Everyone knows about the “terrible twos” and the horrible teen years well before they have children. People talk about it, all the parenting books mention it, your own parents remind you of how challenging you were during those phases of development. Yet somewhere between those two phases lurks a deep, dark secret that NOBODY talks about: at or around age nine, children go feral.
If this comes as a shock to you, then clearly your child is not yet nine. You should start prepping right now because there isn’t a moment to lose. If your sanity isn’t properly shored up, you are at great risk of losing it and never regaining it. I know lots of people who are only a shell of their former selves. I’d mistakenly chalked the phenomena up to alcoholism or adult ADD, but I now understand that these are parents who entered Age Nine with only a tenuous grip on their sanity to begin with, probably due to PTTD (Post Traumatic Toddler Disorder).
What are the warning signs of impending feral-ness? They can be tricky to spot at first because they slip in under the guise of typical child behavior. Sometimes they’re disguised as innocent questions, such as “But why do I HAVE to brush my teeth? What would happen if we just never brushed them?”
But once they’ve slipped in, they multiply rapidly. Soon, teeth-brushing morphs into a five-minute debate over why the brushing must be done now, and why can’t they just have one cookie first and watch one more quick little episode of The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The next thing you know, your entire existence will be nothing more than pinging from one argument/debate/negotiation to another. You will feel yourself begin to slip. One day, after asking your child to sit down and get their nightly reading done, you’ll simply stand there in the dining room, mouth agape, as they run and slide across the tile floor (picking up every last dog hair the Dyson missed), pick up and chuck the dog toy across the room, watching it land in the dog’s water bowl with a splash that sends water spattering across the sliding glass door, turn around and open their umbrella in the house as they hop up onto a dining room chair and then leap as high as possible into their air so they can reenact the big scene from Mary Poppins, and then they suddenly careen out of the room entirely as you realize that they’ve yet to even pick up the damn book they’re supposed to be reading.
And then you know you’re well and truly fucked.
You’ll probably try bargaining first. “If you get blah-blah-blah done, you can have this-that-or-the-other.” Your mileage may vary, but it’s unlikely to yield results.
Next you’ll probably try being really, really firm. After all, it’s your house and you’re in charge. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! It’s cute that you thought that. I used to think that too, and it still makes me laugh. You will threaten to take ALL THE THINGS away, and will soon find that you will have to do just that because your feral child didn’t even bat an eye as they said “But I don’t WANT to go to bed yet.”
By the way, that evening or weekend you suffer through because you took all the electronics away? Yeah, you might want to have someone on backup for when you’re ready to run screaming from the house and just drive until the car runs out of gas. Believe me when I say that you will spend a lot of time calculating how much gas you need to get to either Mexico or Canada, depending on where in the country you live and what climate you prefer. You won’t even think about taking your spouse with you, because at this point it’s every man for himself.
And here you are. Your child has gone feral.
Shhhhhhhhhh. There, there. Don’t cry, you’re getting snot everywhere. It’s going to be okay, I promise. Well, I don’t promise so much as I hope. I’m in the very same predicament YOU are. I lost my mind two weeks ago and told my husband I was quitting this lousy job, getting a crummy old trailer and moving to the Canadian wilderness where I would hunt and kill my own food with my bare hands. God, life would be SO much easier. But my mistake was in telling him my plan, because the next thing I knew he came home with a pizza and some hard lemonade and let me sleep in on Saturday and now I’m still here.
WE’RE still here. Me and you.
So last night I looked at my husband and said, “This little jackass is running the house. You realize that, don’t you? This is bullshit, we’re taking our house back.”
And then my husband got up to go get me a hard lemonade, but I was already at the table, working on my plan. And THIS was my plan:
You’re probably thinking, “But Flannery, we took AWAY the electronics and it didn’t work. How is this any different?”
You see, they get absolutely no electronics privileges to begin with. Zip. Nada. They have to earn that shit, yo. And I know they’re going to come at you with, “But it’s MY iPad. Why can’t I use it whenever I want?”
And that’s when you say, “It’s MY house. I make the rules. You either follow the rules or you and your iPad can go live with grandma.” The beauty of that statement is that you still win if they go and live with grandma, because your house will be quiet.
I know you’re skeptical. Hell, I’m skeptical. But it’s been 12 hours and, so far, it’s working. I need to add a caveat to the plan, though. The next time I sit on a pissed-on toilet seat, I will take ALL THE TOKENS and he’ll have to start over. No, that’s not extreme. Extreme is when you smell like piss because your feral child was too damn lazy to lift the toilet seat.
I admit that I have no idea how long it will last, or if it will create lasting change, but I’m not going down without a fight. And you shouldn’t either. If we let these feral kids take over, civilization will be lost.
But just in case, I’ve calculated that I’ll need about $175 to get to Canada. Yes, you can come with me. But you’ll need to buy the road snacks and know how to skin a moose with nothing more than a bottle opener and your bare hands, which actually sounds a lot easier than parenting my feral child.