kid in your grade?”
“Who would you trust with your life?”
“What kid do you hear the teachers complaining about most?”
“Who gets everybody else in trouble but never gets caught?”
There is an old adage that states, “show me a kid’s friends, and I’ll show you his future.” Even God backs me up on this up in Proverbs 13:20:
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”
As my boys get older, I know I have less and less say in who they choose to befriend. It doesn’t matter how many secret files I maintain, if some kid appeals to their sense of humor or sense of fun, there is very little I can do. I am left hoping that my lectures against mob mentality and choosing right when everybody else chooses wrong will hold up.
But if not?
I’ve got my dad’s old files.
And Russia on speed-dial.